Local Solutions in Sustainability to a Global Energy Problem

Oil news headlines often strike fear into the wallets of the world’s gas guzzling nations. What can be done to save us from Peak Oil, Oil Embargos, an Energy Crises, Global Warming, Rising Gas Prices, Outrageous Heating Bills, seeping into the everyday life?

Sensationalism does not help and it need not weigh heavy on our minds. Finding alternative energy solutions can be much like approaching a new diet. The goal is a healthier society and it starts with pondering ways to trim Fossil Fuels, like Coal and Oil from the daily grind. Less driving and flying and conserving energy use at home can in many ways free our time to think about real alternatives. This will also lead to the localization of energy concerns as with voluntarily less mobile lifestyles, people find renewed community.

Petroleum geologist Colin Campbell, author of The Coming Oil Crises, advocates localization, not just in conservation efforts, but as he said, “more generallyâÂ?¦if one had a more regional and local basis for life, one would have less corrupt governments because the politicians would be closer to the people they represented.”1 Campbell reveals that perhaps the most effective Global solutions are in essence local ones.

These solutions have not so much to do with what communities must abandon, but more what they have to gain in innovative economic catalysts. Perhaps the most optimistic energy outlooks come from consultant Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. His team developed an alternative energy strategy promising reduction in both the Federal Budget and Trade deficits with a net increase to the economy of $70 Billion, 1 Billion new jobs, and protection of 1 million high wage jobs at risk.2

These are solutions that have environmentalists and economists both seeing Green. An appealing aspect in RMI’s strategy, something manifest in General Motor’s Ethanol stations, is keeping personal transportation in the plan. Yet as Lovins warns, Detroit better get in the game, before we fall even further behind countries like Brazil, India, China and the more ecologically sensitive Scandinavians. The main component towards success for U.S. is creating innovation here and not having to import it. Not for competitive edge or to be a dominating force, those days are soon obsolete in a future where energy is created used locally.

The greatest potential for innovative solutions comes at the state level and those successes reflect recent National decisions of governments like Germany, Spain or Japan. The Federal debate over “Peak Oil” tends to get stuck on the issue of oil production, where supply is not the issue, but production is, overlooking incredible economic possibility, not to mention environmental concern. This puts the U.S. on another peak in what WorldWatch Institute President Chris Flavin calls the “Tipping point”, where “there is a very strong dynamic between government policy and commercial investment, each of which is fueling the other.”3 Again the key being localization, as the diversity of renewable energies are best utilized by a region’s most available resources, be it wind, water, sun, sugar or corn.

The greatest power and potential individuals have is in word of mouth. By voicing to local businesses, politicians, scientists and educators a desire for local energy solutions that will innovate the world one town at a time.

1. Interview: Colin Campbell: The Future Of Oil.
2. Interview: Amory Lovins: Winning The Oil End Game
3. Interview: Chris Flavin: The Energy Transition

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