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April, 2007


The Excessive Quest for Energy

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  Quality of life, particularly in the developed and developing world, is largely dependent on the cheap acquisition of energy. Unfortunately the meaning of cheap is a consumer driven concept; the true cost is usually higher than that shown on the price-tag and it is inevitable be that someone or something else is paying the surcharge.
    We use energy, for example, to keep warm, to feast, to communicate, to entertain ourselves and to travel from a to b (nowadays to travel from a to z, even). Not that there is anything inherently wrong in these activities in the pursuit of a good life but many of these indulgences are done to excess. By now it is readily recognised that the climate is changing and that the consequences of this change are, or soon will be, widely detrimental to a majority of the planet's flora and fauna.
    Particularly irritating are media presenters or programme hosts who go out of their way to encourage blatant energy consumerism (I'm thinking morning radio on LBC for example). They are entitled to a view but they are not typical individuals and take advantage of their media positions where they can exert a disproportionate amount of influence on the public at large. Nine times out of ten they have been raised in the world of tabloid journalism or are actors of some kind or other minor 'celebrities' and proudly deride relevant skills such as numeracy, science or engineering as if they were beneath their status.
    Our researches into environmental matters bring us up against the dominant use of energy as the cause of many environmental downsides and while we have continually argued the case for renewable energy as if it was the answer to our problems it has become increasingly clear that life is not that simple. It is better, we hold, to rely on energy dynamically derived from the sun, wind and water but even these carry some costs. For example, the pernicious consequence of damming rivers is well recognised, wind farms can be unsightly and dangerous for birds, solar panels are sometimes an eyesore and use unfriendly materials, the production of bio-fuels is going to cause damaging effects to biodiversity and food supplies, and so it goes on. Albeit they are far preferable to the consumption of finite, static fuel supplies (fossil fuels) but they can carry a significant cost nevertheless.
    Where does this argument lead? We think that our prime objectives in the fight against man-induced climate change should be not to consume energy where there is no good reason, to conserve energy as much as possible and where we do use it to do it in an efficient way. In short, we should all strive to use less energy than we do now, wherever it comes from.
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Originated: 18 December , 2007,  Last amended: 7 May, 2013