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The crisis of Ukraine has been in the news for much of the past few days. Russia is one of the chief suppliers of natural gas to Europe and they are looking to become one of the world's chief oil suppliers. Russia could, if they wanted, cut off the supply of natural gas to the EU or cut off the supply of oil or natural gas to Ukraine. Given this crisis, it becomes important even more now than ever to wean ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels.

Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has a plan to do just that, written in Foreign Affairs in 2012.

Underlying this shift in supply is the inexorable shrinkage in the energy needed to create $1 of GDP. In 1976, I heretically suggested in these pages that this “energy intensity” could fall by two-thirds by 2025. By 2010, it had fallen by half, driven by no central plan or visionary intent but only by the perennial quest for profit, security, and health. Still-newer methods, without further inventions, could reduce U.S. energy intensity by another two-thirds over the next four decades, with huge economic benefits. In fact, as Reinventing Fire, the new book from my organization, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), details, a U.S. economy that has grown by 158 percent by 2050 could need no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, and one-third less natural gas -- and cost $5 trillion less than business as usual, ignoring all hidden costs. Today’s fossil carbon emissions could also fall by more than four-fifths without even putting a price on them.

He continues:

This transformation requires pursuing three agendas. First, radical automotive efficiency can make electric propulsion affordable; heavy vehicles, too, can save most of their fuel; and all vehicles can be used more productively. Second, new designs can make buildings and factories several times as efficient as they are now. Third, modernizing the electric system to make it diverse, distributed, and renewable can also make it clean, reliable, and secure. These ambitious shifts may seem quixotic, but sometimes tough problems are best solved by enlarging their boundaries, as General Dwight Eisenhower reputedly advised.

Thus, it is easier to solve the problems of all four energy-using sectors -- transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity -- together than separately. For example, electric vehicles could recharge from or supply power to the electricity grid at times that compensate for variations in the output from wind and solar power. Synergies likewise arise from integrating innovations in technology, policy, design, and strategy, not just the first one or two.

This transition will require no technological miracles or social engineering -- only the systematic application of many available, straightforward techniques. It could be led by business for profit and sped up by revenue-neutral policies enacted by U.S. states or federal agencies, and it would need from Congress no new taxes, subsidies, mandates, or laws. The United States’ most effective institutions -- the private sector, civil society, and the military -- could bypass its least effective institutions. At last, Americans could make energy do their work without working their undoing.

Another diarist tonight called for the left to return to bold ideas. I submit mine -- we don't need to wait for 60 votes in the Senate or 250 votes in the House in order to transform our society into a fossil free society. We can bankrupt not only the oil producers like the Russians and the Islamists, but massive consumers like the Chinese, who are constantly looking for new sources of oil around the world, including the Keystone Pipeline. That means that we don't have to pay the Saudis with massive weapons systems not to attack Israel or shut off the oil flow.

The article notes that oil demand will start to drop off by 2016. This means that while Climate Change is a serious problem, our world, including this country, is starting to adapt. Our own country is adapting more than even Lovins thought possible (as he notes in his article), although we always have to find ways of doing more. This means that we will be able to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, although the acute effects are already starting to be felt both in this country and around the world. For instance, the City of LA is already starting to do contingency plans in the event that sea levels there rise and homes get flooded.

We can then save billions of dollars by saving taxpayer dollars by only supporting countries which share our values and our aspirations since we don't have to shed blood for oil or support dictatorial regimes like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Bahrain. We should, of course, work for strong relations with all countries. But the ones that get our military aid should be the ones who are democratic and who protect basic human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

There is actually more risk in continuing to rely on fossil fuels, like many politicians would advocate on top of the obvious damage it does to the planet. The danger is that the Polar Ice Caps would melt and there would be the potential for a major global conflict that would dwarf World War II as the US, Russia, and Canada and other countries right over the oil contained below. But since wind and solar are an infinite resource that does not need to be imported, it lessens the risk for worldwide global conflict.

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I always like reading Amory, so optomistic (5+ / 0-)

    and he's obsessed with conservation and efficiency not tilting at windmills.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 07:24:58 PM PST

  •  Ukraine is on it (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bear83, Lawrence, SeaTurtle, Odysseus

    Ukraine has the resources to become self-sufficient in natural gas. Better still,

    18th International Trade Fair on Renewable and Conventional Energy, Energy Efficiency, Electrical Engineering, Lighting and Automation

    April 22 – 25, 2014 KievExpoPlaza, Kiev, Ukraine

    Ukraine’s renewable energy market becomes ever more important, especially with the steep increase in gas price and the adoption of green-tariff price incentives for electricity from renewable energy sources in 2009. The government set a green tariff for power produced from renewable sources which is two times higher than the wholesale price for power produced from traditional sources. It is widely expected that the introduction of the green tariff will boost activity in the sector. Other preferences include duty-free imports and exemptions from value-added taxes. Ukraine’s mid-term energy strategy targets a level of 10% of renewables until 2030, the potential for renewables being much higher.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:18:12 PM PST

  •  Why do those who chose to use Ukraine/Russia (0+ / 0-)

    as a hobby horse for U.S. energy transformation never explain how it will help Ukraine, or indeed, anybody else, in the near term?

    •  Because: (4+ / 0-)

      Solar and wind are infinite resources, meaning that Russia's oil barons get bankrupted. Meaning much less of a chance for Russia to pull this again down the road. It's a long-term project. In the near term, it will take careful diplomacy to get us out of this crisis.

      "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

      by Eternal Hope on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:51:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  ukraine has a serious geopolitical weakness (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Odysseus

      in having cold winters and being dependent on russian gas for heating. given that russia uses it to mess with ukraine's sovereignty, it is eminently sensible for ukraine to do everything in its power to rid itself - or at least blunt the effect of - russia's leverage over it.

      the same is true of europe generally, and they are beyond stupid to stay on gas because of it.

      and that's not even getting into what burning hydrocarbons will do to europe via global warming.

      •  Indeed. (0+ / 0-)

        European countries like Germany and Poland pay really high gas prices because they are locked into dependency on Russian gas.

        They should set a policy that all organic and agricultural waste must be recycled into biogas, soil, and fertilizers via anaerobic methane digesters, build LNG terminals to diversify gas supply, and implement massive efficiency measures.

        It's a matter of national security for them and they need to get on it a.s.a.p.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:13:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Because Ukraine is REALLY underdeveloped (0+ / 0-)

      To see how underdeveloped it is, one just has to start somewhere on the North Sea and travel east, ending up on the Black Sea.  If you are observant, not texting or playing video games on your trip, you will see that infrastructure just disappears as the miles kilometers go by.

      After the destruction of WWII, the Soviets only built minimal, but functional housing.  There is only one "freeway" in Ukraine, going from Kyiv to Odessa.  The major highways are all what Americans would call "two-lane roads".  The trains average only about 40km per hour, so that a trip from Lviv to Odessa is an overnight run.  And no train every couple of hours or so like in Western Europe, one train a day.  And you don't want to hear what the toilet facilities are like there.

      It's a beautiful country with lots of sunshine and wind and potential biomass, but they need to develop it.  That's either going to take capitalists with money or central planners with authority.  Right now they have neither.

  •  I agree with this. (4+ / 0-)

    Here in Berlin, Germany they now have the world's largest anaerobic digester for making biogas, soil, and fertilizers from organic waste.  One of my main reasons for collecting all my organic waste, in addition to it cutting down on CO2 production, is that the biogas replaces natural gas sourced from Russia.

    I'm sick of throwing money at Russian Oligarchs when I buy gasoline and natural gas, so I hardly drive my car, as well, instead riding my bike, walking, or using public transport wherever it is feasible.

    If every single city and town in Europe had a biodigester facility for recycling organic waste, half of Russian natural gas imports to European nations probably could be eliminated.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:20:28 AM PST

    •  wow, didn't know re. this tech "biodigester' (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Eternal Hope

      thanks.  any links which you particualrly like to get info?

      there are alternatives, and we must keep on focusing on that.

      This diary deserves to be on the Rec List for focusing on one of the underlying causes of this current mess and not just the 'he said, he said' posturing....

      tx to the diarist.

      "The corporate state’s repression, now on the brink of totalitarianism, would with the help of Christie, his corporate backers ... become a full-blown corporate fascism.' http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_trouble_with_chris_christie_20140112

      by SeaTurtle on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 06:31:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here's an article in english from when the plant (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eternal Hope, SeaTurtle, Odysseus

        opened last year:

        The new plant will convert into biogas the approximately 60,000 tonnes of organic waste from Berlin’s households every year. The gas, which after processing is chemically nearly identical to natural gas, is then fed into the natural gas grid. Some 150 gas-powered waste collection vehicles – around half of the entire fleet – will be filled from this grid at filling stations located at three BSR yards. The use of biogas will help save around 2.5 million litres of diesel a year. The replacement of diesel fuel as an energy source and the recycling of digestates will help avoid the emission of around 12,000 tonnes of CO2.
        http://www.strabag-umweltanlagen.com/...(Germany)%20officially%20opened

        It is, more or less, composting with the added benefit of capturing the methane and converting that to natural gas.  Every city in the world should be employing this technology, as it reduces CO2 output, reduces reliance on fossil fuels, reduces landfill space, and returns organic nutrients to the soil.

        With this kind of system you can even throw used paper towels and paper tissues into the organic waste bin.

        There's more info about the tech in the biogas plants section of the linked webpage.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:30:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  tx for that, L (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lawrence

          btw, how are the Germans reacting to Putin's actions?

          "The corporate state’s repression, now on the brink of totalitarianism, would with the help of Christie, his corporate backers ... become a full-blown corporate fascism.' http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_trouble_with_chris_christie_20140112

          by SeaTurtle on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:32:33 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No prob. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SeaTurtle

            On this page there is a video that gives some insight into what the plant looks like:

            http://www.bsr.de/...

            Most Germans think that Putin is a relic from a past that we should be moving away from, so reactions to the invasion of Ukraine are generally quite negative.

            "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

            by Lawrence on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:52:46 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  tx again (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lawrence

              "The corporate state’s repression, now on the brink of totalitarianism, would with the help of Christie, his corporate backers ... become a full-blown corporate fascism.' http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_trouble_with_chris_christie_20140112

              by SeaTurtle on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:14:54 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Is inflation taken into account? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus
    Underlying this shift in supply is the inexorable shrinkage in the energy needed to create $1 of GDP. In 1976, I heretically suggested in these pages that this “energy intensity” could fall by two-thirds by 2025. By 2010, it had fallen by half....
    Wonderful news, if he's taken inflation into account.

    Bello ne credite, Americani; quidquid id est, timeo Republicanos et securitatem ferentes.

    by Sura 109 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:10:05 AM PST

  •  The Germans knew of this predicament some time (0+ / 0-)

    ago and that is one reason they have taken on an aggressive and expensive alternative energy transformation over the past decade.  Other EU countries are catching on a well, but we thumb our nose to those "ignorant" Europeans who don't know anything.

    Yeah, right.

    This country has so much potential for alternative energy choices that would greatly improve our society, economy in jobs created, and national security, but the kinetic "strings" are in solid control of the "Big Oil", 900 pound gorilla that keeps us from those goals with it's bought and paid for DC politicians at their lobbyist's beck and call.

    “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:50:40 AM PST

  •  Well, it doesn't underscore *our* need... (0+ / 0-)

    ...to do that, since we don't get our oil from there.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:08:03 AM PST

  •  Thanks for the diary, Eternal Hope! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    Although i must confess that i do not share Lovins' optimistic scenarios (I think he under-accounts how fossil-fuel derivative and dependent alternative energy technologies are), i think it is very important to look at all ranges of possible approaches and their outcomes.  Lovins' cheery outlook is a refreshing change from most of the analyses i ordinarily look at.

    On a related note, the Post-Carbon Institute published an interesting piece today on the Ukraine uprising in the context of Europe's larger energy supply issues by Chris Stakhovsky, a Ukrainian-born and American-educated oil professional currently living in Kiev: Waltzing in the dark. Will Russia shut off gas supplies to Europe?:

    With the successful Ukrainian uprising underway, Europe must start thinking about coping strategies if the conflict were to escalate. What would happen if Russia decides to up the ante and retaliate with higher gas prices or even a cutoff of supplies, in an effort to strong-arm the new administration in Kiev? What is the status of Europe’s energy security strategy?
    Well worth a read, imo.

    Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

    by lehman scott on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 05:42:25 PM PST

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