Easier said than done. That could be the verdict on US President Barack Obama’s neatly-timed speech in the wake of the Gulf oil spill in 2010 in which he said the United States should wean itself off fossil fuels.
Seizing on the disastrous oil spill to advance a cause, President Obama called on Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and pass a clean-energy bill that he says would help the nation end its dependence on fossil fuels, according to AP. Obama predicted that he would find the political support for legislation that would dramatically alter the way Americans fuel their homes and cars, including placing a price on carbon pollution, even though such legislation is politically divisive and remains bogged in the Senate.
One year on, there is little to indicate this big drive is on.
United State – a fossil-fuel addict
The U.S. is arguably the world’s most oil-dependent addict. According to a study by Robert Polack of Southeast Missouri State University, in almost every material aspect, including consumer goods, food, transportation, heating, and the procurement of energy itself, life in the United States is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, especially petroleum.
How to break America’s oil addiction? – Clean Skies News
During the 20th century the United States became highly dependent on fossil fuels in virtually every aspect of its economy, says Polack. The supply of these nonrenewable energy sources is increasingly in jeopardy. Their continued use is also contributing to significant environmental problems. It is imperative that communities revitalize local economies and reduce fossil-fuel usage. Social workers can bring important values and knowledge to communities working toward these goals.
All countries will have to wean themselves off fossil fuels
All countries, to one degree or another, will have to rein in their dependence on fossil fuels in the coming years, both because of increasing scarcity and rising prices, and because of a growing demand to curb emissions of CO2 that many agree is is leading to global warming and distabilizing climate change.
A few countries have grabbed the bull by the horns, such as Sweden and Israel, and are vigorously promoting alternatives to non-renewable fossil fuels (see profiles). Answers lie in wind, wave, solar and biofuels, as well as the nuclear option. Renowned biologist James Lovelace argues countries will have little choice but to embrace nuclear power as plentiful, cheap oil supplies dry up – a stance now in favor with many environmentalists.
According to one American environmentalist, as the non-renewables such as oil, gas, uranium, and coal, near depletion, and therefore become too expensive, there will be increasing incentives to develop renewable sources of energy. Since these sources vary in availability from one locale to another, energy sources promise to become more eclectic. Huge electric power plants will be needed for industry, but it is uncertain whether they will able to compete with the eclectic-electric plants for home use. Homes or groups of homes will becom energy self-sufficient. This can be accomplished today with an investment that is rather high, but the price is dropping.
Off-the-grid living, practiced today by a very small percentage of people in industrialized countries, will eventually make good sense economically as well as ecologically. By investing in the means to generate electricity from the sun and the wind, people avoid having to buy it from someone else. Major lifestyle changes will occur, due to the changes.
Developing clean energy industries
As Laura Johnson in her blog post, The high costs of fossil fuel dependency: climate change-related health and economic costs, and a costly dirty energy economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions presents an opportunity to promote a stronger economy through developing our clean energy industries. “While the fossil fuel lobby would like us to believe the opposite, the facts tell us that addressing climate change and promoting a healthy economy are inseparable. Sure, in the short run cleaner energy might be more expensive on a cent-per-kilowatt basis, but this pales in comparison with all the costs enumerated above. And cleaner energy will only get cheaper in the future, with economies of scale and innovation.”
US President Barack Obama – End Dependence on Fossil Fuels 2010
Sweden’s Bid to be the World’s First Oil-free Nation
Sweden has moved to the forefront of the world’s “green” nations by setting an ambitious goal to achieve a completely oil-free economy by 2020, according to Larry West, an environment writer. And they aim to do this without resorting to building more nuclear power plants.
Motivated by global warming and rising oil prices, the Swedish government says it intends to replace all fossil fuels with renewable alternatives before climate change undermines national economies worldwide and diminishing oil supplies force astronomical price increases.
According to Sweden’s minister of sustainable development, Mona Sahlin, their country’s dependency on oil should be broken by 2020. “There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline.” (Source: Guardian)
Although there are some observers who question whether the oal is attainable, even critics believe it is good to have such a lofty goal.
According to West, Sweden has built wind power and water power plants along its coastlines, including a large new wind farm that is scheduled to start producing energy in 2009. And the country has more forest per capita than any other country in the EU, which provides a steady supply of biomass.
Sweden also sponsors innovative programs to promote the use of alternate fuels for everything from home heating to transportation. Many neighborhoods in Sweden use a central furnace that consumes biological fuels to provide hot water for all of the nearby homes.
Thousands of individual homeowners have replaced their oil furnaces with boilers that use wood-based pellets, which has dramatically reduced Sweden’s dependence on oil for home heating. According to the Swedish Petroleum Institute, heating oil sales have fallen by 85 percent in recent years, and today only 8 percent of Swedish homes are heated by oil.
West says Sweden uses tax breaks and other financial incentives, such as exemption from tolls and parking fees, to encourage citizens to drive cars that use renewable fuels. Tax incentives also make it possible for Swedish drivers to fill their tanks with ethanol-based fuel for about a third less money than it would cost for ordinary gasoline, even though ethanol costs about 40 percent more to produce.
Israel heading towards ending fossil fuel dependence – iPlanet Energy News
After Israel’s highly successful achievements in hightech and computer-related innovations, Israeli innovators are setting there sights on the world’s next big goal — energy independence, a world free of dependence on fossil fuels. Israeli innovators are working hard to become a world leader in alternative energy and the Israel government is throwing its support behind energy-related cutting-edge technologies. The number of private entrepreneurs entering the cleantech sector is growing. Over 300 startups are devoted to renewable energy-related technologies.
See full story here.
It is crucial that people become aware of their energy use. Where possible, use public transport, walk or cycle.