Elements of Energy


I did some gigs in Cornwall England recently. In one venue (a local pub) there was a dog in the audience. The dog's owner told me that his pet liked the blues and occasionally joined in with the music with some doggie howling. 

I like Cornwall because of its relaxed feel and its enthusiasm for nature. Cornwall was one of the first counties to install wind farms to create electricity at a time when vociferous people treated the innovation with contempt, pointing out that the miniscule amount of electricity the windfarm contributed to the National Grid was so insignificant that there was little point in having the blot on the landscape. However, the UK's first commercial windfarm has now produced enough energy to boil 3.4bn kettles since its development in 1991 and is now one of more than 1,000 onshore projects across the country.       

One of my Cornish friends took me to the Eden Project where I had a chance to explore the largest indoor rainforest in the world. Here I learned the staggering fact, that because ancient air bubbles trapped in ice allow us to see back in time to what Earth's atmosphere was like in the distant past, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher (a lot higher) than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years.              

Modern people, including me, want electricity on demand for many and varied reasons, so it's good to see that 'people power' is generating 'prolonged power' by stirring governments and companies to invest in ways of reducing this generation's, size 13, carbon footprint, something future inhabitants of planet earth will thank us for.                

Many countries these days have a clean energy policy, but overall the world still relies on fossil fuels of which UN climate scientists say that continued use of oil, gas and coal will have a "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."                

One encouraging innovative idea that electric carmakers are exploring is a venture entitled 'Vehicle-to-Grid'. In Denmark, Nissan is working with a utility company and have installed special 'bi-directional' charging points. Which means that while the drivers are not using their vehicles' batteries, the grid can. So if a demand in power arises, the multiple car batteries on its system will smooth the fluctuating current out fairly quickly.                

Utilising the power that is already 'out there' seems like a move in the right direction.     

Across the world there are still many people who have no access to electricity. GOGLA - Global Off-Grid Lighting Association are tapping into the huge market for off-grid renewable energy. They tell us that since 2010 sales have increased by around 60%. Companies sell and install solar panels, lights, and batteries to households in parts of Africa and Asia. Customers can then use the energy stored in the batteries for lights and other power needs. Prof John Goodenough, an innovator and inventor of the lithium-ion battery, says humanity needs to fundamentally rethink how it produces and stores energy.  

The global population continues to rise and energy needs rise with it. Encouragingly, climate change regulations have made a good effort to curb our uncensored use of fossil fuels, generating the 2015 Paris Agreement by nearly 200 countries on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But we can't in good conscience expect our governments to do it all for us. My dad, who is now into his 80's, seems to know far better than I do what items can be recycled and which cannot, I simply place rubbish I'm not sure about on the fridge and my dad throws it into one of the three designated bins.            

However, I am aware that not everyone wants to take part in keeping global temperatures 'well below' 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. Some people simply can't be bothered. And others have a reason: "I don't believe all that environmentalist stuff, the earth's climate has always ebbed and flowed." And some people attach a religious significance to it.                

I was staying with a Christian friend for a few days and I asked him where I placed the empty plastic carton that I had just finished pouring fruit juice from. "Throw it in the bin with everything else" was his reply. I said "But what about recycling?" To which he replied "We don't believe in all that." And I guess that some people, for various reasons don't "believe in all that."               

Some people use the excuse that the world is nowhere near 4.543 billion years years old so the data scientists use must be flawed and the scientists probably have a conspiracy aimed at them. They protest that "The world is only 6,000 years old and it's not going to last much longer anyway." That seems to be their conviction, but another way of looking at it is perhaps their understanding of scripture is wrong and God expects us, as good stewards, to take responsibility and do what we can to preserve His earth. The point of renewable energy is that despite the amount of energy we take from the sun, wind or the ocean waves, there is still the same amount left for tomorrow, unlike fossil fuels.         

Recycling and renewable energy is now a priority on many people's agenda, whether it's McDonald's phasing out plastic straws or Starbucks' promises of producing a 100% recyclable cup, or even exercise equipment that uses the person's muscle power to create electricity. We all have a part to play and if we don't play it then we may find ourselves crying out to God, as singer/songwriter Randy Newman points out in his song 'I Think He's Hiding':   

Come and save us               

Come and look at what we've done               

With what you gave us