My apologies right from this start of this post because I have a pretty bad memory. I can’t remember the genius who thought of this idea I overheard, but it should be done August 1st of every calendar year in the United States: National Renewable Energy Day.
For the professionals who understand the power grid and how energy is generated, transmitted, and ultimately used, the idea is of course, a little impractical. But let’s have Renewable Energy Day. One day a year, that power created by renewable energy will be the only power available on the grid, and allowed to be used by the nation at large. The idea is to highlight how far we have come using renewable energy, and yet how far we have to go. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric only; I’ll acquiesce to some that insist that due to the hydrologic cycle, hydroelectric power is renewable; although that’s debatable. As for nuclear power; is it a renewable power source? The New York Times Green Blog reports in a post on August 3, 2009 that “Many environmental groups are fundamentally opposed to the notion that nuclear power is a renewable form of energy — on the grounds that it produces harmful waste byproducts and relies on extractive industries to procure fuel like uranium.” So alas, it appears the populist answer is “no;” despite what the nuclear energy industry says.
For one day each year, travelers will not be allowed to use cars, trucks, buses, fossil-fueled trains, travel by air, or use any form of transportation that relies on non-renewable forms of energy. Unless your Tesla is powered by electricity from a windmill or solar panel off the grid, it will just have to sit in your garage for that one day a year.
Imagine the stress on the nation’s economy (obviously equity markets will necessarily be closed that day); you can’t go to a movie – sorry, no music or concerts either for the most part. I pick August 1st because, you guessed it, there will be no fossil-fuel powered air conditioning or refrigeration. People will very quickly understand that indeed, fossil fuels do play an important part in our energy supply, past, present and for better or worse, in the future. The stress created by that one day will result in a national call to action – one way or the other. Renewable energy supporters will be able to show just how much work we have to do in order to have a reliable renewable energy grid. I’m not sure how they’ll say it considering newspapers likely won’t be printed, nor will most computers, radios, or televisions work. I guess they’ll just have to wait for the day AFTER, when fossil fuels are “allowed” again.
And those people who insist on using fossil fuels can gloat at the idea that the absence of fossil fuel use brought society to its knees for 24-hours. The demonstrated impracticality of shuttering coal-fired power plants, disrupting emergency services (remember you can’t use most generators, they run on diesel; only photovoltaic cell powered generation will be allowed) and the virtual inability to travel anywhere you can’t walk might be a wake-up call that perhaps fossil fuel use, as problematic as it is, might not be so bad.
The planning involved to pull it off would be enormous, but each year, if the pain is high enough, more and more technology breakthroughs would emerge, and they will likely emerge on an accelerated scale when people in the US begin to understand just how big the gap between renewable energy supply vs. national energy need really is.
Politicians, energy policy advisors, green energy advocates, fossil fuel advocates and the impacted citizens of the US (all of us) will be forced into a conversation where the realities of energy policy will be debated, argued, and finally talked about in a way in which people can relate. Who knows – maybe some actual plans and ideas will come forward, and come forward quickly due to the pressure created by National Renewable Energy Day.
Environmental advocates will have to (at least one day a year) stop bringing a lawsuit against everything in sight. Fossil fuel advocates will necessarily calm down long enough to at least acknowledge that alternatives exist. And the politicians in Washington DC will have to answer for the nation’s energy policies both failed and successful. That’s a thought: Washington DC political rhetoric as an energy source. There certainly is no end to that; and it’s renewable.
About the Author
Gerald L. Kirkpatrick, P.G. is a Principal Geoscientist and the Managing Partner of Environmental Standards, Inc. Mr. Kirkpatrick has more than 30 years of applied environmental geoscience experience in both private industry and environmental consulting. Outside of work, Gerry enjoys fishing and an occasional single malt. A very poor chess player, he remains dedicated to the game, nonetheless.