Transforming ourselves, transforming our Energy!

by Richard Andrews

Such irony, hope and obstacles there are in our digital savvy, online 24/7, eco friendly, clean tech, wannabe post racial Obama, go green society! Wow got that all out!

If only “Optimus Prime the Autobot” leader from the recent blockbuster action movie Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen and savior of us confused human beings could guide us through the maze of change and challenge that surely lies before us as the renewable energy world faces off against, big oil, coal, the status quo.

Never mind the fact that the movie Transfomers, Revenge of the Fallen was given thumbs down by just about every critic out there (it’s kind of silly). The film still had a remarkable box office performance with the highest Wednesday opening gross in history, bringing in $62 million in North America alone! In the battle of technology “Optimus Primus” fights for us humans against the “Decepticons” who seek our destruction by mining all the remaining energy on earth! So who I ask are the good guys? Who are the bad guys?

We Americans have a love hate relationship with our technology… today solar and renewable energy sources are the light. Does it represent Jesus, Budda, Moses, Shakti or Allah leading us out of a weary land of pollution and dark times? So too is Optimus Primus. But what about big oil…coal, the dark side….or are they? In many Science Fiction flicks, The Terminator, iRobot, 2001 A Space Odyssey, the Matrix: The computers, the technology is the villain and we are its adversary.

For recent pioneers of the solar and renewable world of energy it must seem a bit amusing…like the gold rush days in California’s history. It’s not so far back. It may feel like the heady hey days of consumer technology or the boom days of the internet. It’s the wild, wild west all over again – but different! For the John Schaeffers’ of the world (Solar Living Founder) there must be some inner reward for realizing just how ahead of the curve he was by harnessing the power of the sun for electricity long before it gained more popularity. Now as more people are “Going Green” there may be some elitist thinking going on, “you’re just in this for the money not the cause.”

The career information is out there - The American Solar Energy Society a leading association of industry professionals predicts within the coming decades 17% or 37 million people of America’s workforce will be employed in renewable energy related positions. Other reputable researchers point out the solar business produced over 28 billion in sales last year and it is predicted to grow to 80 billion by 2018. For this same period employment within this niche is expected to increase by six times! The job opportunities in this industry are truly awesome! There are some big training issues, supply and demand hurdles and financial issues have eased growth this year, however much of the government stimulus funds have yet to hit the market.

One thing is clear the energy business will never be the same. Think of it, bills are being proposed that will pay you if you produce energy. The solar industry in California is backing legislation, AB 560, sponsored by Assembly woman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) that would alter current net metering regulation and raise the amount of excess power consumers can sell back to utilities. To those who want a career in the green economy there’s the issue of acquiring new skills, learning the technology and the language of the business. Oddly, when I first got involved with the field I barely knew the difference between a kilowatt and a megawatt. But we are at that point where each of us can help demystify all the tech talk, we are at the tipping point! Green Jobs for All, Solar Richmond, Solartech and others are doing their part to address the realities of demand, inclusion, diversity and those at risk. Yet we must know…in today’s economy we are all at risk. Are those already in the green economy aware that a rising tide raises all the ships?

Speaking of ships. it wasn’t too along ago in the course of history, just within the last 200 years. Brave sailors boarded ships and harvested the oceans for whales – at that time the primary source for oil used in lighting cities and towns around the developed world. It was that demand for oil that drove whales to the brink of extinction. Imagine:

“Demand for whale oil had been declining for some time as other lighting oils, particularly kerosene, became more plentiful and were improved. At the same time, the price of whale oil was rising, largely due to the growing scarcity of the leviathans, which made cruises riskier and more expensive. Then, in 1859, Edwin L. Drake drilled a well in Titusville, Pa., that struck a deposit of petroleum. Within a year, petroleum wells were producing more oil than whaling at its peak. For a few decades, the whale trade was buoyed by the fashion for tight corsets. But by the early 20th century, corsets were disappearing, and with them the American whaling industry.”

-The great pursuit – Leviathan The History of Whaling in America Eric Jay Dolin W.W. Norton: 480 pp.

Seems primitive by today’s standards killing, excuse me, harvesting whales for oil,  but not so ironic that in the first 1999 Wachowski Brothers movie the Matrix, humans were harvested for energy to feed machines.

wall e 3.jpg1 150x150 Transformers So here we are in our social and technical evolution, marveling in what we can do… fully aware that we need not brutalize the world’s mammals, lands, oceans or each other for energy. Are we the good guys or the bad guys? We can look to the sky as our predecessors have through all recorded history seeking answers and energy from the source. Optimus Primus the caring, bold and deep voiced Techno hero from Transformers and WaLL E the busy, love struck and adorable little droid from Pixar Films are metaphors for our ability to transform ourselves, and use technology in the most positive of ways!

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Posted in Sustainability.

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