Moving beyond oil

Page - April 21, 2011
We know that the world won’t end it’s dependence to oil overnight, but the phase out of fossil fuels has to start today. The good news is that many of the solutions we need to move beyond oil already exist. And together we can begin to remove the barriers to the mass production of clean energy and clean transport. And governments can get the ball rolling by cutting all subsidies for fossil fuels, banning deep water drilling for oil and investing in green jobs as a route to a clean, prosperous future.

Business as usual in the way we consume and produce energy is simply not an option anymore. In addition to catastrophic climate change due to rising carbon emissions, the planets resources are limited.

The oil industry would have us follow a path towards increasing oil consumption, vast environmental damage and global temperature rises that take us well beyond what’s safe for human life. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Instead of chasing the last drops of dirty oil, we need to kick-start the clean energy age.

New Zealand’s national interest would be far better served in ending our addiction to oil. The country would be far more secure economically and politically; insulated against oil price shocks and much better prepared to make the move to a cleaner, more prosperous and truly sustainable economy. Starting to phase out oil would be a huge step towards tackling climate change and move New Zealand towards becoming a global leader in clean technology.

And this is the thing. We know we won’t get there overnight, but many of these solutions are already out there. But we need political support and investment to make them happen.

Ultimately we need to transition to a zero carbon transport system where pretty much all vehicles run on electricity, powered by the sun, sea and wind - energy that won’t run out. In the meantime we need to start reducing the oil we use.

And to do so, we will need to embrace new technologies, increase car efficiency, improve public transport and be better organised so we don’t have to make unnecessary journeys.

Over the coming months and years, we all need to work together to go beyond oil. We have one planet, and if we’re going to protect it and ourselves, everyone - from local communities, to businesses and governments - will need to come together to make the switch.

It’s time for the clean energy age to begin.

Clean Energy:

Going beyond oil and transforming our vehicles to electric power is still going to require energy from somewhere. Luckily nature offers a variety of freely available options for producing energy. Their exploitation is mainly a question of how to convert sunlight, wind, biomass or water into electricity and heat as efficiently, sustainably and cost-effectively as possible.

Energy demand can also be reduced dramatically with a more efficient, modern transport system. A shift to high quality, high speed public transport, cycling and walking, more efficient vehicles and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles would dramatically reduce our energy needs.

Worldwide, the switch to clean energy has already started.

Last year green energy investment overtook fossil fuel investment for the second year running. The biggest growth in clean energy investment came from China, India and other developing countries. Here in NZ we have a wealth of clean energy and technology companies which, with the right support, could compete on the global energy market.

New Zealand is well positioned to take advantage of the global transition towards clean technology. We have abundant resources for renewable energy, smart ideas and the engineering and scientific capability to deliver cost effective clean technology solutions. The Government’s focus should explicitly target the development and deployment of the wealth of experience, knowledge and intellectual property that New Zealand has to secure the necessary foundation for building a sustainable, cleaner economy for the 21st Century.

A limitless supply of energy

In one day alone, the sunlight that reaches the earth produces enough energy to satisfy the world’s current power requirements for eight years. Even though only a percentage of that potential is technically accessible, this is still enough to provide around six times more power than the world currently needs.

In New Zealand we have an abundance of wind, wave and tidal power. We could, and should, be at the forefront of the global clean energy race and could be reaping huge economic and employment benefits from harnessing our home grown innovation and experience in developing renewable technologies.

Most importantly however, we have a choice. We can either pursue an energy future that leaves us hooked on the climate wrecking fossil fuels of yesteryear and the inherent risks that they bring, or we can harness the abundance of clean energy potential that is currently being left to wither on the vine.

In June 2010 Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council released the third edition of the report ‘Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook’, provides a detailed practical blueprint for cutting carbon emissions while achieving economic growth by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and energy efficiency. This phase-out of fossil fuels offers substantial benefits such as energy security, independence from world market fuel prices as well as the creation of millions of new green jobs.  

Surely we should be spending our money on investing in our future, rather than defending the dirty energies of the past.