Moving towards a clean energy future

Feature story - 21 November, 2002
While the shock at the horrible ecological catastrophe off Spain is fresh in our minds, we should focus on solutions to address this problem.

Offshore windpark off coast of Denmark.

We may be largely helpless to do much about the spilled oil, but we can push national governments and the International Maritime Organisation to prevent these unsafe tankers from sailing under flags of convenience .

As long as we are dependent upon fossil fuels as the main driver of our economy, this accident, the thousands that have preceded it, and an untold number of future disasters will be the inevitable consequence. To avoid human-induced climate change and to protect our seas, land and air, the only choice is to transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a clean energy future.

While we don't have all the answers, and the transition will take decades, we have to start now. We offer the following steps:

  1. Kyoto is the first step of the climate solutionRatify and implement the Kyoto Protocol in all countries, the first step toward curbing our appetite for carbon-based fuels. Join our campaign against ExxonMobil/Esso, the company that's doing the most to sabotage climate protection efforts.
  2. Shift subsidies from black to greenRedirect the US$ 250-300 billion annual government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Direct lending and export credit guarantees that currently flow into the fossil fuel industry towards renewable energy instead.
  3. Real targets for renewablesEstablish aggressive national renewable energy targets, enabling independent clean power and fuel producers. Wind energy is already growing at a rate of about 40 percent annually, and the same could happen for solar, solar thermal, geothermal, small scale hydro, marine energy and modern biomass fuels.
  4. Hydrogen, fuel of the futureInvest in 'green hydrogen' research. Hydrogen seems destined to be an important portable fuel for the future. But we need to make sure it's produced from green energy sources, not from fossil fuels.
  5. "Nega-watts" not megawattsConserve energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels as well as the number of tankers at sea. After the oil shocks of the 1970s governments instituted various policies which were very effective in the short term, but have now been abandoned.
  6. Make oil accountable for the true costsMake the fossil fuel sector fully responsible for all of the costs associated with the industry, including oil spills, air pollution, melting glaciers, rising seas, and more extreme weather events. See how quickly the money shifts towards renewables.
  7. Take responsibilityChange your energy use. At one level, all of us who use fossil fuels are responsible for the disaster off the Spanish coast. Think about the car you drive, your household energy consumption, and your travel choices. Most importantly, let your voice be heard loudly on this subject by the politicians you elect, the media you watch, and the companies whose products you buy.