Energy Leader ≠ Energy Eater

I really enjoyed the informative and enthusiastic talk from our guest speaker Mark Strama last week.  It’s true that Texas has a bright future in renewable energy, and we are already in the race to switch from conventional energy to renewable energy. However, Texas also consumes more than any other state in the US and emits more CO2 than most of other countries!   Do we have to be the top energy eater to achieve the top energy leader position? I think it’s quite the opposite, to be the true energy leader globally includes having both the best energy technology and the most sustainable energy policy.  Maybe we are ahead on our technologies, but we are definitely behind on the way we consume energy.

Mark used the movie “Avatar” as an example of how advanced our technology can be,  and everything is possible in the future.  It is very encouraging to know that our technology has the potential to achieve unthinkable things; however,  it should not promote over consumption or waste. No matter how limitless our creativity can be, we live on a limited planet. There are no free lunches in the world, and even the best renewable technologies have environmental impacts. One of the popular quote from the movie is ” all energy is borrowed, and one day we will have to give it back”.  We should consume with the future in mind, and just because everything was or has been bigger in Texas, doesn’t mean we have to be the biggest fish in this shrinking pond.  I disagree with what Mark suggested at the end of his talk to continue live our lives the same way.  We should revisit the way we consume energy in Texas , and we can either be forced into cutting back or choose to do it. There is no pride in how much we consume. We use more than 10% of the entire US energy consumption, and unless we can be more efficient, this will be the road block preventing Texas becoming the leader in the energy race.

According to the book “Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on Earth“, an economy needs four types of capital to function properly: human capital, financial capital, manufacturing capital, and natural capital.  The ultimate source of wealth is natural capital.  In terms of energy, we have been producing & consuming at the cost of the natural capital which is the foundation for all the other 3 capitals. Additionally, a percentage of the energy we use today involve unethical conducts(123…) that damage the human capital.  The financial & manufacturing capital should not be achieved at the cost of the natural & human capitals.  If companies and citizens continue to produce and consume energy irresponsibly, the future will be a place with little natural resources and human dignities.

As the financial leader globally, all eyes are on us, and the rest of the world is trying to catch up.  In developing countries like China and India, catching up means having the same lifestyle as us.  Dr. Webber has shown this chart to demonstrate what happens if the world consumes as much as the US or Texas does, and it’s not pretty. However, we have the power to prevent it from happening by changing our lifestyles. We can live an enjoyable life without using so much energy or owning so much stuff. The DOE is promoting conservation and energy efficiency.  Not only do we need to develop better energy technologies, we also need to use less and reduce waste.


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One response to “Energy Leader ≠ Energy Eater

  1. tsoenen

    I agree with you. I was completely caught off guard by the comment Mark Strama made at the end of his lecture about how he doesn’t want to have to change his energy consumption habits because it’s part of the American dream. My jaw nearly hit the table. Now I don’t think he actually used the words American dream, but that’s pretty much what he was saying. I believe it’s that type of thought process that has us in the trouble we are in today. I never thought I would hear someone so knowledgeable about energy say something like that.

    Ah, but wait. Did he mean that he wants to be able to run his A/C all day with the windows open because it’s American, or did he mean he didn’t want to change his lifestyle to decrease his energy consumption? I’m not going to try to put words in his mouth, but I think he can keep the American dream he wants while decreasing his energy consumption. Future generations of modern products will complete all of the same tasks, but will consume less energy while doing them. For instance, many of the computers being produced today use far less energy than they did ten years ago. The same goes for home appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, and water heaters. All of these products are far more efficient now than they were in the past and they will only get more efficient with time.

    Now I’m not judging Mr. Strama. I’ll be the first one to admit that I love my hot showers, and chilly well-lit apartment, but I don’t think we need to be wasteful about it. As he said, the markets will drive us to renewable energy sources and products will become more efficient, but like you said “there are no free lunches.” So until the energy revolution that Mr. Strama is waiting for comes around, I think we all need to be a little more mindful of our energy usage.

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