To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Saturday, March 17, 2012

When is it time to ditch fossil fuels and turn to renewables?

The time is now according to Dr George Takacs, physics professor here at UOW. Dr Takacs spoke at the ‘No Gas at UOW’ forum last year, arguing that in the light of global warming and with the undeniable peak of fossil fuels within sight it is time for large businesses and organisations, including the university, to invest in renewable energies. Whether you believe in global warming or not, across the globe severe climate change is being experienced, making investment in renewables essential. As more money is put towards renewable energy sources, more funding will be made available for the research in and development of effective renewables. We may run out of fossil fuels in 20 years, or it may be 200 years, but either way we can’t leave the future generations without effective and reliable energy sources or Western society would collapse.

There are myths that moving to renewables will leave many jobless, however, as written in the January 2006, issue 386, New Internationalist, the “…renewable energy industries provide 1.7 million jobs, most of them skilled and well-paying”, while only providing about four per cent of the world total electricity. Another myth is that the manufacturing of solar panels creates a large amount of pollution, meaning that the implementation of solar panels compared with fossil fuels will not alter the global warming effect, however, given the life of and amount of energy created by a solar panel this is incorrect. As further money is invested into solar panels the manufacturing will become more environmentally sustainable and cheaper for domestic and commercial use.

Wind and solar may not suite all locations at this point in time but as the technologies improve their application will be able to extend. The university has found that a gas plant on campus (combined with solar and other energy sources) will reduce the universities’ greenhouse emissions more than implementing solar panels, to the same monetary value, alone. Such thinking is common in organisations and big businesses whose decision making ability is clouded by dollar signs. The greater impact of continuing a reliance on gas, such as increasing Australia’s want to exploit higher risk gas resources such as CSG, to have enough supply of gas to go around.

The vast, sunny and relatively flat continent of Australia has abundant natural resources in various forms of renewable energy from solar, wind, ‘hot rock’ geothermal, wave and tidal, to bioenergy and biofuels. Perhaps the best way for large businesses within Australia to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the renewables industry is to elect to pay a little more on their electricity bill (green-select) for green-e renewable electricity. This selection requests that your electricity company ensure that part or all of your electricity comes from renewable sources, which means more money for the renewables sector. As more large businesses and organisations take this option the cost of renewables will decrease making this option available and affordable for domestic households.

We shouldn’t be doing anything with fossil fuels anymore, apart from leaving the damn stuff where it is, under the sand or water or rainforest. It is time for renewables!

Previously printed in the Tertangala: UOW's Student Magazine, Issue 1, 2012.