March 11, 2010
Beck: Beyond Petroleum, Realizing Solar Potential
In a recent Guardian op-ed, Breakthrough Senior Fellow Ulrich Beck argues that the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe should be inspiring far more than just a pointless blame game. Instead, he points out, "we need the celebrated innovative power of capital and the utopian enthusiasm of engineers," to revolutionize the way we use energy and make use of the most abundant sources of energy, such as solar power.
Postwar prosperity in the west laid the foundation for environmental awareness. Now environmental awareness must provide the basis for prosperity in developing countries. These countries will adopt sustainable policies to the extent that the affluent countries invest in their development and adopt a new vision of prosperity and growth. China, India, Brazil and African countries will not agree to any approach that tries to limit their efforts to achieve economic parity - and rightly so.
But does the future lie with a global environmental policy based on carbon trading, which amounts to the global sale of indulgences for CO2 sins? Or will we have the courage to invent and realise a new age of solar energy in which prosperity is not an environmental sin, and when everything from cows to electric toothbrushes is blamed for contributing to CO2 emissions? "It is time to introduce clean forms of energy," Obama has said. If he can ring in an era that is truly Beyond Petroleum, Big Oil's Bastille will be doomed.