In 1960, NASA tested the first Astronaut candidates by asking them to hold their breath. It seemed important at the time. NASA was looking for the smartest and most physically capable test pilots to fly a rocket into outer space. The unknowns facing the birth of a space program exponentially outnumbered the known’s.
We know our climate is changing. We know the extraction and burning of fossils fuels is harmful to living organisms affecting the Earths ecosystem. This is not rocket science, only empirical observation. When the most powerful North Atlantic storm in history hit Ireland this week, it was not just bad luck at work here – the weather patterns are different.
Periodically since the 1980’s years I have flown over Alaska. Glaciers are aging faster then my face. These types of changes are not normally witnessed in the span of one human life.
With the clarity of a single picture of Earth, the NASA Space program showed us that we are but a small sphere, in a massive void of darkness. The astronauts, who went to the moon, looked back at Earth and knew instantly, that blue and white dot, isolated and alone, was their only option.
You don’t need to be a test pilot or an astronaut to understand that there are limits to the capabilities of your spacecraft. If systems over heat, they go off line and you could die. Earth is our only spacecraft. It has a finite set of resources and the same rules apply for a space ship with three seats or planet with seven billion seats.
The process of extraction, refining and burning of fossil fuels creates chemical pollution and greenhouse gases. We warm up the planet with unutilized waste heat and release particulates and gases, adding catalysts that trap more heat. This is a simple fact of exploiting coal, oil and natural gas. An electric power plant is less than 40% efficient in converting heat energy into electricity. With transmission losses, another 15% of electricity is lost before electrons lights up your computer screen to read these words.
The efficient production and consumption of renewable energy has been my mantra and business model since the twin towers fell in New York. My goals are to stop extracting fossil energy and stop harming the planet.
Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, are acting like two drunken sailors after too many days at sea. The EPA announced the withdrawal of the Obama Clean Power Plan. Trump may have ended an imagined war on coal, but he continues to ignore market trends, science and the fact we can’t hold our breath for the next three years. Why is The Paris Climate Agreement in limbo? We now have an absence of a clean energy policy when the residents of the planet need fifty-year policy options on the table. According to the New York Times, the Trump administration is on track to dismantle over fifty environmental rules that are now considered too burdensome for the fossil fuel industry. This is an irresponsible violation of the laws of physics.
The only solace we are finding these days is in the courts, in private enterprise and in individual citizens who are making environmental decisions to shape their own policy. Why is there is insignificant political will to decrease pollution and increase efficiency? It seems like the best investment we can make in our future.
China announced a commitment to require auto manufactures to sell more alternative-energy cars be and 20% of all cars in China to be electric by 2025. The Internet “Great Fire Wall” keeps fake news from medaling in Chinese domestic politics. Clearly, at this point in United States history, we need to start learning from the Chinese.
Some days I have a longing for my past career as a journalist over my current vocation as CEO of a solar company, only due the predictability of my expectations. I never expected to be working in an industry where 85% of the companies fail and the market place alters radically based on political whims and arcane policies at utilities.
In Los Angeles we have a utility that promised new policies to integrate solar and battery storage within two months. This was July 2017. The translation: six months to never. Why is our industry frozen with hundreds of clients waiting? We are not holding our breath; we are working the problem.
When I was a 19 year old college freshman on the East coast, I was lucky to be given the keys to a Porsche 911 for the ten days of spring break. The only requirement was to deliver the car to Los Angeles without a scratch. Upon my arrival in the Los Angles basin, I entered into a thick cloud that smelled like dirty socks cooking in a gas station. I looked up into this gray mass and was befuddled. What was this foul haze? My uncle calmly told me, “this is persistent LA smog and it is perfectly normal.” Over the next fifteen years, politics, private enterprise and technology, worked together to clean up the air and breathing became fun again.
Tsingtao beer (CNN claims the most popular in the world) is brewed in the Chinese city of Qingdao, less than 300 miles as the crow flies from North Korea. If Stanford University is correct and one million people would be killed in the first day of a war between the United States and North Korea, this would have a catastrophic effect on beer sales. Not funny.
Nuclear gamesmanship is a critical world issue. Yet boys are playing with nuclear toys that should never be take off the shelf. The end result of boys pushing buttons with their nuclear toys would create a persistent layer of smog circling the Earth that would contain radioactive particles and dust. Reducing solar irradiance would lower solar production worldwide. The impact of this calamity would be devastating to the world economy and everyone’s health. There is no technological method to clean up this large of mess.
At this point every decision we make, as individuals, are the most important actions we can take to protect our future and the future of our planet. Politics is not staffed with enough folks with a vision beyond the next news cycle. We need to be thinking 50 to 100 years ahead or we will not have much to breath.
It is our collective and individual responsibility to take care of our space ship. We just can’t hold our breath long enough or expect the planet to clean itself.