Sustainable economic growth is utterly impossible as long as oil, coal and natural gas provide nearly 88 percent of the world's energy needs. According to EIA (the US Energy Information Administration), total world consumption of marketed energy will increase by 49 percent between 2007 to 2035. The International Energy Agency predicted that Chinese energy demand would soar 75 percent by 2035, accounting for more than a third of the growth in global consumption.
The most egregious source of energy is coal, in India, more than 50% of commercial energy demand is met with coal and according to 2008 statistics, coal accounts for 71 percent of China's energy mix. The US is not much better with 23 percent of its total energy demand being met with coal.
We simply cannot afford economic growth that is so reliant on dirty energy like coal. Although growth is a serious environmental threat, it could also be a valuable opportunity to radically expand the clean energy economy. New innovative applications of sustainable technologies can significantly reduce emissions and old inefficient technologies can be replaced with cleaner greener technologies.
Renewable energy is the great hope for the planet because it is sustainable energy, but renewable energy is not cost competitive cheap and abundant coal. Therefore, cost considerations alone will not drive the move away from coal.
The increasing price of oil and the uncertainty of the fossil fuel markets is something that business are increasingly considering and it is only a matter of time before we remove oil subsidies. However, until we see climate change energy legislation and regulation, business have an opportunity to show leadership by voluntarily replacing coal with renewable energy.
Economic growth that includes fossil fuels precludes the possibility of a living planet.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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