A Potentially Dangerous Energy Future

Because of the climate crisis created by wealthy countries, developing countries could be pushed to slow their development. Would that be fair? Charles Ebinger, Director of the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings Institution, thinks that not only is it not fair, but it could also be dangerous. "I think at some point we're going to start seeing increased political violence and potential increased risk of terrorism rather than just have people wallow in their misery and die unnoticed by the rest of us." So what should we be doing when it comes to developing countries? Ebinger says we should go in with renewable energy technologies and try to provide a better modicum of life—but also to dissuade them from continuing to damage the environment around them.

Which alternative energy technology is going to be a bigger player in the long-term: wind or solar? Ebinger is betting on wind. "Wind is certainly taking off around the world, and actually has made many more advances than solar has in terms of its absolute contribution to global energy supply. And there are tremendous wind resources in many locations of the world, both onshore and increasingly in various parts of the world; we're looking for offshore wind farms." 

Nuclear power is another option, but it needs to be developed carefully, says Ebinger. "As we start moving nuclear reactors in to the Middle East and other politically volatile regions of the world, we certainly want to make sure that all the vendors that sell this equipment are as vigilant as possible to make sure that somehow under a dual use item, that's said to be used for one thing, that it can't be used for another," he says.

The scariest energy-related risk we're currently facing? Ebinger says that we could be wrong about the amount of time we have left to deal with CO2. For example, a big hunk of the Greenland ice shelf could fall off or we could see an accelerated release of methane from the tundra in the Arctic.

Ebinger's other great fear is that a catastrophic war in the Middle East might cause a major disruption to petroleum supplies, sending the price of oil up and likely turning the recession into a global economic depression. "We wouldn't then have the resources we need to make the conversion to the renewable energy future and that would also have very severe implications," he says.
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