Although, one of the least discussed problems effecting us is the lack of access to clean, cheap and plentiful energy. It can also be easily debated that our pursuit for energies (e.g. electricity, liquid fuels, etc.) is what got us into this situation in the first place.
The main issue with energy is the demand for it is not going away anytime soon, and the need for it is only going to increase as the population grows and there is increased affluence in developing and mature countries.
When people don't have access to clean affordable energy, this reduces our ability as a society to produce and deliver food, water and medical care. Which increases the destruction of the environment for any easily accessible resources, causes more poverty, war, terrorism, and disease.
Obviously with a source of clean, cheap and plentiful energy we can save ourselves and our planet for future generations. Over the pass few decades more new clean energy technologies have been developed, then anytime in the past.
One of the greatest issues with any relatively new technology is its ability to gain a broad acceptance. It can literally take a decade or more for new a energy technology to come to the market before it becomes widely accepted.
Although the greatest problems with energy is not our ability to create new sources of it, or make them in large enough quantities to meet the market demands. The two greatest energy issues that we are facing right now are:
- As a society changing our energy consumption habits so we need less of it.
- Not increasing the energy efficiency of our existing technologies to their fullest potential.
For example, over the past few decades automobile manufactures increased the fuel efficiency of vehicles, as it was mandated by law and market demand. When gas was cheap car manufactures didn't build their cars to be fuel efficient, they were created to be powerful. It was not until fuel became more expensive overtime that they slowly increased the fuel efficiency of the vehicles.
Its important to note that building energy efficiency into any product does take time and can be expensive because it requires the redesign of existing technologies to use less power.
Although as a society and as individuals I really believe we underestimate the impact that we can have by changing our power consumption habits. Also by using smarter technologies (such as a programmable thermostat) can help save us money without sacrificing comfort and help protect the environment. By using less power, we as a country can avoid the need to create new power plants to meet our electricity demands.
Recently I watched a great video from TED by Alex Laskey, called "How behavioral science can lower your energy bill". He discusses showing people how much more energy they're consuming then their neighbors can help people reduce their energy demands by causing a sense of competition among them.
The main point I want to express with this article is that we don't have to wait for some scientist or company to come up with a clean energy technology or new way to save energy. We also want to avoid at all costs the creation of old style power plants, that burn fuels to create electricity.
What we do need to do is take personal responsibility for our energy consumption. We also need to realize that if a lot of people try to save power it does add up incrementally and can reduce our society's overall power demands.