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There are 15 comments on The Climate Crisis: Breaking the Fossil Fuel Habit

  1. Mariners especially sailors have been using wind and solar technology to generate electricity for longer than nearly anyone and sadly we have a long way to go. As a mariner I truly wish the technology was better. When they can build an affordable power boat that requires no fossil fuel I will say that this technology has finally arrived.

    On the other hand punishing consumption of fossil fuels by those not inclined not to use alternatives is madness that has a negative impact on the economy. It is far better to target the market that demands the better products that punish the market that is not interested in adopting these prematurely.

    1. The technology is more than here. Wind and solar are now viable, affordable technologies, and will only become more so with greater deployment.

      The electricity in my apartment is powered by 100% renewable clean energy via a program offered by Mass. Energy Consumers Alliance in partnership with National Grid, NSTAR, and others. For that we pay an extra $25 or so per month than we would running fossil fuel generated electricity. That’s a small fraction of my cell phone bill and chump change when you think about the good it does and the cost of other things you put your money towards.

      Germany, a country almost double the size of New England in area and far greater in population, has had days in the past year where they’ve met 1/3-1/2 of their electricity demand using only solar.

      Spain (double the area, triple the population of New England) met 26% of their electricity demand with wind power during the time period of Nov 2012-Feb 2013.

      Here is research from U. of Delaware demonstrating that we can meet or exceed demand of 1/5 of the US grid with 100% renewable energy 90-99.9% of the time at prices comparable to present if we optimize our fuel mix and storage:

      Here is research from Stanford U. demonstrating it would be technically and economically feasible for New York State to switch its all-purpose energy infrastructure to being powered by wind, water, and solar meeting the entirety the state’s power demand by 2030. Just read through the some of the highlights in the published research and article here:

      The only thing standing in the way (in the U.S.) is the fossil-fuel lobby and the politicians in bed with them ignoring the scientific reality of climate change, or those too scared for their re-election and campaign coffers to stand up for their constituents and stop huffing on the tailpipe that lines their pockets.

  2. The earth-advocacy work of Cutler Cleveland, Nathan Philips and others in the Boston University community as well as the current useful coverage by Boston University Today deserves much applause. However, alternative energy emergence will likely be limited as long as the accessibility of below-ground petroleum is so prominent. Large corporations use their excess profits to continue to reinvest in additional massive extraction. Thus, any talk of alternatives must be coupled with new, bold initiatives, such as the “keep the oil in the soil” efforts taking place in Ecuador. There the government with massive citizen support and in collaboration with the United Nations established a fund to receive monies that would be close to the equivalent of the annual fees they would receive from the major oil companies who are removing that “resource” from their land. Receipt of such funds from the world community will substitute for the dependency on the petroleum industry. If the movement of fossil fuels from below-surface sources continues unabated as it is presently is, the greenhouse gas release as well as biome destruction will extend so severely that alternative energy can become a moot point. The “keep the oil in the soil” policy in Ecuador has the extended benefit of preserving its vast rainforest regions, for much of the oil is under those ecosystems. Thus, preventing oil extraction allows also for continued sequestration of carbon by the vast vegetation of the rainforest. Allowing tropical rainforest demise for any reason, but particularly for fossil fuel extraction, is equivalent to humanity killing off its best friends. This Ecuador rainforest region has, incidentally, close connections to the Boston University community in that hundreds of students and many researchers here have benefitted and even had life-changing experiences and learning through the annual University-arranged visits to the Tiputini–Yasuni wilderness regions — the precise regions where petroleum companies seek to further extract. The idea of keeping petroleum inaccessible is not only reasonable but essential. If cocaine is readily accessible in any community, it is more likely to be used and often with dire consequences. The fossil fuel addiction is this plus many times more consequential. Even in the United States, fossil fuel extraction must be not be encouraged. The currently proposed keystone pipeline cutting through the country from Canada and related proposals will of course only foster more greenhouse gas emissions and a continuance of the addiction. A second similar global strategy is institutional and personal financial divestment from those large and powerful petroleum companies that foster continued climate-altering fossil fuel emissions. Alternative energy advocacy as discussed in this article must consistently be teamed with making fossil fuels inaccessible, much as if a killing plague would be halted by first isolating it and then securing it away from the biosphere.

    Douglas Zook, Global Ecology Education Program, SED

  3. Wow, that’s just great.

    Um, but I’m a citizen and I have a vote, and I do not want solar or wind anything. I want fossil fuels. I want coal, oil or gas derived electricity, I want lots of it and I want it as cheaply as possible. This is what I want, ok?

    I’m not interested in fruity solar or wind power, I want cheap power. That’s it. So you can sit around and talk all you want about the joys of solar and wind, you can praise one another and slap each other on the back for all your great ideas and work, I don’t care. Not one bit. The bottom line is this; I want cheap power and I will vote for the person who can deliver it to me.

    Chew on that.



    1. Ok, after reading all of this you still want cheap energy? Can’t you see in the future? if money is invested in wind and solar energy, it will become cheaper and cheaper, and after there is a good infrastructure of renewable sources, like wind, solar, and hydroelectric, it will become much much cheaper than extracting and burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels you need to extract and have it pass through a whole process before you can use it, and thats what makes it price augment. Wind energy for example, you need no refineries of extraction, you just build the wind turbine and it does all the work for you. Solar, instal the solar plant and it does all the work for you. Hydroelectric, the river flows without you moving a muscle. Therefore, if you now just a little bit about making project be cost beneficial, you should know much better that the renewables are much cheaper because there is no extraction of refinery involved.

  4. Not everywhere can have enough wind resources to generate stable electricity. Sunshine however is almost everywhere. So it seem solar energy is a preferred green alternative to current fossil fuel. However the production of solar panel can actually cause serious environmental pollution. The largest solar panel manufacturer in Wuxi, China recently announced its bankruptcy. Not sure if pollution solution failure is anything related to the fall of this manufacturer. But I just think it’s important how we weight the benefits and costs especially the environment costs around solar energy. How many solar panels used in the world are produced in China? How many in the states? And how long can a solar panel last being usable and how often do we need to keep the production with some sort of pollution there though I believe technology is advancing to reduce the pollution risk.

  5. Read “The Answer” by Reese Palley. About 2/3 of the book is about the impeding climate disaster. His “Answer” is “mini” nukes. These self-contained small reactors are said to be “inherently safe,” require almost no maintenance, and are modularly transportable; one design “the size of a boxcar.” They could replace diesel generators in many rural locations, or connect to existing grid where a coal plant is shut down. Babcock & Wilcox is building a demonstration unit. Apparently there is some federal R&D funding being spent to explore this concept and various design approaches. The main advantages over traditional giant nuclear plants would be rapid deployment, greatly reduced siting and environmental issues, low capital and operating costs. Some are designed to consume their fuel “completely,” reducing or eliminating waste. Also these designs do not produce plutonium. Given the resistance to large-scale land wind farms and the variability of solar (and the expanded grid service lines these require), small-scale nuclear generators could play an important role in helping to reduce our use of fossil fuels, except, perhaps, for transportation.

  6. Klem, above post at 12:04 today… you want cheap power? We all do. You don’t really care, I think, where it comes from. But using up the most available and cheapest power resources may just mean you don’t get to live in a world that provides what humans need: enough food, fresh water, clean air to breath, land and oceans that sustains life. Such a short-sighted and selfish perspective might just be suicide for the human race, while you happily enjoy your cheap power (until the lights go out).

  7. I am still looking for a straight answer on why a bunch of incomplete measurements taken over a ridiculously short period gives us enough certainty to upend the world economy. Scientific certainty comes from reproducible controlled experimentation, not this stuff.

  8. Why does no one ever talk about planting more trees which serve a multiplicity of purposes not the least of which is absorbing carbon dioxide? It seems like people just want to force regulations on other people rather than having a real discussion about how we as humans can have less of an impact on our environment.

    The USA has been using fossil fuels since their inception and will continue to do so unabated until truly affordable alternatives are available.

    In the mean time trying to force people to do something they do not want to via higher taxes will only serve to slow economic growth.

    I am a mariner and despite the responses to what I have said if alternative renewable energy had really arrived we would be among the first to adopt it as the cost of fuel for a large power boat is exorbitant.

    We also like more range when at sea and again would be the first to adopt any renewal system that really worked. I cannot plug my boat into an outlet at sea to recharge the batteries like you can with a car and the size of the solar panels is too great to make these suitable for powering much more than small trolling motor.

    People currently have to cover the entire roof on their home with solar panels to generate enough electricity to substantially reduce their costs which exemplifies the square foot requires of these devices.

    Yes we have made “some” progress but we are not there yet.

  9. New energy is only solution to solve the crisis in the future.BU have done sometings that help we to know more.I come from CHIAN and moane over the death of LU lingzi.We will rember you forever.

  10. Bio fuels from ethanol crops and bio fuel from recycled used cooking oil ought to be in two different categories under the pie chart.

  11. Awesome work by Prof. Cleveland and others! Really want to see all of this stuff take front-center stage, and would TOTALLY be behind higher taxes on carbon and fossil fuels – the freedom to choose to destroy the planet shouldn’t belong to anyone. We have such a short amount of time left to curb our emissions before we enter feedback loops (ie. melting of the permafrosts and release of all the methane they store) and things are taken out of our hands, and that will affect the whole of humanity, not just those selfish individuals who do not make an effort to change their ways.
    And it is so easy to make an effort! I just signed up to Energy plus’ green option for my electricity, and now have electricity from a 100% renewable source (wind power). Bills are less than they were before too :) So glad these programs are becoming more mainstream, accessible and better priced.

  12. What are the unintended consequences of going to a none fossil fuel based society? We have numerous studies of what the consequences if we don’t. I would like to know has there been as much effort in that alternative. I have my suspicion that it would be econmic catastrophe and a cause of a world wide famine and mass deaths due to starvation and illness and wars. Untill we have the capacity to replace the energy that is lost by useing only non fossil fuels we should modify our head long addaptation to one that is less fool hardy to one that would allow technology to catch up with the demand and then go for a fosil fuel free energy environment.

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