Forget Carbon Foot Printing
This column by Simon Gear first appeared in an Optimal Energy newsletter in 2010
Forget carbon foot printing. Forget global warming (well, not entirely, because it is one enormous problem).
Forget the price of petrol. The primary reason we should be looking at sustainable energy is that the alternative is just such an unutterably horrible idea.
We are all still reeling from the mess that BP has made of the Gulf of Mexico. With that has come the realisation that Shell makes a similar mess every year in Nigeria. A quick trip out onto our own Mpumalanga Highveld immediately thumps home the point that our own energy production is hardly squeaky clean either.
If we had come across the idea of energy only yesterday, I somehow imagine that we would have found the idea of drilling holes in mile-deep sea bed laughable. It’s an almighty effort. The stuff that you get out mucks up the environment when you burn it, and is an even bigger problem when you spill it. And just as you are getting the hang of the whole idea, you begin to run low and have to allow your economy to be held hostage by goodness knows which robber barons who happen to be sitting on a well of the stuff.
Even if South Africa was to magically become carbon neutral overnight, the emissions from North America and India and China would mean that global warming would continue apace. So that isn’t why we would be looking to alternatives. The real reason is that by running an economy based on oil, our planning constantly has to take into account such vagaries as the geopolitics of whoever currently occupies the Oval Office. And even our home grown fuel exposes us to appalling destruction of our water resources, the needless ruining of national treasures such as Mapengubwe.
Investing in renewable energy means a cleaner, healthier future for everyone in our land. It means increased focus on science education and technical skilling of our workforce. It means harnessing our creativity and famous Saffer ‘can do’ attitude . And it means showing a middle finger to every outside power that would want to influence how much we pay for something as simple as a loaf of bread and say, “Thank you very much world, but we choose common sense.