The energy challenge—change needed now

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118366648911670.jpg’, ”, ‘William Stigliani, professor and director, Center for Energy and Environmental Education, University of Northern Iowa, will speak about “Environmental Challenges in the 21st Century & Potential Solutions” at this year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair.‘);

Sweden has declared its intent to eliminate using oil by 2020 and have sustainable communities by 2050. They fear climate change and energy price increases with dwindling oil supplies will cause economic havoc. By freeing themselves from fossil fuels and fluctuating energy prices, they expect to build an economy to meet these challenges. A broad-based national committee is planning how to achieve their goals.

No comparable declaration or effort is occurring on the national level in this country. Instead, we’re focused on increasing energy supplies to continue our way of life. Far too little effort is directed at changing our behavior and at developing strategies to reduce our energy consumption, cut fossil fuel use and rebuild our economy to reduce our ecological footprint.

As oil supplies decline, exporting nations cut exports at a far greater rate than the rate of production declines, said independent petroleum geologist Jeffrey Brown. In the UK, for example, as production declined 9 percent per year, exports declined 60 percent. Brown calculates that within five years, world oil exports could drop by 50 percent. Since we import two-thirds of our oil, the situation does not bode well for our economy.

We, too, need long-term plans and commitments to cut our consumption of fossil fuels and address global climate change. If we fail to act in a timely manner, the challenge will be more daunting. We will have built more of the wrong things and have less capital available to develop what is needed.

When the Soviet Union’s economy collapsed in the 1990s, it had devastating impacts on Cuba. With the loss of 50 percent of its oil imports, much of its food and trade economy collapsed. The population suffered as the average Cuban reportedly lost 30 pounds.

In response to their energy crisis, with very little capital, Cuba developed a model including local communities growing up to 80 percent or more of their own foods. Neighborhoods converted vacant lots and rooftops into gardens and reduce meat consumption. People walked and biked more and converted existing vehicles into taxis and trucks into buses.

The annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair contains some core components of a more sustainable energy future. William Stigliani, professor and director, Center for Energy and Environmental Education, University of Northern Iowa, will provide his perspective about “Environmental Challenges in the 21st Century & Potential Solutions.“

The solution to the problems created by global environmental challenges and resource depletion will require new paradigms for development. His presentation will focus on energy systems needed to replace current primitive applications, green technologies that minimize raw material inputs and pollution, preservation of ecosystems services and new models for sustainable development.

Professor Stigliani, who earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University, is well qualified to present on this topic. He has worked on environmental issues at the state, federal and international levels. He co-authored a study, the Year 2000 Iowa Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. For five years he developed research reports at the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. This nonprofit institution develops independent reports for government organizations on issues of state and national concerns. For eight years, he was a senior research scholar in the Environment Program at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. Climate change was a major component of his studies. One study, The Future Environments For Europe, envisioned possible futures to the year 2030 as determined by different paths of economic development.

It is essential that local communities begin now to address the unprecedented challenges that environmental deterioration, climate change and dwindling energy supplies will have on the lives of their citizens. This year’s energy fair will provide inspiration, insight and ideas for a brighter energy future.

from the July 5-10, 2007, issue

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