Energy Envisions

“As parents, we wish to leave our planet in a good shape for the benefit of future generations.
As scientists, we do have the duty to contribute to the discussion on the impending energy crisis.
As chemists, we can help improving energy technologies and, hopefully, finding scientific breakthroughs capable of solving the energy problem at its root.
Finally, as citizens of the affluent part of the world, first class passengers of spaceship Earth, we should ask ourselves how can we really help passengers now traveling in much worse compartments of this spaceship…”

 One of the most intriguing memories of my childhood, is a photograph of a cousin of mine, whose parents had migrated to a developed country known for bitter cold in the winters. He was swimming, in an Olympic sized swimming pool in a centrally heated indoor stadium, in the middle of winters. I was fascinated, as the photo was accompanied with others, showing heavy snow fall outdoors.

Reflecting back today, it seems a trifle odd that a colossal amount of energy was expended for a leisure activity. Hailing from a developing economy where a bucket (yes BUCKET!!) full of warm water is a luxury, it feels odd indeed. But the reality is, that even today it does not raise eyebrows amongst quite a few in this land. Central heating of an entire large house for a small family or six cylinder monstrosities on the road are accepted, while many in the other parts of the world do not have fuel to cook.

One of the highest per capita consumers of energy outside the oil rich Persian Gulf, an average American is failed to be reminded that there is an economic recession on. It is a stupor from which this nation refuses to awaken. Compare that with Bangladesh, which has fifty times less per capita energy consumption. Of course there is a massive difference in the standard of living but if there are no concrete steps to reduce the exuberant usage, the energy equation will become impossible to solve.

The various studies on the energy consumption pattern in the US of A, shows that transportation in this country amounts to a gigantic portion of the total energy demand. Gas-guzzlers dominate the roads and an enormous percentage of Americans commute daily to their work without giving a second thought to alternates like public transport or car-pooling. With immense strides in communications today, ‘stay home workers’ are a viable alternative, which neither the worker nor the owners/management consider even for a second. Yet the irony is that the same management most willingly employ manpower as ‘Tele-workers’ from across the seven seas! The house-hold consumption is primarily due to space-conditioning besides the electric appliances which are aimed to improve your lifestyle and ease the domestic burden. Many of these are energy intense specially when compounded by utter lack of judicial and optimal usage.

If I have to think of the energy scenario fifty years hence, I could be looking at either an alternative of utter chaos in a nation that refused to decrease its energy consumption or that of country populated with the wise who have overcome their habit of expensive wasteful energy extravaganza and chosen the path of ‘energy prudence’.

I choose the later for I believe that the improvement will be born out of necessity as also out off collective wisdom. Born out of the realization that the fossil fuel energy is finite in quantity and yet posses an almost infinite capacity to push humanity to the precipice of self-destruction.

We will learn about alternate safer methods of energy production, responsible ways of utilisation and better methods of energy management. This is a vision for a better future. This is an essay, which seeks to harness the positives that research and sciences have tried so hard to uncover. Anaerobic digestion Biomass, Bio-fuel, Carbon neutral fuel, Geothermal energy, Hydroelectricity, Solar energy, Tidal power, Wave power, Wind power etc will be explored and harnessed, thus ensuring cheaper and environmental friendly energy.

Producing energy at the site of utilization will minimize transmission loss. Rooftop solar panels will be a norm. Gigantic windmills will ornament the landscape, replacing the grotesque transmission lines and ‘Eifel-oid’ towers. Homes will be efficiently designed to keep cool in summers and warm in winters using intelligent architecture and modern smart materials. White painted rooftops will become norm, as will energy effective exteriors and interiors. The focus will be on the person rather than the environment. With the development of thermal regulated suits, which would help the individual to be clothed in the temperature of his/her preference rather than the room/house. Use of natural lights will increase and dependence on artificial lighting will diminish. Gadgets will be smart and intelligent enough to use minimal energy. Efficient and attractive public transportation will replace the individual vehicles. Sharing the resources and caring for the environment will be the norm. [5] Discusses the WWS options which are powered by wind water or the sun and can lead to potentially no emissions and have a far better life cycle than non renewable fuels.

The environment exists in direct co-relation to the anthropogenic activities that are carried out as well as the biogenic activities, which are hampered, by (or affected by) human population, pollution, technology, etc. WWS fuels and micro-energy harvesting units will release the pressure from macro scaled projects, which can create imbalances in the ecosystem. For instance, micro-hydroelectric projects are being considered which would not result in displacement of population, nor would, to a large extent affect the floral and faunal population that exists at present on site. Conservation and sustainability brings about a need to understand co-existence. No amount of energy utilization in leisure can seek to substitute for loss of an entire species. We need to be able to communicate amongst ourselves in our society and stand up for the environment. Each tap that drips and each bulb that stays lit in daylight contributes to deforestation and species endangering. This fact needs not only to be recognized but also to be ingrained within our conscience. 

Is it feasible to transform the world’s energy systems?

Could it be accomplished in two decades? The answers depend on the technologies chosen, the availability of critical materials, and economic and political factors. [5]

 America seeks a future of energy security [3]. 50 years from now, in my vision of the world, security will not be of key importance as will attainability and acess, unless steps are taken starting NOW. Climate Change may be debatable; depletion of fossil fuels is not!

The change that I envision in the world 50 years from now is a change, which requires more individual contribution and responsibility. An average citizen needs to step up to the challenge of leading and leaving a sustainable lifestyle for his/her future generations. This is a change, which takes roots in the education system of today. It is the college goers and high-schoolers of the present age who will be the decision makers of the world of tomorrow. Sensitizing the youth about the problems of energy adequacy and steps needed to be taken for energy security need to be strengthened. What might be viewed as a ‘lack of luxury’ by the energy-illiterate of today may be viewed as ‘conservationist’ by the people of tomorrow? Conservation as a compromise is a barrier in the mindsets of people that we would need to surmount in order to achieve a state wherein energy is available to use for all and for future generations to come too.

We need to realize that sustainability is only a possibility when prudence comes into play. This is true, since every source of energy, renewable or otherwise, will have a maximum

All these will be by an average American who will be scientifically attuned, educated and wise to use the resources at his disposal sensibly and with a sense of responsibility towards Mother Nature as well as socially conscious towards the Generation Next.


References and Related Literature:









[9] Energy Systems Engineering, Vanek, Second Edition


*this write up was submitted as part of a graded assignment for ME 4194 Sustainable Energy Solutions Course in VirginiaTech, under Dr David Dillard*