Founder, NRG Systems President
CEO, AllEarth Renewables
"We need widespread energy education and civic leadership to prepare for a low- carbon energy future. We live during an amazing time in human history, but our society is completely dependent on fossil fuels, and personal energy consumption is the highest it has ever been. It’s easy to forget we live in a finite world with limits to growth–every aspect of our civilization has been structured as though the resources at our disposal are infinite, and this is heartbreakingly unrealistic.
Right now, we’re using up millions of years of stored solar energy in the form of fossil fuels. That energy is a one-time “gift,” and between 1900 and 2050, we will have used most of it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. After fossil fuels are no longer a reliable source of energy, we’ll have to return to renewable, sustainable lifestyles, and this will require massive decreases in energy use via conservation and efficiency measures (70-80%). This shift will also require us to embrace and install large amounts of wind and solar, which are the two primary renewables I believe we will need to account for up to 80% of our future energy load, after we make that 70-80% reduction. We need to take action now to change our energy infrastructure, while we still have the capital and resources to do so, and while we can shape that transition, instead of having it shape us.
Can humanity learn to live within its means? My pessimistic side thinks chances are slim that our society will be able to change its habits and beliefs quickly enough to survive beyond the coming energy crisis, as we burn through the remaining easily accessible fossil fuels over the coming half-century. But the optimist in me believes that we here in Vermont are very well equipped to make that transition, because we are a small state where rapid change is possible, we understand what’s at stake, and we have the motivation to act. My hope is that Vermont can model what needs to happen with renewables, conservation, and efficiency–and do it quickly enough to create a viable energy future that will withstand the coming shocks to our climate and our economy, and help transition us toward a new beginning."