Within the context of South African energy development, and less so within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), I often find myself being misunderstood as to the role coal plays within the energy economy.
I recognize, on the surface, many observers and colleagues alike, may gather an impression I am advocating for the unequivocal closure of all coal assets and the direct economies they support. Nothing could be further from the truth, and although my knowledge and experiences tell me, coal’s impacts on the global climate are negative, with dire human and economic consequences, I have long since passed the days of being an ‘environmental crusader’, motivated by heart, not facts and reality.
Ending all coal fired electric generation tomorrow, if this was my position, would be pushing for the closure of currently operational power stations and ceasing the capital flow of hemorrhaging new builds under construction, struggling to meet project deadlines and cost projections. My pragmatism steers me clear of any designs that risk a near certain economic collapse regardless some “ideal energy world” I may dream up.
We have 3-4 billion in a rush to get energy (China, Africa, India, SE Asia & less so South America), while a billion or so already have it (USA, Canada, a decent part of Europe, South Korea, select Middle Eastern countries, and up until the Tsunami, Japan). The latter fell into the trap of needing to refurbish legacy plants (coal & nuclear) while bringing on national gas (NG) and renewable energy (RE). While the former are building whatever they can, maybe at a 10 to 1 ratio (fossils/nuclear/large hydro to REs).
It’s a strange bit this traveling, just to travel, thing.
There’s a moment in The Motorcycle Diaries in which the Bolivian couple, struggling to find work and driven from their homes because of their political beliefs, ask Ernesto why [they] are traveling. The response, “We travel just to travel.” To which the reaction was a bit of shock, a bit of reflection and mostly an inability to understand this desire, craving and frankly, the luxury of being able to travel for no other purpose than to travel.
In many regards I encounter this reaction often. In others, it is a bit of longing to do the same. And to those, whom share this condition, it is a deep connection where words are not needed, it is inherently understood.
I will be traveling around Europe for 3 months starting August 6th. So it is not all “fun and games”, I plan to dedicate substantial time to a personal project focused on energy supply and need, Europe as a case study.
It centers around a theory linking the successes [and shortcomings] in the transition towards more balanced energy portfolios; including renewable sources, as fueled by a home grown cultural “energy awareness”.
This may seem a “no-brainer” to Europeans experiencing it, however it is a significant departure from the realities present in the US and struggling to be realized around the globe.
I also see commonalities in regional scarcities experienced historically throughout the EU, as significant limitations & realities to developing/under developed nations worldwide.