It’s the last day of Energy Independence Month here on the Sungevity blog though, of course, at Sungevity, we celebrate Energy Independence 365 days a year. We’ve laid out a vision for an energy-independent home, community and nation. For our last installment, we’ll take a look at some features of an energy independent global economy.
The alert reader might now be asking whether an energy-independent global economy is a contradiction in terms. Bingo! While the internet will keep us all socially and culturally interconnected, the global economy as we know it will of necessity contract as global oil supplies grow scarce.
Our future ability to continue shipping products around the globe hinges on the deployment of technologies that barely exist yet, like “bio-hydrogen” ships that run on seaweed, solar and tidal power. Or maybe we’ll return to good old-fashioned sailing vessels. Do I hear canoes? Hopefully, we’ll figure out how to move ships around without oil (or oars) before the oil runs out. But, since nothing has the energy density of oil, the best case scenario is a radically scaled-down global trade network where only essential goods and materials are shipped long distances. We in California might still be able to get lithium from Bolivia for our electric vehicle batteries but we can forget about importing cantaloupes from Chile and vacationing in Prague.
As many post-carbon visionaries have pointed out, there’s an important upside to what, from our current vantage point, looks like a future defined by scarcity and uncertainty: We will have to rediscover the meaning of local community and self-reliance. We will of necessity look to our neighbors and community to share resources and learn skills (and we’ll also get to learn from distant communities through the internet which is a huge advantage).
We and our children will get to experience something that most of the Baby Boomer generation never did–the satisfaction that comes from providing for at least some of our own needs versus the depressing disempowerment of acquiring things by simply pressing buttons, flipping switches and turning ignitions. Our lives will have greater meaning even as our material wealth dwindles.