Where is Energy Going?

Lately I have been quite interested in the energy issue that the world is facing at the moment. From recent International-level response toward the nuclear disaster that hit Japan, to the excessive burning of fossil fuels, I am completely dumbfounded at the immensity of this topic. Policy makers and energy consumers alike are debating over what forms of energy are more efficient and reliable. Movements toward renewable energy has increased as we are seeing implementations of wind and solar farms, solar arrays on rooftops, and solar water heaters. Both old and new buildings have been gearing up for energy efficiency as sustainablility becomes more frequent in many organization’s vocabulary when dealing with business. It seems that the issue of energy, and where it comes from, is becoming a more popular topic in the public discourse as population increases, limited natural resources diminish, and as technology becomes cheaper and more accessible. Let us start by aggregating the important bits and pieces that I have collected in the past couple weeks in regards to the energy issue.

Countries around the world are halting plans for nuclear energy generation. Italy had announced that they will be stopping their nuclear program for one year, China also made a similar move, and Germany, with a large population against atomic energy, has prompted the European Union to conduct a comprehensive examination on all nuclear sites for inconsistencies and potential hazards. Recently, some 200,000 protestors emerged in Berlin rallying against the production of atomic energy in their country. Some weeks ago, another protest rallied by train tracks leading toward the final resting place in Northern Germany of nuclear waste coming from France. Europeans cannot seem to forget the disaster that occurred in Chernobyl and the environmental health effects that are still noticable today such as, high cancer rate, birth defects, and the high level of physical abnormalities among those who have had prolonged exposure to nuclear radiation after the accident. Political tensions run high as governments are scurridly working toward appeasing the masses and determining a solution that results in reasonable energy generation and acknowledging the climate change issue.

Weeks ago I attended a rally in Annapolis supporting the creation of “Green Collar” jobs, offshore windfarms in the Mid-Atlantic, and Union Labor Rights. Environmentalists, union laborers, and concerned citizens gathered to express their concern, anger, and even at times, tears, in hopes to communicate to our representatives what we wish to see changed. Personally, I have never rallied for a cause, but being there allowed me to see reform as it happened—a humbling expereince. In a way, these three categories of people are looking to achieve the same goal—sustainability. Environmentalists wish to reduce the amount of carbon emissions and invest in new technologies that are clean and kind to our atmosphere. Union laborers want to keep their jobs and continue to have opportunities to contribute their skills, while maintaining the mission of goods to be manufactured in America. And citizens, households, and professionals wish to see our state, our country, to be a leader in innovation and standards of living. All of these goals intersect, but there needs to be a driving force that unites in order to fulfill our desires of a better working society.

Another aspect of sustainability I have discovered is in building design and construction. According to an article found in GOOD Magazine, some percentage of energy is generated and used in buildings and some lower percentage is wasted. The interesting part is that there is an organization that is determined to increase the level of sustainability in new buildings, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). They offer an accredited certification program enabling individuals to choose a focus on a number of building and construction fields of study. It is called a Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design Certification (LEED). When becoming LEED Certified, you come to understand the current building standards of USGBC, as well as the credit score a building can achieve after inspecting EMEWS. In addition to the actual sustainability of a building, there is also the inspection of a homes’ ability to retain energy done by a Building Analyst. I am on the track of becoming BPI Certified, which certifies me to conduct Blower Door tests, evaluate an existing structure’s efficiency to retain energy from the inside out, and perform energy audits. I like this type of work because it’s hands on, mentally stimulating, and it benefits the whole by focusing and remediating individual problem areas. There are other certifications and rating systems that are accepted like the HERS Rating System, but that will be for another time.

In a world of professionalism, I would say that there is a lot on people’s plates when it comes to getting things done—the right way. Which is way is that? How do we solve the world’s energy problems for generations to come? What are steps that we should take in order for us to secure a reliable source of energy for a population? Who should be at the forefront of making these changes happen and who is going to pay them? These are questions that run in my mind when I think of the future of energy and where it comes from. I’d like to keep this dialogue open to you, the reader, in hopes to spread and inspire conversation and to find a common ground.  What do you think?

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