Richard Ha writes:
We need a “triple bottom line” approach to renewable energy options. They need to be socially sustainable, environmentally sustainable, and economically sustainable.
World-renowned economist, Nobel laureate, and New York Times best-selling author Joseph Stiglitz spoke on this at UH Manoa. His lecture, "Where long-term and short-term goals converge: Using sustainability as an impetus for economic growth," starts at the 21:30 mark of this video.
Social sustainability has largely been ignored in many approaches to renewable energy solutions. The Big Island has the lowest median family income in the state, and that is not socially sustainable. Hawaiians leaving their ancestral lands in greater and greater numbers in order to look for work is not socially sustainable.
We need to pay more attention to this. Finding solutions that give folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder more spending money will benefit all of us, because two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending.
Energy and agriculture are inextricably tied together, and the agricultural industry is vulnerable because of its dependency on energy. Nitrogen fertilizer, plastics, chemicals, etc., are all byproducts of petroleum.
What can we do to dodge the bullet? We can maximize the resources we have available to us here in a sustainable way.
On the energy side, we have geothermal, which will be available to us, according to the scientists, for 500,000 years. On the ag side, we have a year-long growing season. These are both huge advantages. We need to leverage them so we have a competitive advantage over the rest of the world.
Geothermal electricity puts us on the right side of the cost curve. And as natural gas prices rise, we will be able to competitively make hydrogen. We can use that hydrogen for transportation, as well as to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer.
In the ag industry, we should be maximizing technology to help us with disease and insect control, thereby lessening our dependency on natural gas.
Our tourism industry is also at risk as jet fuel rises in cost. But with the same low-cost electricity that helps our farmers and their customers, we would lower the walk-around cost of the average tourist’s budget. This would both support our tourism industry and bring money into our local economy.
From Peak Oil News:
Researchers from the University of Maryland and a leading university in Spain demonstrate in a new study which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk when global oil production peaks (“Peak Oil”). This multi-disciplinary team recommends immediate action by government, private and commercial sectors to reduce the vulnerability of these sectors.
In the final analysis, we can no longer think and act in silence. We need a long-range systems approach, based on the three pillars of sustainability – social sustainability, environmental sustainability, and economic sustainability.