Three months ago in this column, I took the Obama administration to task for announcing that vast tracts of seabed were being opened to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. It turns out that the administration’s timing could not have been worse. The oil spill in the Gulf has highlighted in a stark and graphic fashion one of the many ways that our dependence on fossil fuels is dangerous.
The image that keeps going through my mind is kids playing with matches. We’ve unleashed forces that we don’t completely understand and can’t control. The marine life, the coasts, the wetlands, and the people who live in that biologically rich area will pay the price for our carelessness for decades to come.
It doesn’t have to be this way. As I said last time, we at the Schatz Center firmly believe we can replace a large portion of our fossil fuel use with renewable energy. We will have to pay more for energy but ask the people in the Gulf region how much they’re paying right now. Which cost is higher?
In this issue, we highlight some of our efforts to get to that renewable energy future we need. Ruben Garcia reports on our collaboration with colleagues at the Group for Appropriate Rural Technology in Mexico. Omar, Victor, and Ilse visited for a couple of days and helped us build their famous Patsari cookstove here at SERC. We had great fun working together, built a great looking stove, and hope that this will lead to a continuing partnership to improve the efficiency of cookstoves. Also in this issue, Colin Sheppard reports on the beginning of a wave modeling study to support the development of PG&E’s WaveConnectTM project. The wave energy resource off the Humboldt County coast is enormous and this work and PG&E’s project are a start down the road of tapping that large resource. And James Apple describes the GridShare project that will provide smart grid devices to a village in Bhutan to alleviate the problem of frequent brownouts in their hydroelectric power system. James and his student colleagues won their award at a competition in Washington DC as part of EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet program. Congratulations to the students and their mentor, SERC co- director Arne Jacobson. James, Meg Harper, and Chhimi Dorji, HSU grad student and Bhutan native, will travel to Bhutan soon to begin work there.
Best wishes to all our readers for a fun and relaxing summer.