In this column, we’re going to discuss how energy freedom leads, not to “sustainable” energy, but to evolving energy.
People often are concerned about the future of energy. They worry, “If we keep producing and consuming energy the way we are today, won’t we run out?” The answer, if you take that literally, is absolutely. If you do anything the same way, over and over, you will eventually run out: if you look for the exact same solar panel materials at the exact same places, for example, you’re going to run out of those. Or if you keep getting your steel from the exact same place, at some point it’s going to run out.
But we shouldn’t think of human beings as repeaters. The fact that a behavior cannot be repeated forever doesn’t mean that it’s unsustainable in the sense that the behavior is short-range and irrational. The truly long-range behavior is to always do the best thing at any given time, and improve and adapt over time.
Always use the best
The long-range behavior in metal, for example, is to always look for and use the best form of metal. Maybe that will be steel for 500 years and then maybe something completely different. And maybe the iron ore and the carbon for that steel will come from one place for 20 years, and then a different place for the next 20 years—we don’t know. As long as policy supports using the best metal at any given point in time, then human beings will keep discovering better ways to produce and use metal.
If somebody says, “We shouldn’t use metal at all because it’s not renewable,” and instead mandates that we make our skyscrapers out of wood because that’s renewable, you would probably think that doesn’t make much sense. There’s no reason why we should commit to using some particular material indefinitely. The same is true for energy.
We don’t need repeatable energy or sustainable energy. We want evolving energy.
Human beings are not repetitive creatures. We are evolving creatures who continually improve the materials and processes we use to flourish. And the key to evolving energy is freedom from endangerment, freedom to develop, and freedom to compete. That will ensure that we have the best form of energy at any given time.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Evolving Energy Systems.