We can build a 100% fuel free full-spectrum sustainable democracy.
With 8 conceptually simple, and practically far-reaching framework upgrades, we can accelerate the pace of change and motivate a paradigm shift in the way we address climate destabilization, without any command-and-control or dubious financial wizardry:
- Full-spectrum sustainable communities (FSSC)
- Calculation of climate debt amassed to date
- Focus on speeding over the horizon tech to market
- Smart grid
- Solar highway infrastructure
- Maximum flexibility in clean fuel choice
- Grassroots-capacitative Fuel Free Media Network
- Citizen leadership on federal policy-making
1. FSSC: Paradigm Leaders, Organizing the New American Dream
The biggest obstacle to going 100% fuel free is our sense of cultural, practical and political inertia… It isn’t happening, so it won’t happen. We can motivate major change, both requiring and conducive of paradigm shifts in our social and technological infrastructure, if we build from the spaces we inhabit, while ensuring policy frameworks keep pace.
Full-spectrum sustainable communities (FSSC) aim to achieve low to zero environmental impact (regenerative sustainability) in all segments of our interaction with resources and natural life support systems. Full-spectrum sustainability means our transportation is sustainable, our energy production is sustainable, our political organizational infrastructure is sustainable, our education, our engineering, our commerce, our national security strategy, and so on.
Important as this is, we cannot simply overhaul every area of human existence, from the top down, and still enjoy real democracy. We need to build full-spectrum sustainable communities from the ground up: focusing on local needs and embedded human potential from the perspective of the local, imagining bold visions for application of new technologies and major policy revisions.
We can facilitate paradigm-shift thinking, by providing information about cutting-edge technologies, by making them more accessible, providing reports on successful implementations in communities large and small. We can build an always-on repository of visionary reporting on the active transition, with notes in how to most affordably accelerate and expand the virtues of the transition: a network of communities studying and effecting their own full-spectrum sustainable revolution.
The network would include:
- Media platforms to report, network and facilitate planning;
- Practical access points for implementation of hybrid policy frameworks (public/private, state/federal) to achieve full-spectrum sustainable standards more rapidly and affordably;
- Events and gatherings: conferences, festivals, grassroots democratic infrastructure to allow citizens and stakeholders to have a more direct say in policy-making.
If we start from the community level, but build a shared facilitating network that is national, we can harness the human power of the NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) urge, by transforming it into constructive action that renders the unacceptable intrusion in question obsolete.
2. Track the Mounting Climate Debt Calculus
Stakeholders from every level of human society pitch in their two cents: major reinsurers, small municipalities, families, FEMA, Defense, reports (both from government and from the people) that help to build a National Strategic Narrative, comments on and innovations for agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, education, etc. We can focus our attention on what the destabilization of our climate is costing, in all these areas, in terms of dollars spent, opportunities lost and future dollars already forcibly dedicated to coping and remediation.
We add up all of the systemic corruption witnessed so far, along with what models tell us is built in. We offer hard numbers to policy makers. We make these reports standard, commonplace and public. We build awareness of the facts of our collective climate debt.
This will allow us to better “see” the real value of our economic activities. To break the cycle of corrosive behavior and unfunded climate destabilizing vice, we need to replace ignorance with awareness. We need to correct actual prices in consumer markets, and do so while making real alternatives available. The chicken-and-egg problem of which should happen first must be resolved by doing both simultaneously.
As we build real, fact-based awareness of the mounting cost of our mounting destabilization of major climate patterns into our thinking about policy, consumption, personal choice and business planning, we also build a genuine socio-political framework in which we can do more, more quickly, to effect the needed transformational change.
3. Learn to See Over the Horizon
Unlike fiscal debt, the carbon-driven climate debt is a cycle we can break, because we can harvest enough energy from other sources to allow ourselves to cease all burning of greenhouse gases (GHG). The technologies we require to carry out a transition to a 100% fuel free economy are already available to us. They are scalable and on the market.
All we need to do is shift our industrial, financial and political infrastructure to line up with the process of building the physical infrastructure required for deploying these technologies on a massive scale.
We have thousands of times the accessible solar radiation required to power all human energy needs, at any given time. We just need to put the technologies in place to harness it, convert it to electricity and move it around.
We can use traditional solar panels, solar arrays and solar-thermal concentration systems, for large-scale production, and we can use nano-scale and glitter-sized solar applications like photo-voltaic (PV) inks, paints, fabrics, bricks, glass, etc., to augment solar energy production at the hyper-local. We can retrofit old buildings with organic solar concentrating windows and even expect smart phones and “smart paper” to become more efficient, and to generate their own energy, significantly reducing the strain on major power grids.
We can build vehicles that harvest energy as they move through the environment. We can build roads that produce energy (see below) and zero-GHG-emissions jet fuel.
4. Smart Grid
In order to achieve anything like a ubiquitous, cutting-edge renewable clean energy economy, we need a smart grid: an electricity distribution system that “knows” how to move electricity from where it is to where it needs to be.
With a vibrant, scalable, state-of-the-art smart grid, we transcend the paradigm that ties us to the notion of “baseload” power, the finite, concrete, store of energy (in a volume of coal or petroleum or natural gas) that will be released by combustion when we need or ask for it.
The true smart grid will make the vast abundance of clean renewables like wind and solar power available to us wherever we need them across that grid. We will be able to generate power as locally as we need or desire, and to move energy, as electricity, wherever there might be a shortage of generation for any reason.
Because generation will be increasingly decentralized, we can build a user-generated repository of information about grid status, upgrades, demand for smart metering, etc. We can include information about local, state and federal credits, grants and loans, along with links to foundations facilitating smart grid upgrades and affordable scalable clean energy installations.
A true smart grid will also be flexible enough to work around and allow for grid-free energy technologies and empower both industry and end-users to find, produce and/or store energy, without requiring the grid. This can allow for new ways of adding power to the grid, new competitive advantage for consumers, and a wide array of new production methods, conducive of innovation on a scale and at a speed not previously seen.
5. Solar Highway Infrastructure
Because we receive so many thousands of times the energy we need, in the form of solar radiation, at any given time, we need less than one-tenth of one percent of the land area of the United States to generate all of the solar energy we need to power our entire economy. The simplest way to occupy a large amount of land area without taking over still more open space, habitable acreage or arable land, and to do so affordably, is to build roads and highways that harvest solar radiation to make electricity.
One example is the innovative company Solar Roadways, of Montana, which has created a modular system that turns roadways into massive solar photo-voltaic farms. This kind of infrastructure should accompany the decentralized informational and planning resources, and the deployment of a locally controlled, locally fed, distributed, network-operated smart grid.
When we have build the smart grid, the distributed user-empowered informational, planning and management network, along with solar highways, electrified transit, and a robust backstop of wind farms and localized wind-energy production, we will not only free ourselves from the corrosive impacts of climate destabilizing combustible fuels, but also expand the spaces for human liberation itself, both by building a more democratic socio-political and commercial infrastructure, and by allowing people to mor affordably and more reliably access the energy and means of transport, movement and sustainable opportunity.
6. Maximum flexibility in clean fuel choice
Building new infrastructure in such a way as to allow for near seamless integration of new innovations in fuel and energy production is vital for more reliably accessing sooner rather than later the massive potential cost-savings and economic vibrancy associated with a true fuel free renewable energy economy.
If we build more carbon fuel infrastructure now, we will have to replace or upgrade it win a few decades. And, we will have to pay again to build from scratch the optimized generative energy infrastructure of the clean energy economy. If we build infrastructure that can seamlessly integrate any new modular clean electricity producing technology, we can more rapidly and more affordably build increased capacity and efficiency to the grid at any time.
Doing that allows us to operate in an entirely distinct paradigm, in which there will no longer be any genuine economic justification for continuing the use of climate destabilizing combustion-purposed carbon-based fuels.
7. Grassroots-Capacitative Fuel Free Media Network
It is not possible to truly empower end-users and decentralize control of our energy future, unless we also decentralize the flow of best-quality eminently relevant capacity expanding information regarding the best ways to generate energy affordably and sustainably. We can and must build a grassroots-capacitative media network oriented toward achieving a 100% fuel free socio-political infrastructure in which all commerce (the full spectrum) is conducive to both enhanced democratic involvement in human outcomes and also to enhanced sustainability.
To build this network, we begin with a simple social networking project. We integrate dominant social networking tools into the design of a dedicated site. We publish reports, data, government and private-sector projects, activist news, organizational and decision-making news, educational services and production, and event announcements.
From there, we begin to add more technological capability and a wider and more diverse membership. We add video, apps, podcasting and other media, aiming always to manifest both the actual shape of the cutting edge, and also the landscape as yet “over the horizon”.
We keep in mind as a guiding editorial and structural principle that those solutions which will one day become available are already possible; if they do not yet exist in concrete form, we need only to envision them to begin to bring them into being. As Bill Becker, of the New America Foundation, argued in the inaugural edition of the HotSpring Quarterly, last fall, we need to produce more widely available high-quality media illustrating the most ambitious and encouraging visions of what we can actually achieve, combining what we know how to do with what we aspire to do, in order to bring the idea of credible, transformative future-making into the popular mind.
This proposal calls for allowing the public—citizens, families, communities, business and institutions—to contribute, regularly, ambitiously and forthrightly to imagining and enacting that credble, viable, eminently possible, 100% fuel free full-spectrum sustainable future.
8. Citizen Leadership on Federal Policy-making
Because the transition to a distributed-generation smart-grid-based fuel free energy economy requires democratization, and this plan benefits from the decentralization of decision-making and information distribution, as well as management and economic incentive for clean energy development and investment, direct citizen participation in federal policy-making is vital.
Currently, the non-partisan, non-profit Citizens Climate Lobby is working to build political will for a price-correcting, human-scale-relevant market-transformative carbon-pricing plan that would return 100% of its funds to households to reinvest in the future of energy. The Fee and Dividend plan would impose a steadily increasing fee on carbon-based fuels, at the source (mine, well, port of entry), to correct the radically distorted price of refined carbon-based combustible fuels.
100% of the revenues would be returned to households, to make sure industry does not punish consumers for its corrosive activities. In the early years, this would cushion the economy against a sudden shock, while allowing investors and major energy providers to see a clear and corrective price signal, and to better plan for the future. As money pours into clean alternatives, and the cost of carbon-based fuels escalates, consumers will spend on cheaper clean fuels, save some of the dividend, and accelerate the transition.
A border adjustment would be applied, to ensure foreign trading partners don’t give their commercial interests an unfair advantage by not imposing a comparable carbon-pricing plan.
The plan requires no new bureaucracy, is revenue neutral, can be designed to be bipartisan, will create new jobs, and allows for the democratization of the energy marketplace, even as it corrects the most costly market failure in the history of modern economics.
As citizens take a more active role in solving major crisis-level system-wide problems, they also build their own access to real democracy. The solution comes into being as the possible first shows itself, then replaces the flawed dynamics of the model in which crisis-level system-wide problems are the direct result of everyday activities.
This 8-point framework-upgrade plan would do what R. Buckminster Fuller consistently set out to do, in his work: replace a flawed system that generates unnecessary corrosive impacts with a more vibrant, organic intelligent order, aimed at reducing entropy and expanding fairness, continuity and sustainable human thriving, thus eliminating the crisis-level system-wide problem of mounting and accelerating global climate destabilization.
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Originally published May 16, 2013, at Geoversiv.com