If you want to see what the U.S.A. energy future looks like under an “all of the above” energy strategy, check out the massive Total Energy USA trade event coming up in Houston, Texas this November 27-29. A quick look at the Total Energy USA schedule reveals a nation speeding toward an energy supply landscape that is far more diversified, and hopefully more healthy and secure, than anything known in history. It’s all the more impressive when you realize that we’re not too far removed from the days when whale oil was considered the next big thing.
Total Energy USA and Alternative Energy
Realistically speaking, fossil fuels will continue to play a significant role in the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely that they will ever disappear altogether in the manner of, say, whale oil.
However, the grip of fossil fuels on the U.S. energy supply is weakening. The transition to renewable energy is well under way, and it’s already becoming hard to travel anywhere without seeing the evidence in the form of solar power installations and wind turbines on street poles and buildings.
That transition is fully reflected in the Total Energy USA event, which features the whole gamut of emerging renewable energy technologies alongside conventional energy. Though it is partly sponsored by two petroleum industry giants, Shell and Halliburton, the stated goal of Total Energy USA is “to mirror the more current/ progressive thinking about achieving a sustainable energy future.”
That doesn’t appear to leave much room for conventional fossil fuels, since the event planners have also stated that “Total Energy USA is based on the principle that addressing our nation’s energy challenges will be achieved through a comprehensive strategy in which energy efficiency and clean energy work together. ”
More Power to the People
Another critical aspect of Total Energy USA is the interplay between clean energy, energy conservation, advanced communications technology and a new distributed energy model, in which individuals, businesses, and other entities can leverage their property for energy generation as well as energy consumption.
That’s reflected in the choice of topic for the first keynote session, titled “A New Energy System: The Internet, Renewable Energy, Distributed Generation, Power Plant Buildings and New Vehicles.”
As envisioned by Total Energy USA, the new energy system will create “a new era of ‘distributed capitalism’ in which millions of existing and new businesses and homeowners become energy players.”
This is a stark contrast to the conventional model of central power plants and a hub-and-spokes distribution system. The impact of distributed energy technology is also going to ripple out from its hosts sites, and perhaps the most significant manifestation will occur in transportation fuels.
In contrast to the virtual monopoly that petroleum fuel has had on vehicles, the distributed energy model enables electric vehicles powered by solar energy, wind, geothermal, and any number of other renewable sources. The energy stored in electric vehicle batteries will also interact with distributed energy sites and with the grid.
Democratic Energy for the World’s Leading Democracy
By teasing out the relationship between clean energy and “distributed capitalism,” Total Energy USA also recasts energy consumption as a form of energy voting, in which more consumers have more opportunities to exercise more power and more responsibility over a broader range of very different choices. In this regard, the new energy landscape will promote a healthier balance between capitalism and consumerism, which is essential to a healthy democracy.
That balance between consumption and production has become a particularly important issue in this election season, when one presidential candidate and his party have been determined to split American citizens into two distinct classes, the “makers” and “takers.” Total Energy USA is a reminder that, in a modern democratic society, making and taking are embodied in the same individual far more often than not, and it’s high time for our nation’s power systems to catch up to that reality.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.