Skip to main content

Saul Griffith on Future Energy

Pop!Tech 2008 - Saul Griffith - via Flickr

I often get asked how to present the information of climate change, peak oil, the economy and the future of humanity. Saul Griffith, one of the founders of Wattzon a tool to measure the energy impact of your everyday choices presented at the PopTech conference at the end of 2008. The video is about half an hour, but he takes the audience through the rationale behind his methodology of breaking down every choice in his life to determine how many watts of energy that choice uses. The last 10 minutes of the presentation show just how futile the efforts of transforming from fossil fuels to alternative energy are against the scale of effort required to limit atmospheric carbon to 450 parts per million, (which in itself is a massive compromise on the quality of life for millions of people around the world among other things).

Saul’s slides are slick, his presentation is typically relaxed for an Aussie, (I can say this as one) – but the message comes through loud and clear. There is a challenge, we need to address it immediately and rather than throwing money at various stimulus packages and bailouts, it is likely that all of this capital will be required to even make the slightest dent in carbon emissions while maintaining energy use as a nation.

I’m writing this post not to suggest that we as a nation should go down this path, rather we should prepare ourselves for the likely energy descent as described by the Transition Towns Initiative and other community based action models that see the amount of energy used in the 20th Century as an anomaly against the whole of history; an anomaly fueled (literally) by cheap abundant fossil fuels.  Is Saul’s plan even remotely achievable? Watch the video and leave a comment.

To download the video in m4v format, click here, or watch it below – just click play.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on how achievable any of this really is!

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

4 thoughts on “Saul Griffith on Future Energy

  1. That really puts things into perspective. It would be interesting to see how the numbers come out if you assume a target of 350ppm rather than the much scarier choice of 450ppm. In either case, it's pretty clear that energy descent has to be a major part of the plan. Where are you at with your Castlegar transition town efforts?

    1. 350ppm must be totally unrealistic with any alternative energy options, (that’s my take on why the 450ppm model was used as the example). The act of producing all the parts needed to fuel our “age of oil lifestyle” will in itself consume more fossil fuels than predicted in any of the models – increasing the CO2 ppm even more.

      Again and again, I’m convinced that an Energy Descent is the only meaningful response to the combined problems. Whether the descent is forced upon us due to even further inaction or not is another question yet to be answered.

Comments are closed.