COP 21: How to replace fossil fuels with renewable energies?

The massive use of fossil fuels causes the release of enormous quantities of CO² creating an artificial and forced warming of the atmosphere. “The use of highly polluting fossil fuels - coal, oil, gas - must be replaced without delay. »Says Pope Francis in the encyclical letter on the safeguard of the common home. Our politicians and industries are embarking on an energy transition. Civil society is on the way to support these actions, or even get ahead of them, because solutions at the local level exist to use renewable energies.

Si can afford a little historical reminder, energies have always been exploited locally. The means of transport did not allow the large-scale use of fossil fuels before the industrial era, before the railroad was invented, then the automobile, means which will be modernized with aviation and the merchant navy. In France, electricity was the work of small often hydraulic production companies and local distribution unions before everything was nationalized into a single company and then privatized in the hands of large financial or industrial groups. We are in a large-scale fossil fuel exploitation system. For example, the Total group alone, the 4th largest international oil and gas company, represents the 1st market capitalization in Paris: 101,4 billion euros (source Total group).

The exploitation, transport and use of fossil fuels are therefore carried out on an industrial scale. Poor countries cannot have access to these fossil fuels under the same conditions as us, creating a gap between industrialized countries and developing countries. This exploitation of fossil fuels is even to the detriment of certain countries. We have often accused "the colonists" of plundering the resources of the countries where their industries, their mining companies have come to be established. Thus an imbalance has set in and continues to this day. Moreover, if these developing countries industrialized with the same frenzy that we have seen in China, the explosion of greenhouse gas production would be such that any reversal would be impossible.

Ethically speaking, however, we cannot stop their development. Access to renewable energies is the only way for its countries, being helped by the rich countries which have exploited fossil fuels without measuring the consequences. At the same time, for civil society and the politics of industrialized countries such as France, it is important to reduce our dependence on resources from other countries (including uranium) and to bet everything on renewable energies. The energy transition which, under pressure from industrial or financial lobbies has sometimes been delayed, must be put in place without delay, as Pope Francis underlines in his encyclical.

However, with regard to renewable energies, the challenge is that they are made accessible to all and not owned only by the large groups that currently manage fossil fuels. These same large groups have in the past slowed down research on renewable energies, even buying up some patents. The climate crisis is forcing them to change their strategies, but without questioning their way of getting rich, just a little “greenwashing” in their communication.2-flower Thus, in France, nuclear energy is presented as a solution to global warming by EDF. Sponsor of COP 21, EDF, just like others are taking advantage of COP 21 in order to be more “green”! The French electricity giant prides itself on acting for "a low carbon world". EDF claims to be based on “facts”: it produces “inexpensive and carbon-free electricity”, 98% “CO2-free in France thanks to nuclear energy. A nuclear kilowatt hour would emit 66 grams of CO². In addition, the EDF group abroad still operates coal-fired power stations. His assertions earned EDF two complaints to the advertising ethics jury. In an infographic, the Sortir du nuclear network rightly explains that “nuclear power will not save the climate”.

It is impossible to build enough nuclear power plants in a short period of time (50 years) when it takes 10 years to build a single plant. Heat waves linked to global warming raise the question of their cooling in summer; this makes it necessary to run them at reduced power. The permanent and massive use of water for cooling induces risks when water resources, already under strain, will be even more impacted by global warming. The budgetary explosion of nuclear energy, disasters at the pharaonic cost, the problem of waste [1] encourage investors to abandon nuclear power to invest in renewable energies. If the same sums allocated for many years to nuclear research would have been invested in research on renewable energies, we could ask ourselves the question of where their development would be today. It is undeniable that on a planetary scale a delay has been taken when, thanks to renewable energies, and to energy savings, we could become producers instead of mere consumers.

In the north of Scotland, in the Orkney archipelago, 20 inhabitants are more than self-sufficient thanks to renewable energies. On the archipelago is produced annually 000 megawatts while the inhabitants consume only 50 megawatts. The experiences demonstrated locally on this archipelago are proof that renewable energies are the only solution to global warming but also to a “fair” distribution between poor and rich countries.

The "forces" of nature placed at our disposal by the Creator are inexhaustible because He constantly provides for all our needs (Isaiah 58 v 11) Whether they are telluric forces (volcano, hot spring, geothermal energy), winds, currents marine, hydraulic forces (river, river…), solar energy, biomass produced by plants and trees, they are and remain at our disposal free of charge and permanently. Their availability over the entire surface of the earth means that it is freely accessible to all, but the technical solutions to exploit it must also remain free and accessible to all humans, down to the poorest. either at the North Pole, deep in the bush or on an island ... 1-cottage

To these energies, we must also add animal traction which was completely abandoned at the time of the appearance of the internal combustion engine and the first vehicles. The excrements from our farms can also be used as combustible material by drying them or by recovering the methane linked to their fermentation. The farms in the highlands of the Massif Central were organized to recover the heat from the barn. The thick stone walls acted as a shield against the winds and the cold and stored the heat of the house to restore it. No window or opening was arranged on the facade facing north.

Hay and straw made immense insulation in the barn between the roof and the house. With this simple example, we can understand that we must return to a more basic and healthy management of our resources. Yesterday, the industrialization of agriculture and the industrialization of our means of production kept us away from these simple and local solutions. Today we are forced to rethink these: insulation of our homes, adapted system of energy production, agroecology, adapted sizing of means of production, workshops on a human scale, development of the local economy, etc., in order to limit our energy expenditure and make the best use of energy.

While industrialization implies planetary exchanges - but also, alas, in fact speculative wealth in the hands of a few - the reduction in the use of fossil fuels and their replacement force us to think about another mode of distribution. wealth. In other words to stop exploiting the earth (and men) to relearn how to cultivate it as God has ordered us (Genesis 1 v 28) To take care of the planet that He has entrusted to us as well as men who inhabit it. Will COP 21 be aware of this issue?

The Orkney archipelago is in many ways a real open-air laboratory for studying and producing clean energies. An example that we would do well to learn from. While fossil fuels are not inexhaustible, renewable energies are endless, and technical solutions are possible, known or discovered to use these energies now. Experiments, projects sometimes fruit of patrons, already exist in order to produce the energy of tomorrow accessible to all. Like this man who made his fortune with an energy drink, thinking he has more money than he needs, spends his fortune on studies and research to solve the biggest problems in the world, including that of energy. Manoj Bhargava built a stationary bike to power millions of homes around the world with little or no electricity. Early next year in India, it plans to distribute 10 of its bikes equipped with electric batteries free of charge. One hour of pedaling is enough to store enough electricity for the daily use of lights and basic electrical appliances in a house.

Other scientists and technicians, as in Orkney, are working on the electrical recovery of our movements, on the least energy saving, as on the possibility of making our roads, cycle paths and sidewalks solar energy recovery fields. The world's first solar cycle path has already been tested in the Netherlands, north of Amsterdam. It was built in 2014 over a length of 70 m. Solar energy is also part of the great energy shift that China is taking. The pollution resulting from the growing use of fossil fuels linked to the massive industrialization of its economy is causing many health problems. Faced with this scandal which kills 4000 Chinese a day the Chinese government has been obliged to improve the quality and efficiency of solar panels, to increase the establishment of new photovoltaic plants, to engage in renewable energies. In 10 years, China has become the world's leading investor in renewable energies.

The corollary to the development of renewable energies is to seek all possible and achievable savings. Of course, this involves the insulation of houses, their real adaptation to the environment in which they are built, new construction with low consumption standards or even better with positive energy. Green walls or roofs also provide a positive gain in insulation and temper the rooms in summer, limiting the use of air conditioning. Revegetation in the city in addition to the depollution provided by plants by absorbing CO² and certain other pollutants, also has a regulating effect on the microclimate. Factories and buildings must also be designed to limit energy consumption by favoring natural lighting, insulation, using materials with a low carbon footprint, etc. Production must be rethought in order to limit transport and travel to inside and outside of a factory or workshop… All savings are useful, including limiting our waste or reusing it. Strive for the zero waste, saves energy in the long term (less packaging, less transport, no waste, reuse, sharing, etc.) and does our wallet good.

The advantage of renewable energies is that they are available free of charge and all over the world. For the sake of equity, generalized and diffused access to them in developing countries, as well as the sharing of techniques allowing their implementation must be guaranteed. After having "plundered" their fossil fuels, the industrialized countries should not put an unbearable entry ticket for access to renewable energies by poor countries. The COP 21 agreement must take this dimension into account in order to safeguard the common home. The ingenuity of civil society, NGOs, and a few researchers looking for systems suited to these countries, suggests that this challenge can be overcome.

Nathanael Bechdolff

On the same subject: Thoughts on Cop 21

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