Over the next three months, influential voices on the issues of energy and climate change will meet twice. The first meeting will be in the third full week of September in New York City at Climate Week. The second event will be the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, which will be held over the first two weeks of November in Glasgow, Scotland.
These conferences are likely to generate a plethora of long-range ideas, proposals, and speeches – especially on hot button topics like electric vehicles, electric airplanes, hydrogen production, and renewable energy growth. A more productive conversation would be a renewed emphasis on diversifying our clean energy sources, including ways the use of alternative fuels can decarbonize the atmosphere immediately.
The organizers of Climate Week describe it as, “a global opportunity to come together to accelerate climate action and assess progress ahead of COP26.” For its part, COP26 has four stated goals:
- Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
- Mobilise finance
- Work together to deliver
Among the tasks set for COP26 is to, “finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational).” In other words, this autumn will go a long way toward setting global environmental policy for the future. To succeed at setting reasonable, realistic, and responsible policies for our environment, the delegates and attendees at both Climate Week and COP26 must consider all options available for cutting greenhouse gas emissions while fueling modern life, not just renewable or alternative energies and technologies that are en vogue and garner media attention.
Wind and solar power are good examples. Both are trendy options, but they are not sufficient for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that the systems are cost prohibitive at large scale. They create dangers for migrating birds. The land use footprint for building out infrastructure for those two power sources is environmentally deleterious. Solar panels don’t work when the sun doesn’t shine, and wind turbines don’t work when the wind doesn’t blow. They are also poor solutions for on-site and mobile power needs, and to become viable baseload fuels, they need incredibly efficient and lightweight batteries. But such batteries don’t exist. Batteries are limited in their storage capacity and still take a long time to charge. Batteries are built from metals that must be mined from the earth, destroying natural landscapes, polluting water and, in many cases, exploiting local populations. Batteries are heavy, and they lose little weight as the power depletes, which presents particular problems for cars, trucks, ships and airplanes. Batteries are typically hazardous as well, so disposal of large numbers of batteries is difficult and dangerous for the environment.
Since the fashionable renewable energies are not viable long-term solutions capable of meeting the majority of our energy needs, we must put a high priority on using solutions that are known to reduce carbon emissions. Cleaner forms of fossil fuels, particularly propane and renewable propane, do just that.
Prior to use, propane has several advantages. It dissipates without hazard in the rare chance that it is released into the air. It is easy to transport and store, and propane tanks lose weight as propane is consumed, making it ideal for use in heavy transportation applications like cargo shipping. When consumed as a fuel, propane offers significant benefits over legacy fuels. For example, as an automotive fuel, propane can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12 percent and greenhouse gases by one quarter. Carbon monoxide emissions can be 60 percent lower versus gasoline.
The delegates and attendees at these crucial, upcoming environmental conferences have an opportunity to realistically move the global community in a direction of a cleaner and healthier environment. It is important that they do this rather than commit to the same old impossible renewable dreams.
At the two-week COP26, “delegates from countries [will] meet for both formal negotiations and informal consultations. They may also take part in meetings with other delegations to clarify their position and interests with the aim of reaching agreement or overcoming a negotiating deadlock.” In other words, COP26 is intended to further the development and implementation of real policy.
While these events are meant to invite actual productivity, they will be most useful if realistic, practical solutions are embraced now. That is why they must go beyond the ubiquitous calls for solar and wind power or the institution of carbon credits and taxes that are nothing more than indulgences meant to launder one’s carbon footprint. To truly achieve change and further their goals, these meetings must incorporate a diversity of real energy solutions proven to reduce carbon emissions without requiring a costly infrastructure overhaul.