euronews interview - Jeremy Rifkin and 'lateral power' energy
http://www.euronews.com/ Meet the author of a work about staving off our own extinction: Jeremy Rifkin, who advises the European Commission. He is an American economist.
He has just published 'The Third Industrial Revolution', which argues that the human species is coming to the end of a cycle. In it, he looks at economic desperation, climate change and the exhaustion of fossil fuel supplies, and contends that only a sweeping adoption of alternative energy sources and what he calls 'lateral power' will ensure that we enjoy our future, and prepare a happy one for our children.
Maxime Biosse Duplan spoke to the author on the terrace of the Fine Arts Museum in the French city of Lyon, where euronews is based, about awareness of our whole biosphere.
Maxime Biosse Duplan, euronews: Mr Rifkin, you've said it is highly unlikely that human beings will manage to survive on this planet. We hear a lot of talk about economic crisis, but you say we are threatened with extinction. Isn't this vision a bit pessimistic?
Jeremy Rifkin: You know, 99.5% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet have come and gone. It is hubris to believe that somehow we are going to live in perpetuity here. And so I think this is a moment of crisis.
We are now paying the bill for 200 years of an industrial revolution based on fossil fuels. We spew too much CO2 and methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. We can't get enough of the sun's heat off the planet, and what we are seeing here is a fundamental change in the chemistry of the Earth. That doesn't happen often.
So, as my wife says, "we are not grasping the enormity of this moment for our species". This is a species crisis. Can we turn the corner? Can we address climate change? Can we create a more sustainable economy? Can we do it with the clock ticking, and can we transform ourselves in less than 25 years? It's a pretty big 'if'.
euronews: One of your conclusions is that we must move into this 'third industrial revolution', which you say has to be carried by five fundamentals, five pillars, you call them. What are these ideas?
Rifkin: The European Union has committed to a five-pillar third industrial revolution. I was privileged to develop the plan with the EU. It is the formal plan endorsed by the European Parliament and now working its way through the European commission.
Pillar 1: the EU is committed to 20% renewable energy by 2020. That's a mandate: every country has to do it.
Pillar 2: how do we collect what are essentially distributed energies that are found everywhere? Our buildings. We have 191 millions buildings in the European Union! Homes, offices, factories. The goal is to convert every single existing building in the European Union - millions of them - into your own personal green micro-power plant. You can get solar electricity off your roof, you can get wind electricity off your sidewalls, geothermal heat converted back to energy underneath the building, garbage converted to energy in your kitchen, etcetera.
Pillar 2 jumpstarts the economy. Millions of jobs, thousands of small and medium-size enterprises. Because we have to convert the entire building stock of Europe in the next 40 years into a power plant.
Pillar 3: we have to store the energy because the sun isn't always shining, or sometimes the wind is blowing at night and you need the electricity during the day. They are intermittent energies. So we are going to use all sorts of storage technologies, but most of it is going to be focused on hydrogen - to store the energy. If the sun hits your roof, you create a little electricity, if you don't need some of it, you put the excess in water, hydrogen comes out of the water into a tank. When the sun isn't shining on your roof, you convert it back to electricity.
euronews: [This is all] existing technology?
Rifkin: All of this technology already exists. It simply has to be scaled in.
Pillar 4 is where the Internet revolution converges with the new distributed energy revolution to create a nervous system for this infrastructure. So when millions and millions of buildings in Europe are collecting their own green energy on-site, storing it in hydrogen, like we store media in digital, then if you don't need some of that electricity, your software can program it so you can sell your electricity across the electricity Internet, (with what we call) a smart grid, from the Irish sea to the edge of eastern Europe. Just like we create our own information, store it in digital, share it online.
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