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We've established that the UK's present lifestyle can't be sustained on the UK's own renewables (except with the industrialization of country-sized areas of land and sea). So, what are our options, if we wish to get off fossil fuels and live sustainably? We can balance the energy budget either by reducing demand, or by increasing supply, or, of course, by doing both.

Have no illusions. To achieve our goal of getting off fossil fuels, these reductions in demand and increases in supply must be big. Don't be distracted by the myth that "every little helps." If everyone does a little, we'll achieve only a little. We must do a lot. What's required are big changes in demand and in supply.

"But surely, if 60 million people all do a little, it'll add up to a lot?" No. This "if-everyone" multiplying machine is just a way of making something small sound big. The "if-everyone" multiplying machine churns out inspirational statements of the form "if everyone did X, then it would provide enough energy/water/gas to do Y," where Y sounds impressive. Is it surprising that Y sounds big? Of course not. We got Y by multiplying X by the number of people involved - 60 million or so! Here's an example from the Conservative Party's otherwise straight-talking Blueprint for a Green Economy:

"The mobile phone charger averages around ... 1W consumption, but if every one of the country's 25 million mobile phones chargers were left plugged in and switched on they would consume enough electricity (219 GWh) to power 66000 homes for one year."

66 000? Wow, what a lot of homes! Switch off the chargers! 66 000 sounds a lot, but the sensible thing to compare it with is the total number of homes that we're imagining would participate in this feat of conservation, namely 25 million homes. 66000 is just one quarter of one percent of 25 million. So while the statement quoted above is true, I think a calmer way to put it is:

If you leave your mobile phone charger plugged in, it uses one quarter of one percent of your home's electricity.

And if everyone does it?

If everyone leaves their mobile phone charger plugged in, those chargers will use one quarter of one percent of their homes' electricity.

The "if-everyone" multiplying machine is a bad thing because it deflects people's attention towards 25 million minnows instead of 25 million sharks. The mantra "Little changes can make a big difference" is bunkum, when applied to climate change and power. It may be true that "many people doing

"We were going to have a wind turbine but they're not very efficient"

Figure 19.1. Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE / Robert Thompson www.private-eye.co.uk.

"We were going to have a wind turbine but they're not very efficient"

Figure 19.1. Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE / Robert Thompson www.private-eye.co.uk.

a little adds up to a lot," if all those "littles" are somehow focused into a single "lot" - for example, if one million people donate £10 to one accident-victim, then the victim receives £10 million. That's a lot. But power is a very different thing. We all use power. So to achieve a "big difference" in total power consumption, you need almost everyone to make a "big" difference to their own power consumption.

So, what's required are big changes in demand and in supply. Demand for power could be reduced in three ways:

1. by reducing our population (figure 19.2);

2. by changing our lifestyle;

3. by keeping our lifestyle, but reducing its energy intensity through "efficiency" and "technology."

Supply could be increased in three ways:

1. We could get off fossil fuels by investing in "clean coal" technology. Oops! Coal is a fossil fuel. Well, never mind - let's take a look at this idea. If we used coal "sustainably" (a notion we'll define in a moment), how much power could it offer? If we don't care about sustainability and just want "security of supply," could coal offer that?

2. We could invest in nuclear fission. Is current nuclear technology "sustainable"? Is it at least a stop-gap that might last for 100 years?

3. We could buy, beg, or steal renewable energy from other countries - bearing in mind that most countries will be in the same boat as Britain and will have no renewable energy to spare; and also bearing in mind that sourcing renewable energy from another country doesn't magically shrink the renewable power facilities required. If we import renewable energy from other countries in order to avoid building renewable facilities the size of Wales in our country, someone will have to build facilities roughly the size of Wales in those other countries.

The next seven chapters discuss first how to reduce demand substantially, and second how to increase supply to meet that reduced, but still "huge," demand. In these chapters, I won't mention all the good ideas. I'll discuss just the big ideas.

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