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The Belly of the Beast

Transforming the world’s energy supply.

October 1, 2009
Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC

But in a bigger view, most know we are living on borrowed time. As far back as 1890, scientists told us that our fossil-fuel-based energy system would destroy the Earth’s climate. In the last 30 years, confirmation of that knowledge has become increasingly apparent.

The enormous size of our energy system is difficult to grasp because it is so invisible to us. For the most part, we don’t see the Saudi oil fields, the Canadian tar sands, the refineries, pipelines and power plants, but tens of millions work there. This huge energy system is the belly of the beast—the foundation of our modern Earth-devouring civilization.

It always has been the task of my generation to change the way we produce and consume energy. We had a great start in the ’70s with both Nixon and Carter pushing for renewable energy, but in the Reagan years, the movement dissipated. We got lost in making money, consuming and searching for fulfillment in all forms.

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Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC · Clean Energy for Maui

In the last few decades, clean energy production stagnated at 13 percent of total energy production. In Hawai‘i, clean energy production decreased from 10 to 6 percent. Most of that 6 percent is biomass, with a tiny fraction in solar and wind energy.

Now it is time to remember our task, even if it is unimaginably gigantic. Our world has just a few decades to invest up to $100 trillion into renewable energy to escape a climate breakdown.

Germany recognized in 1990 that it was time to expand the energy sector beyond traditional utilities. Through the FIT law, Germany created tens of thousands of new energy producers and 300,000 jobs. These people proved to the world that even a highly industrialized country can switch to clean energy—and make a lot of money, too.

Maui is on track to use a large percentage of intermittent clean energy. As we solve the problems associated with its production, we have the opportunity to show the world that it is possible for every country to switch to 100 percent clean energy and transform the belly of the beast. It’s time to get going.



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