A lot of things seem to be in the background until they break.
When that happens, they are all too ready-to-hand. Like a broken tool. One of these things is energy. Specifically, the tools we use to avoid thinking about how energy leaks. Usually we think about leaking energy in big events – like nuclear disasters like the ongoing contamination of ocean water at Fukushima where around 300 tonnes of contaminated water leaks into the ocean each day.
But all energy leaks. It is part of the deal. Thermodynamically, I mean. Using energy leaks it out in less well-ordered forms after we take what we need and let the rest go. That is just part of the package. Call it exhaust, pollution, fact of life, whatever you like.
So the point of environmental policy cannot be to stop energy leaks. That will never be a successful strategy. And it is one that is failing us all about. Not only at Fukushima, but also in the Canada’s Northwest Territories, where old mines are now leaking into over 100 lakes. Earlier this week, Alberta announced it had “contained” a spill of over 100 billion litres of coal particles into the Athabasca River. That spill happened on October 31st.
Energy is going to leak. Good environmental policies should start internalizing that fact rather than try to ignore it, stop it, or shunt it “away.”