There was a nice blog on the Mother Nature Network (MNN) a few weeks ago about the renewables revolution currently sweeping through rural Germany. The country has been ahead of the game for a while now, but with Germany abandoning its nuclear programme in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and with rising costs of foreign oil, its residents are finding innovative ways to ditch big company dependence and even government dependence altogether.
The small 750-person village of Jühnde was the first to do so as part of a large-scale experiment by the University of Göttingen, when in 2005 it began using local liquid manure and crops to produce its own heat and electricity.
Since then a further 70 small towns have ended their dependence on big oil companies and offshore energy developers by obtaining fuel from wood chips, crops and manure to heat their homes. Any excess electricity is sold back to the Grid. Another 14 towns and villages across Germany are now in the process of converting their energy dependence from the local power grid to self-styled wind and solar power.
The MNN article was keen to point out that this kind of energy revolution is subversive. It is decentralising power and telling government, large greedy energy companies and of course, bureaucracy to piss off. Course, I dread to think how much bureaucracy there’d be in getting a scheme like this set up in the UK, but surely it MUST be possible. Do we give out subsidies for that kind of thing? Surely we do, given the billions of subsidies given to windfarms?
MNN goes on to say that the revolutionary nature of such energy schemes should naturally appeal to American citizens:
"What’s surprising is that this line of cleantech advocacy – which is basically Tea Party rhetoric minus the tricornered hats, Glenn Beckian misinformation and palpable xenophobia – hasn’t caught on in the United States.
What could be a greater force for individual liberty, after all, than to sieze direct control of the appartus of energy production? What kind of twisted definition of small-government conservatism finds itself advocating for bigger and more centralized energy bureaucracy? Drill-baby-drilling in northern Alaska, fracking for gas in central Pennsylvania, mountaintop-removal mining and “clean coal” research – sorry, small-government champions, but these are inherently centralized, large-scale, ultra-bureaucratic operations”
Good points. Personally I see the large onshore windfarm development currently ravaging our countryside as part of that same problem. Greedy, hollow, underhanded and uncaring. Local communities should be getting those enormous windfarm subsidies rather than the huge companies and the government should be helping them to create and source their power locally. Where possible of course, because obviously it gets more difficult the bigger your town gets, and is especially difficult for cities. But certainly the ‘by the community, for the community’ model could easily be applied to many of our rural towns and villages.
A final point to consider of course, is the question about how much space biofuel crops take up. It’s grand that anyone can grow their own biofuels locally, but is this at the expense of losing agricultural land for growing food? As oil prices start driving food prices up and localism takes hold, we may try to source our resources from closer to home. There needs to be a balance between food and fuel production in that event, and we should be trying to use whatever waste products we can before we start sacrificing food production for fuel……as that does nothing to end the worrying practice of growing our food in other people’s countries. But that’s another story…..
PS - I know George Bush has gone…..but I couldn’t resist the cartoon :)