What is the foundation of any economy? If you think it’s money, think again. It’s energy. Money is just a medium of exchange, but energy is what makes things go.
Every economic activity requires energy. Energy in the form of gasoline and diesel moves goods locally and around the world. Energy in the form of electricity lights the buildings, powers the machines, and makes computers and the Internet possible. Energy in the form of natural gas heats buildings to make them habitable, and heats water for processing and washing. It’s difficult to think of any business activity that does not involve energy in some form. Even an employee sitting quietly and thinking is consuming energy from their breakfast.
Every business without exception needs energy to operate. This dependence of every business on energy becomes apparent when a power outage or fuel shortage halts their operation. This was illustrated most vividly by the recent blackouts imposed by Pacific Gas & Electric during wildfires in California. Businesses in the blackout areas simply stopped running and sent everyone home. They were not compensated for their loss of business, so loss of energy meant loss of income.
Because energy is so vital to any economy, whoever controls energy controls the economy. The handful of giant oil corporations have enormous influence in Washington because politicians know what would happen if they throttled back the supply of energy. That’s why so little progress has been made to control climate change, because politicians are afraid of the power that fossil fuel companies wield over the economy.
But there’s a new kid on the block: renewable energy.
By installing solar panels and wind turbines, we are building a new foundation for our economy, gradually replacing our dependence on fossil fuels. We can do it gradually, brick by brick, until the entire economy is supported by energy that is clean, carbon free, and sustainable. Such an economy can carry on indefinitely into the future. That’s the economy we should be building for our children and grandchildren.