A public lecture on sustainable energy resources

Speaker: Dr. Fred Schlacter,  Lawrence Berkeley Material Laboratory

March 25, 2010; 10:00-11:00 am; College of Science Auditorium

This forum basically talks on issues regarding sustainable energy future in application to transportation. The main implication of the discussion is the search for renewable and sustainable energy resources to fuel our cars. The speaker, Dr. Fred Schlacter, a physicist, emphasizes the need to tap natural and sustainable energy sources instead of the conventional, non-renewable fossil fuels used for the transportation in most countries.

Major issues have been raised. Transportation and industrial sectors have been the primary reasons why we extract petroleum products beneath the earth’s surface. And this, eventually, becomes a necessity. The demand for energy to power up vehicles and equipments, to provide services and manufacture goods for the entire population, is increasing. What has been stressed by the lecturer, much emphasized by our own scientists in the country, is that we are now in the peak era of fossil fuel consumption. If the trend continues, oil supply rapidly decreases, as it will totally run out in the near future. Economically speaking, as this supply declines, up next is increasing fuel costs. Moreover, as we’ve seen in the past few years, this causes global financial instability. I may not know these things perfectly and with sufficient knowledge but I can state a simple reason why is this happening. Admit it, WE NEED ENERGY. I mean in this modern age, energy, specifically electricity, is becoming essential in our daily living. From the transmission lines of MRT up to the power needed by your laptop while charging, you can barely survive without it. And as we need (or ‘want’ perhaps), we have to import petroleum products to fuel our industries and infrastructures. Importation of oil is about lots of money. Rich countries in power, USA for example, who is among the top energy users in the world as Dr. Schlacter always claims during his lecture, will take over and strive harder to get their share. And so, economic threat will arise and hoarding will occur.

The more pressing issue here is energy security. As consumption of fossil fuels accelerates towards progress and development, supply decreases, thus energy security is threatened. And as the world runs out of its fuel, though several explorations are still on, exploitation still rises. We are now experiencing an emerging oil shortage.

Secondly, oil and petroleum products, being non-renewable or can be acquired but still millions of years is needed, are not sustainable. Tapping renewable resources might be useful and will be very much advantageous. According to Dr. Schlacter, there are 4 primary sources of energy resources in this world, namely: Solar, Nuclear, Geothermal and Moon/Gravitational. Since summer is now official in the Philippines, why not use it to power up your houses or fuel your cars. Sun’s radiation can be generated to produce electricity using PVC’s or photovoltaic cells. Next is the controversial nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants are now operating in many countries on the world and have proven its efficiency when it comes to power generation. Philippines is ranked second in producing electricity using geothermal energy. This type of energy is extracted from the heat produced by the mantle, a layer on the earth’s interior. Lastly, the gravitational forces produced by the moon. The moon uses gravity to ‘pull’ the earth’s tidal motion. Once motion is created, energy can be generated. Given these possible and potential energy resources, the world predominantly consumes coal, classified as stored solar energy, as its power provider. While hydroelectric power, under gravity/moon category, is yet to be utilized much further. This suggests that we still rely on non-renewable as our primary source of energy.

With the viable and abundant energy producers mentioned earlier, what we could do is to develop and enhance technologies that would produce efficient and sufficient energy without compromising its sustainability and the environmental impacts it would bring. What we need today, in the midst of the climate change concerns, is a source of energy that is significantly sustainable and renewable.

After the discussion, questions from the audience were responded by Dr. Schalcter. I remember one question answered by Dr. Schlacter, one student asked him, ‘Sir, how about lifestyle change?’ where he pertains to a better solution for a sustainable future. The answer of the physicist and I quote: “Changing the way we live is by far the most difficult.” I believe that his answer has yet to proceed to a more admirable reply, that lifestyle change is indeed difficult but is the most effective way to turn to a more sustainable future.

That’s why UP Haring Ibon lives with its motto, ‘Live simply, so others may simply live.’ And this, I say, is the bottom line.