04 -Energy island
ChronicleWe Traders, Matadero Madrid, Goethe-Institut, Madrid, 2014.
The fourth CCPF called on a group of experts with ties to economic policy, communication and environmental activism to imagine the transition toward a new model of country based on energy self-sufficiency.
Are we ready to deal with this change? What repercussions would accomplishing this goal have on daily life? How would it change the landscape? Why has Spain had basically the same energy mix since 1973 if the economic meltdown had such an effect on its welfare? Is it possible to cut down on current consumption by 50%, as some experts claim, only by enforcing policies for saving and efficiency? Should we transform the hub-and-spoke infrastructure model toward a decentralized one to prevent bottlenecks? What do we do with infrastructures no longer in use and ones that have not yet been amortized? Are large-scale technologies that rely on foreign resources doomed to disappear? Should we build an archive of energy memory and infrastructure heritage? How do we reduce the demand for energy? Would prices go up? How to engage all the players in the market in such a radical project? Would it suffice to have a policy of incentives to change consumer habits? What role would the government have in regard to big business? Should large companies be nationalized before they go bankrupt? Should we support their being converted into cooperatives or other decentralized forms of production? Can there be an energy bubble that can pop and cause an energy crash like the real estate crash? What role would competition authorities play without signals from the international markets? Would road and passenger traffic need to be restricted so as to ensure cargo traffic instead? Would the current defense and health care systems still be used? Will living on the edge of need make us more vulnerable? Do we need NATO more than ever? What will happen to Ceuta, Melilla or the Canary Islands? Is a loss of international influence to be expected? Is it possible to attract foreign investment during this transition process? Will we be allowed to stay in European single market? Will we be less competitive? Will it be enough just to enforce EU directives on energy efficiency? Are we swapping one dependency for another? How do we reconfigure budget policy and financing for the new energy model? Can uncertainty regarding the changes to come turn into a device for governance? Are we willing to accept the major environmental impact that dependency on national energy sources entails? How would the gaps be filled between renewables and peak demand? How to combine systems of non-storable energy production with storable ones? Would biofuels start competing with foodstuffs? What transformations are involved in the agricultural structure? Is massive infrastructurisation compatible with the necessary agricultural development? How will the process of massive technification affect the rural areas? Is the project viable without nuclear energy? What role with grass-roots communities play in the processes of production? What can we learn from environmental activists who have already tried out “slower”, “low consumption” lifestyles? Can their formulas be extended to the rest of the population? Do we need to redefine the concepts of “well-being” and “luxury”? What should we do if there’s a blackout? What role will design play in making this process more appealing? What role will “smart” technologies play? How to balance new technologies and traditions? What role will domestic spaces play as basic units for the change? How will tourism be affected by the transformation of the landscape and the offshore occupation of the new productive territories? Will deserted areas become privileged places for production? Are there any alternatives to dense, compact cities? Will we need to increase investment in research and development and in sectors based on human capital, inventiveness and creativity? What role will education have in explaining the project to society and counteracting potential resistances? Will there be any sense to dichotomies such as town/country, nature/culture, infrastructure/superstructure, growth/decline? Will citizens be users, consumers or producers? What space will be left to freedom in this context of technological prescription? What do we do with organized groups of dissidents? Will there be a black market of fossil fuels? Is this a cultural transformation or an eco-Jacobite sacrifice? What is the lowest energy threshold beneath which a “decent life” is impossible? Should these minimum thresholds be put aside to the logics of the market? How to get future generations involved in this collective experiment?
These questions and others can be seen in further detail in the minutes of the sessions.
*Synthesis drafted by Uriel Fogue based on the minutes taken by the CCPF at each edition.