By Cristian Frers
It is time to use alternative energies, which are those that are produced from natural sources and that regenerate themselves; such as wind, biomass, hydro or solar energy. There are also other lesser known sources whose potential is immense, such as Sea Energies or geothermal.
There is a growing consensus that the current world situation urgently needs to generate new ideas and even more, new ways of thinking and acting. It is increasingly obvious that biased visions, dissociating the human being in watertight behaviors, are not giving effective results to solve the great and complex problems that humanity faces today.
It seems clear that the human species is currently facing one of the greatest challenges in its evolutionary history. It is necessary to recognize that more than 30 years have passed since the World Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, despite said conference, the planetary ecological situation not only did not improve but worsened.
The Oil Crisis of 1973 and 1979 caused countries –developed and underdeveloped- to enter the problem of power generation and seek solutions to oil dependency; thus, energy policies should be directed towards renewable energy sources - which seems to be not happening.
This is how in Argentina, in March 2004, the Government admitted that it is facing a serious energy crisis. The problems in the electricity and gas services are here to stay for several months and if measures are not taken, next year will be worse. This not only affects Argentina, but also Chile and Uruguay.
It is remarkable how still both rulers and decision-makers do not distinguish the difference between initiating event and disaster. We often deal with calamities when they occur, that is, when situations arise that require a challenge that does not find possibilities of being covered by the institutional structures present in the organization, and therefore, are associated with a situation of chaos that require new initiatives; especially, the reformulation of the ideas and capacities of the organizations to make diagnoses and propose work alternatives.
In Argentina, 50 percent of electricity generation depends on plants that are fueled by gas. The national system is operating without technical reservations and at the limit of its operational capacity.
The correct management of disasters is a complex process that begins long before the moment of crisis and in which three instances can be distinguished:
1) The pre-disaster stage that involves:
• Risk assessment.
• Planning of land uses incorporated into the geological-environmental dimension.
• The development of prevention-mitigation-alert systems.
• Citizen awareness and education.
2) The stage during the event, where the effective organization essentially plays out.
3) The post-disaster phase, focused on recovery and reconstruction.
It is evident that when looking for explanations in the Argentine energy crisis of why there is not enough energy to cover internal consumption, two types of cause come to the fore.
The structural ones, which drag down gas production due to the fall in investments in recent years. And the conjunctural ones, which respond to business movements and the rate pressures that surfaced after the Government announced a series of regulatory changes and the unfreezing of the price of gas.
Good disaster management cannot be achieved without considering risk assessment. This is why the national government is now faced with the dilemma of deciding who to leave without gas so as not to affect residential customers: Either it cuts off industries -which slows down productive activity- or points to CNG stations , which have 1.3 million motorists as customers.
Potentially dangerous phenomena are known to vary both in frequency and magnitude, and while it is technically possible to reduce both factors, achieving a risk-free society is a utopia.
It is advisable to reduce the risk to an acceptable level by learning from the experiences of other countries and institutions as a way to anticipate possible problems and prevent possible similar situations, both through specific preventive action and through awareness of the difficulties of all crisis management, especially in terms of the usual restrictions on communication and coordination.
The United States of America suffered an energy crisis in May 2001, which especially affected the state of California with frequent blackouts. The government based its initiative on three crucial aspects of the energy equation: demand, supply and the means to supply them, where it ensured that the plan would encourage a new and ecologically undamaged exploration of new sources of natural gas and oil, and at the same time it would encourage attempts to conserve and develop alternative sources of energy. The project cuts programs on efficient energy use and renewable energy sources by almost a third.
It is time to use alternative energies, which are those that are produced from natural sources and that regenerate themselves; the clearest examples are wind, biomass, hydro or solar energy, but there are other sources that are less well known and that their potential is immense; This is the case of Sea Energies, which together with geothermal energy are the least known and those with great potential, such as using wave energy, a system that is based on the conversion of mechanical energy from the sea into current power that can be developed through the American company Ocean Power Technologies (OPT).
The potentiality of the energy of the sea is in its abundance, three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered by the sea, so it is a source with many resources; Some studies even claim that substitutes for fossil fuels are found in the sea.
Harnessing the energy of the sea is an old idea and there are numerous methods. The OPT company's system consists of a network of buoys, which do not have any type of visual impact. For the conversion of mechanical current into electrical current, the “PowerBuoy” are used that are anchored on the seabed. The oscillation of the waves allows the buoys to rise and fall on a structure similar to a piston. The water enters and leaves the pump with the movement, and drives a generator that produces electricity. The current is transmitted to land by means of a submarine cable.
The first pilot projects, which will use this system, will be implemented in Santoña (Spain) and in a US marine base on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii, starting in 2005.
It would be interesting to implement these systems in small towns along the broad coastline of Argentina, to reduce the crises of the old energy systems.
The approach to the ideal can and should follow two paths: on the one hand, the technical or technological one aimed at alerting and reducing the magnitude of the damage; and on the other, the socio-educational.
The population's willingness to sacrifice benefits in a certain sector in order to reduce some type of danger depends largely on the attitude that society takes.
Cristian Frers - Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication