THE BLOG

The Energy Dilemma

07/03/2014 09:00 am ET
  • Gil Laroya Award-winning Silicon Valley product designer

A slow buzz signals the start of a new day as my alarm clock hits its mark at 6:30am. I slap the snooze button and start to stretch, reaching for the TV remote to catch the morning news. Seconds later I snap on the bathroom light, flip on my electric razor, and begin my daily routine. After a series of additional appliance usages, I'm off in my gas powered car to make a drive to work, street lights still on even as dawn breaks in Silicon Valley. By the time I reach work, I have easily burned through a few kilowatts of electricity, a few gallons of gasoline, and it's not even 9:00 a.m. yet.

Technology in its infancy was seen as the answer to humanities growing problems. Whether it was life-saving medicines, machines to make communication easier, ect. But the elephant in the tech room that has always been there but has never really been addressed lies in the incredible amount of energy use that comes with tech. Everything technological uses some form of energy; grid power, batteries, or virtually any form of energy that can be used to feed a starving tech device is fair game, and it's sending us on a downward energy spiral.

In the United States alone, we used over 3,826 billion kWh in 2012. That's right, billion with a "B". And that was just one country. Multiply that number time the many other technologically advanced countries around the world, and you'll find that global energy use is just staggering.

The advent of technology, with all of its amazing developments and inventions, has accelerated our use of electricity by leaps and bounds. Everywhere you look, electricity is being sucked up like it were water from a wide open faucet. Wall outlets, some with external power strips, are packed with AC adapters of all sorts -- each one meant to charge a mobile tech device. And what isn't an adapter is an AC cord for a desktop computer, monitor, printer or copy machine. Add to this the already mainstream appliances like washers and dryers, televisions, power tools and dishwashers, and you begin to realize just how much we are tethered to power.

What needs to happen in our world, not just our country, is an awakening to the real and imminent dangers that we create when we choose to ignore our addiction to energy. Technologists need to step away from their profitable businesses, and place at least some focus on new and alternative power. They need to understand that every business relies heavily on energy, and that without that energy business grinds to a screeching halt. We have to stop assuming that energy is endless.

At some point, the world will be burning through more energy than its supplies can handle until it just can't keep up anymore.

When the lights do go out, technology won't be there to save us, because its backup battery will have already gone dead ...

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