Is Cheap, Carbon Free Energy Something to Fear?
<p>When King Midas was granted a wish by Dionysius - for finding and returning Dionysius's foster-father - Midas asked that everything he touched should turn to gold. <br /> <br /> With energy demand and costs soaring, the appeal of cheap energy is easy to see. And if that cheap energy could also be carbon-free, we might imagine the world's greatest crisis would be solved. <br /> <br /> We should be careful what we wish for. For Midas everything meant everything - including his daughter who became a gold statue when he touched her. Eating was tricky as well. <br /> <br /> Imagine a world of unlimited, cheap, carbon-free energy. Imagine - we can easily heat and cool our homes, transport ourselves and our goods long distances, we can grow our economy - all without producing greenhouse gases.<br /> <br /> But, like Midas, we'd soon find ourselves begging for the wish that became a curse to be removed. <br /> <br /> The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports "that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."<br /> <br /> Imagine how much faster and more thoroughly we could deplete natural capital with free energy! Ecosystems aren't just destinations for eco-tourists, they make Planet Earth livable for us all - rich and poor alike. <br /> Midas persuaded Dionysius to remove his 'gift' - and then turned his back on wealth and splendour, becoming a worshipper of the nature god, Pan.<br /> <br /> Despite the current focus on fuel prices and global warming, let's not forget that sustainability is about finding ways to live within all of nature's limits - not just those that hit the headlines.<br /> <br /> <em>Osbert Lancaster is Director of <a href="http://www.footprintconsulting.org/about">Footprint Consulting</a>, an Edinburgh based sustainability consulting firm. </em></p>