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.&nbsp;<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.&nbsp;<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.&nbsp;<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.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports "that human actions are depleting Earth&rsquo;s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet&rsquo;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.&nbsp; </em></p>