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  • Aug 2 2011: Cities are great, but have only been made possible through energy input from elsewhere. Today, this energy comes to a very significant part in the form of fossil - not renewable - fuels.

    I don't wish to be gloomy, but unless we find an alternative to that, our cities will inevitably collapse. Not knowing - but having to believe - that such alternatives are out there, what is our biggest problem?

    In the short term, evading and postponing tactics appear to be a good solution. But they aren't in the long run. As an example of such:
    In the face of rising commodity prices, subsidies may help a politician in becoming reelected, by giving the short term impression of having solved the problem. But this does not just postpone the problem, which in itself might be a good thing, as it would give developers, companies and inventors more time to come up with solutions. No. Once the problem strikes, the changes will be far more rapid, hiting a less aware society, that is less prepared and has less resources left to react.

    While there are food, energy and fuel subsidies in some countries, in other countries these subsidies may occur to some extent indirectly in the form of wars, welfare and bailouts.

    So what can Shell and others do? A few ideas to create awareness and distribute knowlege of solutions:

    - Creating awareness of the reliability of our modern systems to fossil fuels, by conducting and publishing a study on the effects a deprivation of various fossil fuels would have on various modern cities as they are.

    - Transparently financing new or existing open initiatives in linking up cities and sharing of best practices. (funding of "TED cities" conferences with significant players attending only)

    - looking for new economic paradigms that bridge the gap of what fiscal figures should stand for indirectly and what is actually happening on the ground.

    If you want your goals to be acknowledged openly, act openly.
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      Aug 2 2011: Lukas I think you conclude with a very reasonable set of proposals and I think in essence you have captured a number of the key insights we have drawn from the process of trying to understand cities and building plans for constructive engagement around them.

      Our existing scenarios work (www.shell.com/scenarios) looks at a range outcomes for energy use and considers the ways in which shifts in demand and resource availability can accelerate or surpress the diffusion of non-fossil fuel energy technologies. As we work towards the next set of scenarios we place the urban environment at the very forefront of our thinking as we recognise that cities will be the environments within which a majority of the resource constraints will occur as will the innovation to create sustainable solutions.

      On funding you make an excellent point. The type of consortium that could effectively plan and execute new city development against a model of better integrated urban infrastructure does not currently exist. It is clear that in such a consortium the array of skills - from planning and design, to financing and construction would be required. Already we are working hard to establish a dialogue between companies like our own and other in the technology, electronics, mobility, water and waste spaces, to consider how to create effective relationships that would be able to address the challenges that rapid urban development pose.

      It is a long road.....
      • Aug 3 2011: Beeing a historical as well as an actual part of the kind of infrastructure that we are now - both for good reasons as well as out of necessity - trying to overcome, Shell and companies alike face the challenge of adapting to the ongoing change towards more sustainable technologies, while at the same time having to foster the very demand for such, in order to be able to make high investments in "renewable" techs without having to abandon business goals.

        Due to the unrenewable nature of fossil fuels, one might be inclined to believe that rising prices will eventually solve the incentives problem, arguing that the performance required of renewables in order to succeed on the market gradually declines inversely proportional to the rise in energy prices, making renewables sooner or later an economic imperative. (to the extent they don't need unrenewable resources themselves...)

        There are good reasons to believe that. Let the market decide as some say. But that only works smoothly if all external costs are taken into account and the market is not distorted in one way or the other, e.g. by direct or indirect subsidies.

        But as I stated in my previous posting, there is a danger of short term "thinking" trying to bypass these high energy prices, that are in fact needed by decision makers to justify the inevitable change in strategy.

        Not just can such subsidies become a problem for society, but also for traditional energy suppliers I would argue, as such short term evasion tactics eventually lead to a more rapid, more challenging shift towards renewables.

        As the time runs out, let me just conclude with a few ideas:
        - Experience in renewable technology gained in more advanced markets (with renewable tech subsidies) can help overcome rapid changes in markets that have been held back by subsidies of fossil fuels.
        - Criticism concerning the paradox of beeing a fossil giant while at the same time advocating change can best be adressed with total openness.
    • Aug 3 2011: Lucas: Cheer up! An excellent alternative energy source has already been invented, developed, and demonstrated to work (for 5 years) 50 years ago. This was an Air Force Project to make a nuclear aircraft engine. The successful design was completely different from the present generation nuclear fission plants: the Thorium LFTR type cannot blow up, melt down, or release intolerable amounts of toxic waste. The scientists who developed this (in cold War secrecy , of course) are mostly dead,, retired or ignored; the present day type nuclear plant was chosen, because iit could make nuclear bomb material , whereas the LFTR type doesn't. The LWR nuclear Industry doesn't want to hear about all this, because of their solid (expensive) fuel based business model. Thorium is TOO CHEAP. FYI: see Youtube: Thorium Kirk Sorensen, or wikipedia.

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