About Unintended Consequences

PROJECT OVERVIEW

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES is a transmedia documentary about the impact energy production, distribution and consumption has on the lives of families and communities around the world including; why we use energy, how it adds value to our lives, how we measure the benefits and trade-offs from energy use, and how we will manage the difficult task of transitioning from a high carbon to low carbon global society. Using a “systems thinking” approach, the story examines critical and often overlooked elements in the global energy debate in an exciting, informative and balanced narrative.

By investigating the full ecological, economic, social, and political costs and benefits of various energy sources, in other words, using life cycle analysis of each fuel source required to harness energy including: oil sands, natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and bio-fuel; and then considering the trade-offs of each source within the larger system, context is created for understanding how labels like “dirty oil”, “clean energy”. “sustainable” and “renewable” mislead, and potentially prevent us from finding innovative solutions to meet energy needs now and in the future. Building a sophisticated understanding of the “why” of things like oil, wind, solar, or nuclear, will help guide us to pragmatic solutions.

 Inspiring critical thinking and systems thinking is the main intention of UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.  How we will provide energy to a growing global community is a daunting challenge. The mix of energy sources must change, but how we do it, accounting for the resources required to build new infrastructure, and determining the pace of transition, is critical. It is also important to highlight how fossil fuels differ from alternative energy sources like wind and solar, because, oil, for example is converted for transportation fuels, and it is also used as feedstocks for other commodities like petrochemicals, and essential carbon fibre compounds. Oil and petrochemicals are indispensable to the larger system because of their link to modern medicine, science, technology, and food production.

By increasing society’s energy literacy, the energy debate will move beyond the current climate of polarized opinions, conflict, and highly charged emotions to a new era of rational optimism where energy systems are planned and delivered through integrating fossil fuels and alternative energy sources in an efficient and more sustainable manner that reflects environmental, political, economic and social realities. Through a narrative structure that provides context and perspective in an entertaining and understandable way, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES will expand and enhance the energy literacy of major stakeholders including policy makers, the energy industry, environmental groups, and the general public..

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES documentary project will include a feature length film, a public interactive website with unique real-time web documentaries, and an educational website for schools from elementary to university level.

4 Responses to About Unintended Consequences

  1. Pingback: Energy Influencers #91 – #95 « oilmahn

  2. I really like the efforts you are taking to bring light to the energy issue and I agree whole heartedly that the general populace is very energy illiterate, however I would like to get your scientific basis for stating that “the mix of energy sources must change” and why there seems to be this unquestionable need to transition from a high carbon society to a low carbon one. I’m sure our use of energy will change with time as all things do, but in my research, I am still trying to find the need for this change that is happening right now with things like wind & solar, biofuels and other renewables. Everytime I examine these “alternate” sources I find a plethora of problems that are easily and logically addressed by remaining with the present conventional forms of energy. I hope this doesn’t make me sound that I am against change but when you examine the pros and cons it is hard to advocate for these alternatives as a solution towards our transition from high to low carbon society.

    • The energy mix does need to change, even if we just look at the age of the infrastructure in North America. I agree with you that alternatives may not be the answer many people think, at east not with the current technology. My own sense right now, is that sources with higher energy and power density, may be greener, assuming we can develop technologies that help lessen environmental impacts. The switch from coal to natural gas is reducing C02 emissions. In the US C02 is going down and in Europe C02 is increasing because of increasing coal use, particularly in Germany. We will never get our system in balance, there will always be unintended consequences, positive and negative, but applying system thinking may provide different choices. There is a movement afoot to develop technology that would reuse carbon captured at the source of emission. This would fundamentally change the story. We must also remember, and this is where energy literacy is key, that we are carbon based life forms, and carbon is the most essential process fuel we have on the planet.

      So the change may not be what we think. It may mean creating greater efficiency in the current system first, dealing with environmental issues, while there is a concerted effort to see what new ways of harnessing energy may provide the best benefit.

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