The end proceeds the beginning. The end and the beginning were always there. The beginning after the end. All is Always ... Now. T.S.Eliot
The first known use of fuel was the combustion of wood nearly two million years ago. Coal was used as fuel around 1,000 BCE in China. Europeans began usage of coal in the 18th century along with Enlightenment thinking. Reason, individualism, and the scientific method were used to realize the energy potential in fossil fuel. The invention of the steam engine, in 1769, brought coal into common usage as a power source. The age of fossil fuel had begun.
Today, we have internalized the idea that fossil fuel is ancient sunlight stored in a vast reserve. We have been drawing on that account at 2% growth each year since the middle of the 19th century. In the last decade, we have averaged 2% growth (in global energy use) in spite of advances in renewable energy, the Kyoto protocol, and an almost universal outcry from climate scientists of potential future danger.
Buildings account for 36% of total energy. There are many green building standards. Here is an partial list from around the world: Nabers, Green Star, AQUA, LEED, Green Globes, GBAS, PromisE, HQE,DGNB, CEPHEUS, GRIHA, Greenship, CASBEE, BASIX, BERDE, Lider A,Green Mark, Minergie, LivingBuilding Challenge, Build it Green, NAHB NGBS,ENERGY STAR, BREEAM, CEDBİK, Estidama. The typical formulation, of a green building standard, develops a strategy to provide indoor climate control and “modern function” relative to a carbon footprint. The highest goal is to provide a standard through which carbon neutrality can be achieved. The reality though is that buildings are tethered to an unimaginably long, complicated, and ultimately incomprehensible global supply chain. Carbon enters these buildings after having gone through many steps and transformations determined by individually perceived lowest cost algorithms. The global supply chain is at the core and is fundamental to all of these prescriptive green strategies.
The notion of calculating and then prescribing carbon equilibrium is untenable for these four reasons:
1) An analogous activity would be to first accurately predict the weather for the entire globe (every square inch) and then to modify the weather everywhere… no more droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, etc...
2) Fossil fuels form from biomass and require a very long time to form relative to recent human usage.
3) Jevons Paradox – William Stanley Jevons argued that “technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.” Wikipedia. Cars, refrigerators, and houses today are, on average, more efficient than earlier versions, but they are also, on average, bigger which has negated the efficiency benefit.
4) The amount of biomass the earth can produce each year is limited. (100 billion tonnes of organically bound carbon per year.Wikipedia) This amount equals 1,700 exajoules of energy that could be potentially converted to usable energy. In 2008, the yearly global energy use was 474 exajoules. At 2% growth, the earth’s yearly biomass product will be exceeded in 63.9 years.
The above argument is not intended as a critique of technology and resource management. It indicates that the hope for a technical solution or the ability to more effectively manage resources will not solve our ever growing energy needs. The "green" goal of carbon neutrality is a "straw man". All public policies geared toward ever increasing resource management and efficiency gains will fail if energy use continues exponentially. The solution must come from the "grass roots", a decentralized global village.