Utopian energy is an imagined form of energy that’s abundant, reliable, inexpensive, and also clean, renewable, and life-sustaining. But utopian energy is as much a fantasy as a utopian society. Seeking the fount of perfect energy allows us to pretend there aren’t real-world tradeoffs between, say, banning fossil fuels and helping people in impoverished nations or between using solar and wind power and conserving natural habitats.
For years, I chased utopian energy. I promoted solar, wind, and energy efficiency because I felt like I was protecting the environment. But I was wrong! Feeling like you’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean you are. I just couldn’t admit it. My sense of identity was tied to my false beliefs about energy—myths that blinded me to what really does—and doesn’t—help the planet.
I’ve loved the outdoors since I was a teenager. I led mountaineering expeditions in Alaska, spent months backpacking in the Rockies, and climbed in national parks. My wilderness experiences led to my desire to protect these beautiful areas. I saw that a lot of people who tried to solve environmental issues worked in academia, nonprofits, or government, but they often failed to understand what it actually took to get things done in the real world. I didn’t want to be one of those people. I wanted to make a real difference.