120 Years On: The Last Man to Remember Fossil Fuels
One hundred and twenty years ago, the United States started an energy transition that changed the world. Today, as we celebrate two decades removed from our last fossil fuel dependency, we sit down with 130-year-old Mr. Ethelred Bleecker, the last man to recall a time when the hum of wind turbines and the gleam of solar panels wasn't the norm. Born in Texas in 2022, Ethelred worked his early years in the oil rigs. Today, at the turn of the 22nd century, he breathes fresh air with 'gigafarms' of clean energy around him, something he would have deemed nearly impossible a century ago.'Back then, oil was our lifeline,' he remembers, leaning back in his anti-aging therapeutic chair. 'We knew about the harm, but we were just too dependent. Breaking away was a pipe dream.'Bleecker recalls the tension in the early years between his worker friends and the groups of young green activists who showed up at their industry's doorstep. 'They were kids, scorned for their idealism, but they were right. The world was going to change, but the real question was how soon and at what cost?'Many historians consider the next 50 years, the time of transition, to be the most remarkable period in human history. Bleecker might be one of the best primary resources of that turbulent era, having transitioned from a rig worker to clean energy technician himself.'When my youngest son, born in 2050, decided to become a wind turbine engineer, I thought he was out of his mind. But by the time he retired, his field was the heart of our nation's power. 'The United States's landscape isn't the only thing that's changed drastically. 'Remember the international conflicts over oil reserves? Those are historical anecdotes for my grandkids now,' chuckles Bleecker. Indeed, geopolitics have shifted dramatically. With energy largely decentralized, competition over limited resources has significantly diminished. The global shift to renewable energy has brought previously oil-dominated regions into the realm of technological innovation and environmental stewardship. 'I've lived through an energy revolution,' remarks Bleecker, 'and I’ll tell you, the world my great-grandchildren live in today was worth the fight we endured a century ago.'In the end, the clean energy future did arrive faster than anyone had anticipated a century ago. It was not without trial and error, but with the tenacity of those who dared to dream and fight for a sustainable future, it is now, at last, our reality. As we continue to pilot towards a future powered by renewable energy, may we never forget from where we came.