ETech 2009: AMEE, Your Energy Identity, and Scary Futures to Avoid


photos by Jaymi Heimbuch
AMEE is short for Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine, and it is a platform that seeks to track the energy consumption of everything. The goal is to make energy consumption and carbon footprints open sourced, so that we become more responsible for them, and hold others accountable as well. Gavin Starks spoke at ETech about why we need to care about our energy identity, how to take ownership of it, and the possible future scenarios we hope to avoid by embracing - and reducing - our consumption.

Energy Identity is the digital embodiment of your physical consumption. Basically, we need to start thinking of everything not just in terms of its physical size and impact, but also its embodied size and impact. When you think of a product, think of how much space in landfill it takes up, and think of the carbon footprint it has in its manufacturing, use, and disposal. To do this effectively, everything and everyone needs to have an accessable energy identity.

AMEE hopes to be a Web 2.0-style platform to help build smart grid behavior into everything, measure and map all of it, lobby for and create open standards, and sort out data ownership. The reason? To avoid a couple dire future scenarios.

5 potential futures from Forum For The Future:
Efficiency & technology - We have a rapid innovation in energy efficiency technologies, and change to a society that balances with relying on technology to fix climate change. However, we become increasingly dependent on engineering our environment.

Service transformation - We change to a service-oriented culture. For instance, high carbon prices mean businesses sell services rather than products, car ownership becomes prohibitive and public transportation more efficient, and we move to a sharing culture.

Redefine progress - We rethink what a fulfilled life is, meaningful jobs are valued and stronger links with local communities are cultivated. People are attracted to simplicity and focus on quality of life, rather than money.

Environmental war economy - This is when it becomes too late to fix our planet, so we rationalize whole sectors and take control of citizens' lives. Environmental refugees seek countries that will accommodate them. GHGs begin to decline, but so does civil liberty.

Protectionist world - The worst off we could be is this case, where we go to war over resources. The world is divided into protectionist blocs, and we wage war over things like water and cropland.

AMEE believes that by boosting energy identities, we can move towards the better scenarios, and away from the end-of-the-world scenarios.

Starks stressed that we have to look at what the true sustainable credentials of our businesses, our cultures and our lives really are, be open about them, and improve them. "There is no time left for closed systems," he says.

The problem is that many businesses and organizations don't want to be open about this because it can compromise intellectual property, or simply make customers not like them as much. However, we're seeing a culture shift in which consumers are demanding to know the impact of their consumed goods, and we're also shifting towards a desire to know how much we consume. These trends help us out in pressing forward.

But what we also need is collaboration among businesses. Starks pointed out that we have to get businesses, policy makers, scientists, designers...everyone willing to work together and be open source about their consumption if we're going to make headway. AMEE, however, is a great tool to start the forward motion.

More from ETech:
ETech 2009: Ending Obsolescence with a Post-Consumerist Economy (Video)
ETech 2009: Population Boom, Wealth, and 6 Ways to Stave Off Environmental Collapse (Video)
ETech 2009: Tim O'Reilly and Our Reality Bubble Burst (Video)
ETech 2009: Lilypad Electronic Fashion

Tags: Carbon Emissions | Carbon Footprint | Corporate Responsibility