Climate Change activists are often portrayed as being highly negative. A commonly-utilised media construct is that we must be mad because we’re against everything. Environmentalists have blocked the development of the Severn Barrage which would have produced 5% of the UK’s power. Excuse me ? Do you want renewable power, or don’t you ?
2011 will be a good year to explain what we are actually fighting for.
We must continue to struggle against self-defeating technologies that don’t fulfil their promises – like vehicle Biofuels, pipedreams like Algae BioDiesel, military exercises like Nuclear Power, flat-out failures like Carbon Capture, and yes, the limitations of some of the Severn Barrage schemes. But we also need to get loud about truly Green Energy.
We’re not just fighting for a kind of unrealistic Utopia, self-sufficiency on a vegan farm, knitting our own flat caps, making solar power with mirrors and duct tape, and learning how to press our own tofu.
No matter how cool it is to be off-grid and downshifted, not everybody can aspire to that kind of lifestyle. Not everybody has the skills, health or monetary resources to build their own wind turbine and wattle-and-daub hut.
We need environmental socialism – we need collectively organised Renewable Energy networks.
I cannot see the current large energy companies wanting to take on the complete makeover of energy production that is required, so I expect national publicly-financed projects will become essential to get this job done.
I also expect some of the energy companies will continue kicking and screaming about this re-nationalisation of energy. But you have to be aware of something rather important – in the medium term, the Great Energy Revival is inevitable. And if BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, E.On, RWE npower, EdF and the rest don’t want to pay up to de-carbonise, then these corporate entities will have passed their useful shelf life.
Most of the fossil fuel energy companies will need to adapt to survive, and if you or anybody you know has money invested in fossil fuel energy companies, you and they need to think carefully about what could possibly happen to these holdings.
As for energy-producing countries such as the members of OPEC, they will experience increasing reasons to diversify out of fossil fuels. The rest of the world will gradually lose its ability to pay for their petroleum and Natural Gas, either through further economic collapse or carbon pricing. Added to that, their fields will continue to deplete and run dry.
Solar power is the future wealth of countries like Saudi Arabia, just as it is for many other countries, but this will require a huge shift in vision and engineering focus.
This changeover in energy could be very destabilising, and this is where Climate Change activists have a Big Goal :-
1. The peaceful and just transition of all energy systems to provide non-polluting, zero carbon resources.
We want stability and non-violent change, no matter what environmental demonstrators are accused of, repeatedly, in all forms of mass media. This revolution will have no weapons.
With time, large components of the current energy system will begin to crumble, partly for want of new investment in infrastructure by privately-owned enterprises. For example, it costs a lot to build a new power station, and most companies won’t do it without state support of one kind or another, and they call themselves free marketeers !
Operational and maintenance cost-shaving is already leading to increasing levels of accidents, spills, explosions, leaks and corrosions.
This doesn’t happen because of evil or greed – it’s simply a natural consequence of the legal obligation of energy companies to make as much profit as they can for their shareholders.
Many people do not understand the parlous state of the current energy systems, and haven’t yet realised that the health of the general Economy is tightly coupled to energy, so this is Big Aim Number 2 :-
2. The education of the populations and their governments about the risks of the current energy systems – Climate Change, environmental pollution, health risks, economic risks, social deprivation and social collapse.
Most activists are highly individual people and keen to maintain their personal freedoms – there’s not much distance between Anarchy and “Conservative” Libertarianism after all – yet, even so, activists generally accept that collective action and social responsibility for energy are necessary.
The changes that are needed in the energy systems are huge :-
and this will come about either through a series of crises, or through a structured comprehensive strategy. Announcing new nuclear power stations which just replace those that are going to be closed doesn’t really meet this requirement.
Where, I ask you, is the Grand Plan for Energy ?
This is another Big Objective :-
3. A comprehensive social contract between governments, enterprise and the people to exchange carbon energy systems for zero carbon energy systems.
Energy companies need to satisfy the will of the people and the dictates of the Low Carbon Transition – not the directive of profit-making.
This will be a big change in the way things currently are, but it is inevitable that public utilities – energy, water and transport, will once more become publicly managed.
Everybody has to work for this project – and there has to be a strategy to make sure that happens, which means it has to be driven by public policy. It entails Green Jobs, legally binding Green Procurement for all public and private contracts, Green Enterprise Management and Green Government.
What would a Big Plan for Energy Revival look like ? We already have answers :-
Zero Carbon Britain has been adopted by the newly-formed Climate Alliance.
Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi are two American academics who have proposed a complete exchange of the energy sytems.
M. Z. Jacobson and M. A. Delucchi, “Evaluating the Feasibility of Meeting All Global Energy Needs with Wind, Water, and Solar Power, Part I: Technologies, Energy Resources, Quantities and Areas of Infrastructure, and Materials,” /Energy Policy/, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.11.040 (2010).
M. A. Delucchi and M. Z. Jacobson, “Evaluating the Feasibility of Meeting All Global Energy Needs with Wind, Water, and Solar Power, Part II: Reliability, System and Transmission Costs, and Policies,” /Energy Policy/, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.11.045 (2010).
And finally, just to repeat the link, Joseph Romm of Climate Progress has consistently promoted the “wedges” approach of Professors Socolow and Pacala :-
Yes, funded by BP, of all the ironies in all the world.