Published on: November 14, 2019
WAL VAN LIEROP
Since 1800, worldwide consumption of fossil fuels has increased 1,300-fold. Access to this cheap energy has lifted people out of poverty and catalyzed economic growth, wealth creation and healthier living environments. So, the fossil fuel industry must be remarkably profitable, right?
After all, if renewables like solar and wind were competitive in a free market, would we not have switched over by now? Wouldn’t the top of the Forbes Global 2000 be stacked with clean energy companies instead of oil and gas giants?
It sounds reasonable that market forces make fossil fuels our energy source of choice. The reality is quite different, however. Oil and gas companies are better at procuring government subsidies than generating profits. That has led investors to overestimate the fossil fuel industry while leaving clean energy innovations underfunded. It seems like we give companies important to the energy transition “just enough capital to fail.”
Until we unrig the playing field, clean energy will struggle, and your tax dollars will perpetuate climate change. There is little time left for action, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that without major reductions in CO2 output by 2030, the Earth will suffer severe and irreparable damage.
Human civilization needs to become carbon neutral. But has anybody seen a realistic plan for that? What stands in the way of unhooking ourselves from cheap fossil fuels?