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If Divestment Won't Work, What's the Alternative?

fossil fuel divestment choices

As fossil fuels divestment will not keep carbon in the ground, student activists should redirect their attention from the divestment campaign toward something that can actually be effective in mitigating climate change – advocating for governments to radically increase funding for basic research and innovation aimed at developing clean, cheap energy alternatives. 

Many students involved in the divestment movement have taken on board the recent disturbing study in Nature convincingly indicating the need to keep much of the planet’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground to prevent destructive climate change, and quite sensibly they seek to do whatever they are able to advance this cause.

This post is a follow-on to my recent post “Divestment will not keep carbon in the ground,” which shows that fossil fuels divestment unfortunately will not advance this goal. My purpose here is to incite student activists to instead undertake initiatives that truly do promise to advance the cause of keeping a sizable portion of remaining carbon-based fuels in the ground.

To those in the divestment movement who have come to acknowledge that their efforts are fundamentally symbolic in nature, intended to raise awareness – ethics-driven though they be – I present the following question: “Why devote your remarkable energy to initiatives destined to have little concrete effect?  Wouldn’t you rather apply your energy directly to efforts more efficacious in accomplishing the goal of keeping fossil fuels in the ground?”

What initiatives? you ask.

The True Problem Stated Coldly, but Directly

History shows that student activism based on ethical considerations can accomplish extraordinary things. 

The climate change phenomenon is historically unprecedented and effectively attacking it accordingly requires unprecedented mental discipline, fanatical attention to the facts (as opposed to wishes), the intellectual fortitude to set aside peer-driven tribal dictates, and the unremitting pursuit of new, never-before-conceived solutions – precisely the things society expects from their best and brightest university students.

But there is a wickedly complex ethical dilemma first to be confronted, concisely characterized in the following assertion: You cannot deprive the world’s peoples of fossil fuels-based energy without providing a better replacement.  The “better” part of this statement is where many of the ethical dilemmas arise.

To set the stage, consider the following facts: Energy poverty remains miserably widespread among the planet’s peoples. Energy poverty perpetuates hunger, health hazards, and disenfranchisement of women by forcing women and children to gather fuel for hours on end that they would rather spend earning incomes or studying.  These peoples rely on traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal, and dung to provide their energy needs. The Asian Development Bank reports that in 2010, 2.8 billion (with a “b”) Asians relied on such traditional fuels, which provide low-quality energy while often destroying natural ecosystems and creating onerous health risks from indoor air pollution.  In the same year, 628 million Asians had no electricity and 590 million in Africa were similarly deprived.  This is clearly an ethical problem.

But on the other side of the ethical equation, the same Asian Development Bank report projects that developing Asia alone will by 2034 emit more CO2 than is believed sustainable for the entire world.

Clearly, the energy supply ethically required to counter energy poverty while preventing global climate change (which in itself disproportionately impacts the poor, according to numerous studies) must be supplied by non-fossil-based means.  Yet such supply must be completely affordable if it is to be accessible to the global energy poor.  The impoverished need more energy, not less.

It is not enough to sequester fossil fuels if this deeply humane civilizational objective is to be met.  Instead, the prescription must be to supply clean, cheap and abundant energy in its place – must be to provide a better replacement.  “Better” along both environmental and economic dimensions.

A heavy, decidedly unfair, burden placed on the shoulders of today’s generation of students.

Other Possible Solutions for Activists to Rally Around

If divestment is ineffective, what else could capture the attention of student activists? Solutions commonly offered are many, but let’s dissect a few of them with primary reliance on the ethics scalpel.

Institute Carbon Taxes or Cap-and-Trade Mechanisms

As an economist, I am in love with the idea of adjusting global price signals to take account of externalities not automatically accounted for by markets.  Make the market work for the larger good.  The benefits are obvious: Fossil fuels prices paid by consumers will rise, reducing demand; renewables will gain an economic advantage; and firms will readjust their production processes to use less energy and more of other inputs.

But this raises a prickly ethical dilemma. The energy poor (and the poor generally) will then be faced with higher energy prices.  Affordable energy access will be reduced, taking these populations a step backward instead of forward.

In principle, there are ways around this.  If the added revenues realized by governments via carbon taxes or cap-and-trade auctions are recycled back to producers and consumers in a “revenue-neutral” way, they will be no worse off, and the environment will be better off.  The Canadian province of British Columbia enacted such a scheme and it appears to be working. 

However, the obstacles in the way of a worldwide agreement on a carbon tax/cap-and-trade scheme are formidable.  Multiple political entities must be brought into accord around a host of hellishly complex practical issues. 

Countries and regions more heavily dependent on energy to produce their goods will complain of competitive trade disadvantages.  On the other side, revenue recycling schemes could be engineered by countries to create unfair competitive trade advantages.   Further, settling on a politically-acceptable level for the tax itself, or alternatively, the magnitude of a carbon cap, is destined to be a long, drawn out process.  Exceptions called for by this or that country or economic sector promise extended negotiations.  One only need to look to recent global climate summits to see how far away we are from any global climate agreement even on basic goals, setting aside the fact that mechanisms for achieving these goals remain undefined.

On top of this, depending on how aggressive is the program, it is unclear how effective the mechanism will be in either reducing energy use or advancing clean energy alternatives, especially in light of the fast-growing needs of the developing world.  How much carbon will actually be sequestered?  And how soon?

It is a worthy goal, deserving of the activist’s support, but it can be a knotty, byzantine and energy-draining cause to throw the weight of one’s voice behind.  And one whose likely reward is extreme frustration over perhaps decades before it bears substantive fruit.  The present situation appears far more urgent that this.

Promote De-growth

We know that economic activity and energy use are tightly (though not perfectly) linked.  This has led some to promote the idea of “de-growth,” urging the contraction of economies by scaling back consumption and the energy production required to feed it.

Any ethical argument for this idea must navigate a treacherously narrow pathway.  To one side of the path, we see a precipitous cliff plunging to a dismal, ugly valley where continued economic growth fueled by ongoing use of dirty energy will have led to climate disaster.  To the other side, we see a valley teeming with billions of our earthly cousins fatefully condemned to a condition of ongoing poverty – grinding, despairing poverty for many of them.

The valley of climate disaster is well documented.  The valley lying in the other direction, not so much.  To illustrate the magnitudes involved, consider the following thought experiment:

We have at our disposal a wizard who can magically reduce economic activity in the industrialized world by half.  The wizard can then immediately increase economic activity in emerging and developing countries to a level where economic welfare matches between the two (identical GDP/capita). Using 2013 data from the IMF, we can calculate that global GDP would have to rise by over 50% of what it was before the gedanken experiment, even considering the shrinkage in industrialized countries.  And if instead we ask the wizard to leave economic activity in the industrialized world alone and increase it in emerging and developing countries to create economic wealth parity, global GDP would have to be 300% higher.  Today, that is.  This completely leaves aside the fact that emerging and developing countries’ populations are growing rapidly, thereby multiplying these numbers in the decades hence.  I leave it to the reader to impute the energy consumption consequences.

There are both ethical and practical considerations to be engaged here.  On the ethical side: Are those of us in the industrialized world really morally justified in sitting back, perched as many of us are near the top of the Maslow hierarchy, declaring to this legion of impoverished souls who share the planet with us that they should abandon hope of ever attaining our level of economic wellbeing?  Viewed through this lens, substantial global economic growth is a global ethical imperative, not some sordid infantile indulgence.

The practical implications of this prescription are even more challenging than those surrounding a call to invoke a global carbon tax.  Imagine the politics of asking those in the industrialized world to adopt a massive de-growth agenda.  (These countries, by the way, have their own poor to contend with.)  If ever there were a prescription fraught with political peril, acrimony, and barriers to action, this would have to rank near the top of the list.

A qualifier: We are talking here about a short-term problem, not the entire future of the planet (but it is a very long “short-term”).  I myself have argued that multiple generations hence the planet can realize a condition of non-growing consumption – sustainable indefinitely – along with perpetually growing welfare, and have provided evidence that private ownership economies do not need growth to function, unlike what many claim.  But this vision requires for its realization three critical things: one, that the impoverished of the world have realized a level of consumption that is satisficing (we are far from this future); two, that global population has stabilized; and three, that all resources (not just energy resources) are derived from renewable sources.  But we are not nearly there yet, and de-growth in the industrialized world has no hope of getting us there in the time frame of you or your children.

De-growth is a prescription destined for failure in its capacity to affect the picture considered in the large – not one to quickly throw your weight behind if your goal is promote the vision of a planet sustainable for all.

Promote Energy Efficiency

Another alluring prescription offers that the world can get by with far less energy of any kind if we simply use it more efficiently.  Politicians especially are enamored of this idea because it purports to provide a pathway to a world where economic growth and the environment are not in conflict: a win-win for all their constituents.  But unfortunately, the world is not nearly so simple.  Energy efficiency gains, and the technologies/initiatives that invoke them, have the consequence of reducing the effective price of energy, and so by themselves spur energy use.  A vast and burgeoning technical literature, including contributions by myself, shows that “rebound effects” from energy efficiency gains can significantly erode the energy use reductions expected from engineering solutions that merely reduce energy use per unit of delivered energy services.  International organizations have been slow to recognize this inherently natural economic phenomenon, but we now see evidence that the IPCC and the IEA are acknowledging this double-edged sword of energy efficiency technologies.

Promote energy efficiency wherever you can.  It increases economic welfare for all, and will likely mitigate energy use increases to some degree.   But no, energy efficiency gains will not solve the climate problem on their own. Not even close. Future physical energy needs globally are far too great.  Instead, the lasting prescription for you and your progeny lies on the energy supply side, not the demand side of the equation, a point to which we now turn.

So What WILL Advance the Goal?  The Scholarly Approach.

Thus far, I have painted a decidedly gloomy picture as to possible student initiatives that will truly make a difference.  I freely (and regrettably) admit this.

But student activists whom history will deem to have been successful in inducing effective change will be those who adhere to disciplined, fact-based critical thinking and who choose practical, prudent courses of action that are both intellectually valid and ethically defensible. 

The best and brightest among them will choose for themselves what this is.  They will listen closely to the various prescriptions offered and will use their own minds to discern the proper course of action, courageously setting aside fervent assurances of their peer group wherever necessary, but adopting others where warranted by sound reasoning.

Part of the discipline required is careful attention to the pitfall of confirmation bias, where we humans naturally take on board arguments that reinforce our preconceptions and dismiss those that challenge them.  Another part of the discipline is avoidance of the facile device of identifying culprits – the natural tendency, when we see a problem, to place this at the feet of certain groups and attack them as representatives of the problem, the defeat of whom will somehow automatically solve the problem.

So I say to you this: If you reckon yourself a scholar, I appeal to you to always rely on yourself as the final judge, no matter how socially appealing the adjurations of others (including me) may seem at the time.

An Immodest Proposal

So what the heck are you offering? you ask.  Get to the point, you say.  So okay, I ask you to consider the following humble but heartfelt appeal from a shopworn sustainability economist:

Find a cause directly attached to the supply side of the equation.  Connect yourself to some initiative aimed at driving down the cost of clean energy and making it more practical more quickly.  Throw your weight, your mind, your soul, and all your skills at this problem.  Incite others to do the same.

Nascent murmurings of such an initiative are found in a recent beautifully-written article by Matthew Stepp and Megan Nicholson of the Center for Clean Energy Innovation, “Time to focus on innovation targets, not emissions targets, to fight climate change.”  They say:

“The climate community is backing the wrong policy and it’s running out of time. New climate leadership is needed, not to try to coax countries into agreeing to emissions targets, but to commit to targets on clean energy innovation. In other words, nations should set goals to invest a certain amount of money in research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to make clean energy so cheap that all businesses and consumers will voluntarily replace fossil fuels with clean energy because it makes economic sense to do so.”

Sagacious words.  The supply side of the problem holds the enduring answer.  A student-led initiative calling on governments to radically increase funding for research and other policies aimed at creating and adopting clean, cheap, and abundant energy is the only prescription among those discussed in this article that stands the chance of both keeping a sizable portion of carbon in the ground and advancing the cause of bringing the earth’s indigent billions out of energy poverty.   Aim your initiatives at the vulnerabilities of politicians, and force them to listen.  

This is a highly promising cause deserving of your backing, I argue.  Doubtless other means can be conceived of to advance the climate agenda on the energy supply side – where the only real answers lie. Creative minds will find them.

Conclusion

This prescription does not promise an easy road.  It is a simple task to rally support by identifying some supposed culprit and fomenting tribal rage to carry the day.  Lamentably, it is more difficult by far to rally the better angels of our nature.  Yet if the goal is delivering concrete results, I suggest to you our angels have the more enduring foundation for effective delivery.

A final and important (and regrettably necessary) warning: Should you choose to travel down this difficult road, voices will arise out of nowhere to assault you on your motives.  They will claim that your cause is entirely self-serving, calling as it does for increased funding that will benefit you via grants for your institution’s research, and scholarship funding for your own activities.  Please invoke the discipline to ignore them.  Know that the goal itself is your defining justification – your service is in the best interests of the larger good; and not just for today’s world but for all future generations.

May the better angels of your nature guide you.

Photo Credit: Divestment Alternatives/shutterstock

Content Discussion

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 13, 2015

Harry, I maintain your premise of “divestment won’t work” is an invalid one, and offer this characterization of divestment in South Africa in support:

…companies targeted by the [divestment] campaign experienced no discernible financial pressure, as shares were simply reallocated from ‘‘socially responsible’’ to more indifferent investors. When funds were pressured to sell off the stock of companies active in South Africa, other buyers generally stepped in to pick up the pieces.

However, the divestment campaign likely had a different, non-financial impact. Divestment greatly increased public visibility surrounding the injustices of South Africa’s apartheid government. It is almost certain that worldwide popular opposition in the 1980s contributed to the decline of apartheid, and divestment was an important piece of this puzzle.

http://www.iop.harvard.edu/does-divestment-work

We all do what we can, and student activists have more influence on university policy than they do on carbon pricing – they’re paying the bills. Similarly, Americans preaching efficiency to undeveloped countries will be ludicrously (and understandably) ineffective.

You write:

History shows that student activism based on ethical considerations can accomplish extraordinary things.

That is exactly what divestment represents:

While post-colonial African countries had already imposed sanctions on South Africa in solidarity with the Defiance Campaign, these measures had little effect because of the relatively small economies of those involved. The disinvestment campaign only impacted South Africa after the major Western nations, including the United States, got involved beginning in mid-1984. From 1984 onwards, according to Knight, because of the disinvestment campaign and the repayment of foreign loans, South Africa experienced considerable capital flight. The net capital movement out of South Africa was:

  • “R9.2 billion in 1985”
  • “R6.1 billion in 1986”
  • “R3.1 billion in 1987”
  • “R5.5 billion in 1988.”

The capital flight triggered a dramatic decline in the international exchange rate of the South African currency, the rand. The currency decline made imports more expensive which in turn caused inflation in South Africa to rise at a very steep 12-15% per year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disinvestment_from_South_Africa

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on February 13, 2015

 

I was just reading an article by Micheal Bloomberg on the topic of India, and he says the PM of India wants to distribute solar panels to all the off-grid houses in India.

It’s sort of interesting; the developing countries are generally skipping the land-line access to the phone system in favor of cellular.

Maybe they will skip the electricity grid too.

 

 

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on February 13, 2015

Instead of divestment, how about investment?   Actions speak louder than words.  Invest your money in:

-LED lighting

-A plug-in car (There are great electrics now. Not ready for pure electric?  Get a plug-in-hybrid.)

-A solar PV array for your home (Don’t have the cash?  There are lease options and loan options.)

-Insulation, weatherstripping, better windows, duct sealing, etc. to reduce heating/cooling costs

-Efficient appliances and go beyond just Energy star . . . Get the Tier 3 fridge

-A powerstrip that you can plug all your entainment center toys into which can power them all down with a single switch.  

 

 

I self-installed a nice big PV system and got an electric car . . . I haven’t paid for electricity OR gasoline for more than a year now.  Feels good.

Harry Saunders's picture
Harry Saunders on February 13, 2015

Thank you for your insightful comment, Mathieu.  You are correct that should divestment spread to lending institutions or bond underwriters the cost of debt will rise and fossil fuel (economic) investment capacity will shrink, leading, in principle, to more fossil fuels being kept in the ground (or at least slowing their development).

I think this is highly unlikely, but even if it should happen, I think the effect would be small.  As you likely know, the oil majors over the past decades have generally eschewed any significant reliance on issuing capital, greatly preferring to fund capital programs with cash flow from operations.  As evidence of this, we see them now aggressively pulling back on capital programs in response to the current oil price decline, rather than going to the markets for more capital. 

On top of this, the majors (aside from Total) have long held to very low debt ratios.  Annual replenishment of retired debt is a small fraction of their cash flow.  So I have a hard time seeing any significant effect here.  You may have better insights on this question.

 

As for the South Africa divestment comparison you raise, my feelings echo yours that the scope and magnitudes are vastly different, making the comparison problematic.  But I offer further thoughts on this question in response to Bob Meinetz’s comment below.

Harry Saunders's picture
Harry Saunders on February 13, 2015

Thank you for your comment, Bob.  You are justified in advancing this challenge.  The South Africa comparison is a thought-provoking one.   The capital flight numbers you cite from Richard Knight (via Wikipedia) seem honestly and meticulously developed.   

Two thoughts: One, as you see in Mathieu Bouville’s comment above, we’re talking here about a vastly larger share of world assets involved in fossil fuels development than was involved in the South Africa divestment campaign.  It’s just difficult for me to picture that a commodity so sorely needed by every single country on the planet for its economic wellbeing (today, that is; we hope the future will be different) would end up being made subject to the kind of limitation that the relatively tiny volume of goods produced by South Africa was made subject to in the day.

Two, the ethics considerations are not nearly so clear in the current divestment campaign as was the case in the South Africa divestment campaign.  In the South Africa situation, there was a clear, one-sided ethical calculation, involving blatant human rights violations and egregious injustice.  In contrast, in this instance we have a razor-sharp double-edged ethical sword.  As I argue in the post, billions of our counterparts on the planet need more energy, not less, despite the fact that our present capabilities mean this must be carbon-based energy in the near term.

 

To me, the “student activism based on ethical considerations” you quote from me must be activism dedicated to finding clean, cheap, energy replacements if the activism is to be fully ethical.  Aside from being ineffective, divestment activism falls short of the ethical goal unless it fully takes account of the ethical need to create replacements, not just seeking to take away desperately needed life-sustaining resources from the impoverished multitudes.

All that said, I do applaud the energetic spirit of the students’ campaigns. Inspiring. 

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on February 14, 2015

 

Much depends on where and how you live. I live in a very cloudy region. Even on a day the weather forecast shows full sun, we usually have a haze that cuts 10% or more from my panels, which I set up as an experiment. Also, being relatively far north, the angle of the sun changes a lot during the seasons and during the day; my little kit is actually moveable, but a roof-top would lose a lot of exposure.

What I have been able to do, given the nature of my work, is arrange to work at home several days a week, which greatly cut my gasoline consumption. I also don’t wear out (or wreck) a car, which required a lot of energy to make. But without much of a commute, the extra money for an EV doesn’t make sense. I want my investments to pay for themselves, although I will accept a low ROI to reduce my carbon footprint.

When my HVAC got to be 15 years old, I replaced it with a newer and much more efficent model that cut my utility bills, especially the summer electric bill, and cut my carbon along with it. I really recommend this; old systems break when you need them most, and a reasonably new system helps sell the house when the time comes. If you have the work done in the off season, you can often get a price break, especially relative to getting a new one in an emergency during peak season.

 

 

Steve K9's picture
Steve K9 on February 15, 2015

In a couple of words: energy cheaper than coal … nuclear power.

We’ll get there.  It won’t be demonstrated here, but in China, but for the World that doesn’t really matter … the issue is … will it be fast enough?

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on February 15, 2015

Maybe they [developing countries] will skip the electricity grid too.”

That’s not really on the table now for the majority of people.  Solar is great for the very poor in isolated homes with tiny power demands (e.g. 10 Watts to power a few LED lights and a phone).  As soon as people get a little prosperity, they’ll want to live near shopping and a school for their kids (village life instead of isolation) and have electrically powered labor-saving devices, TVs, refrigerators, ovens, heating and airconditioning, etc.  Plus they’ll want cloudy day performance.  All of these things favor real grid power.

Whether that grid is a community-scale system with solar, batteries, and a diesel generator versus a simple connection to the national system?  That depends on the cost of batteries and diesel fuel, plus the distance to the rest of the grid;  so far, grids always win.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on February 16, 2015

Nice!

Ironically, the “believers” are not aware of the ineptness of political solutions (and thus, there are a great many of “aware” deniers). Is anti-industrialism a solution? It doesn’t get us anywhere and certainly doesn’t BUILD anything! Is taxing carbon a solution? Not if we don’t BUILD anything to make up for it (financially)! Is enforcing conservation laws a solution? No, just goes against human rights and dignity. We all (should) know that we can BUILD our way into prosperity – for a long time to come (Ad Astra)!

I believe it to be an economic generator to build things as nobody could have fathomed the economic might of the world today – created from a built infrastructure. Thus, I believe it to be an economic nightmare, an excess CO2 solution’s worst nightmare, to not build our way out.

We need to build “too much wind and solar”, advanced nuclear and plant 2 billion giant sequoias – for giant sequestration – That’s it! We have over 7,000,000,000 people, I’m sure we can do it if only the silly NGO enviro’s would get out of the way.

I ask all “believers” to cancel out the political “we have to learn to do with less” baloney and to promote the REAL solution – industrialism.

Reid Capalino's picture
Reid Capalino on February 17, 2015

Harry,

kudos on an excellent post  Much to agree with.  I offer several brief observations:

  • Still a need for policy: without a carbon tax or similar carbon price, not sure innovation will ever occur quickly enough to solve the climate problem.  Challenge is that clean energy innovators must compete with the incredible innovation that is occurring in the fossil fuel world (witness seismic imaging, ultra-deepwater, horizontal drilling, etc.).  We need to change the incentives for innovation (i.e. where bright young college grads go to work), and that relates to the business landscape for clean energy vs. fossil fuels – which policy can affect.
  • need to ensure innovation is focused on the right goal: for all the focus on making renewables cheaper (i.e. reducing their LCOE), the real issue is always cost vs. price.  If you can get the cost below the relevant price, then you are in business.  Higher prices at the distribution level are why distributed energy is such a promising opportunity. See commentary from google’s engineers on their RE < C effort: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/what-it-would-really-take-to-reverse-climate-change
  • need for innovation in efficiency: though you are correc that efficiency alone cannot solve the problem, demand-side is probably more in need of innovation that the supply side.  findings that, at least in US govt-sponsored research, demand gets short-shrifted: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.4155/cmt.10.16#.VOO4GS7Skok
  • clean energy is different from putting a man on the moon: though you do not make this analogy directly, many tend to argue that we need an Apollo program for clean energy.  as has been observed, however, needs of clean energy innovation very different from putting a man on the moon.  see discussion here: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34645.pdf

Kudos again for the informed commentary

 

Reid Capalino's picture
Reid Capalino on February 17, 2015

Harry,

would also suggest another key alternative to divestment: engaging with fossil fuel companies to press for (1) reduced capital expenditure on fossil fuel production (particularly from higher-cost projects); and (2) more investment in low-carbon energy sources.  Indications that shareholders are finally beginning to get traction with fossil fuel companies on these topics.  Witness Shell and BP support for shareholder resolutions on climate: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/29/shell-urges-shareholders-to-accept-climate-change-resolution

Since universities are shareholders in all of these companies, students can push for them to engage more with companies in their portfolios. 

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on February 17, 2015

 

The analogy to the phone system is that cellular evolved such that a grid was never built. If they put in a little solar, then a battery, then more solar, will they build a grid? It takes a lot to build a grid and central power — you need to issue bonds, get bills paid on time, distribute dividends. It’s not just the copper wires, which in some places people will steal if you’re not there to protect them.

 

 

Alistair Newbould's picture
Alistair Newbould on February 19, 2015

I am not convinced “just” creating a source of power cheaper than fossils fuels is all we need to do. The cheaper energy has become, the more we use of it. So just because we have a source that is cheaper won’t close FF plants. Ultimately we need to make CO2 pollution illegal. In the passed it was cheap to dump wastes into rivers. We didn’t go around looking for a cheaper way for companies to dispose of their waste – we told them No you can’t do that, and gave them time to change their ways. The first step to making GHG emmisions illegal is making them expensive – back to Cap and trade.

Andy Maybury's picture
Andy Maybury on February 22, 2015

Harry, I see your call being to more research, more innovation and hence more delay.

We have workable solutions now. We need to implement them now. 

Divestment DOES work. The very fact that we are having this discussion demonstrates this. As said earlier, it also means that there is money available for reinvestment in renewable technologies.

As already said, the poorer parts of the world can leap-frog over our mistakes and, like the phone systems, implement things like micro-grids and off-grid solutions. Managing your own power system (at individual or community level) is one of the best ways of becoming aware of the value of energy. 

I used to to run an off-grid power system in Africa that supplied an email system running 24×7 for our organisatio and other NGOs in town. Five means of charging the battery and up to seven means of connecting to the email server. We had to be careful of every amp-hour. It also highlighted the inefficiencites of running equipment designed to be powered from mains AC!

Divest AND implement other solutions, most of which are extant. (Keep doing research too but don’t hold your breath for that magic, inexhaustible supply that is universally applicable.)

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