Politics, Climate Change, and Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Renewables
Recently, I found myself in a social media debate about climate change.
I know, I know; I really shouldn’t…
Anyway, I was responding to a post claiming that scientists are still debating whether climate change is happening. Coincidentally, just yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about this (link provided below). Towards the end, they reported that they’d asked the Heritage Fund which scientists they’d consulted, and they responded, “many scientists and respect their desire to provide this guidance in confidence.”
Say what you want about scientists, but such citations usually boost their ability to secure funding, so…
Okay. so I’m not a climate scientist.
On the other hand, climate is on my mind!
Here in Arizona, we’ve been breaking records not only for daily highs, but for how high the overnight lows are! We’re in a historic drought as we squabble with our neighboring states about what’s left of the Colorado River (link provided below).
As a diver, I’m all too aware of the challenges of finding pristine reefs as global temperatures rise and corals bleach.
As i review the literature, I don’t see any credible debate about the grim reality of climate change. I see debate about how bad it is, how bad it’ll get, how fast it’ll get that bad, and, tragically and frustratingly, whether we’re already too late.
But I do NOT see any debate about whether it’s happening or why it’s happening.
I do think it’s interesting that, while organizations like the Heritage Fund continue to dispute the climate crisis, our military is preparing for it (link provided below).
But, just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend there’s still a question about whether climate change is real and an existential threat.
Let’s look at this strictly as an economic question.
The simple fact is that the oil we extract today wasn’t extracted yesterday because, yesterday, it was too expensive. So we didn’t start extracting this oil until we extracted all the less expensive oil.
And the oil we’ll extract when this oil runs out isn’t being extracted yet because, today, it’s too expensive. We’ll extract that oil when this oil runs out.
Yes, oil is a commodity, and the price fluctuates for a number of reasons, but there’s absolutely, positively no question that the long term trend for oil prices is up.
And the long term trends for renewables are reduced cost and improved reliability.
We’ve already seen this for coal. I’m sorry; coal is NOT coming back, not just because it’s dangerous to extract or because of the environmental impacts of burning it. Coal is NOT coming back because renewables are already cheaper (link provided below).
So, strictly in terms of dollars, seems to me we have a choice.
We can invest in renewables, or we can continue to invest in fossil fuels.
But, if we don’t invest in renewables, at some point, when (not if!) renewables are less expensive than fossil fuels, we’ll have no choice but to buy our renewable energy technology from those countries that have invested in it.
I don’t know about you, but I know I’m thinking that’s not in our best long term interest…