The United States could run almost entirely on clean energy by 2050, with a larger economy, $5 trillion in savings––and no acts of Congress. That's a vision of the future as seen by Amory Lovins, a sustainability expert who talked about how to reach that goal in a presentation Tuesday at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
Electric vehicles, retrofits, the sharing economy and the rise of clean energy in Europe and China—all these technologies and trends show how a transition from oil, coal and nuclear power is possible, he said.
Investors who have dumped holdings in fossil fuel companies have outperformed those that remain invested in coal, oil and gas over the past five years according to analysis by the world’s leading stock market index company,
MSCI, which runs global indices used by more than 6,000 pension and hedge funds, found that investors who divested from fossil fuel companies would have earned an average return of 13% a year since 2010, compared to the 11.8%-a-year return earned by conventional investors.
Oil prices might be very low, but that’s not going to take away from investments in renewable energy.
That’s at least the consensus from Citigroup, the latest investment researcher to say clean energy won’t be slowed by cheap oil, Bloomberg reported Monday. Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs have also predicted that the oil price slump won’t affect renewable energy growth.
Critics of renewable energy have mocked the Energiewende, claiming that it has led to an increase in coal power and related CO2 emissions in Germany. But Conrad Kunze and Paul Lehmann of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ show that this is a myth. German coal generation and CO2 emissions rose not because of but in spite of the Energiewende. They would have been even higher if Germany had not phased out its nuclear power and embarked on its remarkable renewable energy path. “There is no dark side to the Energiewende”.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America recently commissioned and funded a study, covered in The New York Times and elsewhere, which claimed that university endowments would suffer without fossil fuels in their portfolios. The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed calling fossil fuel divestment a "Feel-Good Folly."
Since the collapse in oil prices began in the middle of last year, all eyes have been on how the oil industry responds. Already, some $200 billion of projects have been either axed or deferred, mostly because they cannot compete on costs.
The US shale oil industry is also suffering. This graph below from industry analysts Baker Hughes shows the dramatic fall in the number of rigs operating in the US shale industry.
World leaders decided in Copenhagen that global warming should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius. Achieving that target, though, would take nothing less than a miracle. With another round of climate negotiations approaching, it is becoming increasingly clear that mankind has failed to address its most daunting problem.
2015 is shaping up to be a year of resolution for BC and Canada in energy. This is the year we should know if BC’s hyped LNG export scheme will finally see daylight before its supposed “opportunity window” slams shut due to competitive and price pressures. We’ll also learn whether shovels will turn for BC Hydro’s Peace River Site C dam megaproject, or if legal challenges will tug it into a side-channel.
It’s blunt language, but we really mean it. We’ve simply got to end our civilization’s addiction to fossil fuels. We’ve got to leave them in the ground, and accelerate the switch to clean, safe, climate-friendly renewable energy.