“Yes, hope is a strange thing. Peace at last. But at what price?”
Great Societies have been lost in the past–a number of times. There is no reason to believe our current crop is immune!
The United States is currently engaged in a great climate civil war. One one side there are those who advocate for expensive and expansive economic and social investment in so-called Climate Change. Climate Change Skeptics, often derided by the aforementioned group as Climate Deniers are those who question the Scientific Consensus and the cost and return on the investment to become Net Carbon Zero. By the way, science is never settled.
From the observer’s perspective, there is a long term effort to shut down debate, as is typical in today’s society largely by name calling, shaming and even threats. Dissenters seemingly risked their professional reputation, loss of grants, even safety, and more.
And Now Questions
Funny thing happened on the road to Net Zero. Questions began to be raised about the efficacy of renewables, and their Total Lifecycle Cost. Moreover, the heavy metal cost of ecological damages of mining were raised and are now under scrutiny.
The Let Them Eat Cake Strategy
Transitions, especially Transformations are painful. Based on Joseph Schumpeter’s Creative Destruction, “The incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones,” transformation is a linchpin of Capitalism. Now, some believe socialism is the future, history does not prove their point. Are any to turn in the Smart Phones for the old black dial model tethered to a wall?
However, when this natural process is driven by the ‘heavy hand’ of non-economic actors, perturbations in the process can cause warps in the economic space time continuum. Some examples of overreach include:
Some argue that, “Agriculture accounts for 16 to 27% of human-caused climate-warming emissions.” Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the named culprit (according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this chemical accounts for 6% of greenhouse emissions).
It is reported that in the Netherlands agricultural sector system manure is high in nitrous oxide. Emotions are apparently running high between Dutch farmers who see a targeted 30% reduction in livestock heads and the government whose position seems to be this is an “unavoidable transition.” Jobs are at risk!
It seems the President of the United States is celebrating high gasoline prices as part of “an incredible transition” to move away from fossil fuels. As with the Dutch case, this seems to place the biggest burden on the so-called ‘little guy.”
We all remember the trucker protests in Canada and the United States in early 2022, mostly regarding Covid-19 restrictions. Around the world there was a strong level of solidarity.
This sector is also not immune to Climate Change driven initiatives. From one source there are two key considerations:
- The proposed 2027 new emissions regulations for diesel-powered trucks, and
- The 2030 goals from some states and their aggressive objectives for zero-emissions vehicle sales.
One might project similar (Covid-19 driven) responses to these new mandates. This might be another major negative impact to supply chains for all sectors.
The US Secretary of Transportation has suggested that everyone would benefit from an EV. At the time of his statement (October 2021), the average cost of an EV was $55,676 while a compact car was $25,240 and and SUV was $34,122.
By this pundits calculation (at $4 a gallon), break even for the SUV is 5,389 gallons of gasoline at 20 miles per gallon. As mathematicians will say, it follows that break even is almost 108,000 miles of driving. Years of driving for most of us and what shape will the battery be in at that point. While some argue the maintenance costs are less for EV, most consumers are driven by out-of-pocket buying decisions. Then there the disposal costs of EVs at end of life (see Other Blogs below for details).
Perhaps one of the more emotional fossil fuel development process is Fracing (not Fracking by the way). Some believe the damage to the environment from fracing is the greatest of any human endeavors.
On the other hand, the value from fracing includes:
- The shale revolution mad the United States self-sufficient in oil and gas for the first time since 1947
- In 2022, the US is the largest exporter of LNG (liquified natural gas)
Given the current geopolitical situation, easy access to low-cost traditional energy sources is at least near time high value.
There are many other areas of controversy regarding this issue. More than likely both sides will continue to make their points and emotions will continue to play a major role. There will be Winners and Losers over the next few years as this debate plays out. Honest scientific debate can mitigate the emotional and political agenda at play.
Are Green Initiatives Making the Problem Worse?
Per the NBC piece aired on September 20, 2022, illegal gold mining in Peru not only releases mercury into the ecosystem but adds to environmental carbon when the soil is disturbed. This makes this pundit wonder if all the heavy metal strip mining to fuel EVs will do the same in addition to its other environmental problems (see Heavy Metal Rocks below)?
Moreover, this issue about strip mining and carbon release has been known for a long time. In 1977 the peer reviewed scholarly article, Soil fungal populations and soil respiration in habitats variously influenced by coal strip-mining addressed this issue.
Likewise, NBC reported on illegal gold mining in Peru in 2019. Point being, this information is not new nor is The Science newly discovered.
Unintended Consequences run amok? Are lithium batteries destroying the planet?
And the Winner Is?
No one! If we do nothing, we are told the oceans will rise and temperatures will become unbearable causing all manner of weather driven catastrophes as well as increased intensity and frequency of forest fires. On the other hand, spending the multiple trillions of dollar will enrich the (very) few at the cost of economic collapse for the many.
Lose–Lose Deal. Either way our world ends or our economies end. Is there a difference?
According to Merriam-Webster, “A pyrrhic victory is a victory that comes at a great cost, perhaps making the ordeal to win not worth it. It relates to Pyrrhus, a king of Epirus who defeated the Romans in 279 BCE but lost many of his troops.”
So Global Society is faced with two choices. The earth is in physical peril unless we spend malevolent amounts of money as fast as possible. Or, as a result of economic destruction on a global scale if this level of spending adds little if any value. Then we will all live in poverty or worse. Either way, Human Extinction is one end game proclaimed by many. The very definition of a Dilemma.
According to Merriam Webster, one definition of Hobson’s Choice is, “The necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives.” Not a great place to find oneself.
The ancient Romans apparently made poor decisions as a mature and wealthy society. It cost them dearly. Are we now?
How are You and Your Organization Assessing the Risk of Investing in Climate Change (Conventional Wisdom) Scenarios or Alternative Approaches?
Other Recent Relevant Blogs
These blogs in this series address this particular issue in greater detailed. Together, they form a more complete picture of the author’s position on relevant components discussed here as well aligned subjects. In reverse chronological order:
Sun Sets in the West: Science or Commentary? (August 1, 2022)–The difference between seemingly authoritative ‘opinion’ vs. real documented data and information.
Reports of Fossil Fuels Demise Premature?– Renewables Remain Marginalized? (July 15, 2022)–The role of fossil fuels remain vital to society. The European winter of 202-23 may be a test case.
Why Corporate Initiatives Fail (June 21,2022)–Most Change/Transformation projects are viewed as organizational initiatives. As such like most Climate based transition initiatives they are set up to fail.
Innovation: The Key to the Global Future (June 13, 2022)–Realistic and timely Energy Transition can only be attained at a realist cost and time line by non-linear thinks. This curve is similar to other transformations since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
A Windy Position (May 2, 2022)–A discussion on Lifecyle and Total Cost of Ownership for wind driven energy sources.
Going Green? Or NOT! (February 7, 2022)–The downside of renewables and their End-of-Life decommissioning process/costs.
Heavy Metal Rocks (November 18, 2021)–What it takes to make an EV battery.
They Blinded Me with Science (October 2, 2020)–Discussion regarding actual Science and Pseudo-Science.
For More Information
Please note, RRI does not endorse or advocate the links to any third-party materials herein. They are provided for education and entertainment only.
The author’s credentials in this field are available on his LinkedIn page.
Disclaimer, the author has no personal or business relationship with Bjorn Lomborg or his publications other than reading and commenting on his latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.
Second Disclaimer, Ali Daneshy was interviewed for the referenced Forbes article on Fracing. This author knows Mr. Daneshy and worked with him for many years at Halliburton.
For those start-up firms addressing energy challenges, the author is a member of Global Energy Mentors which provide no-cost mentoring services from energy experts. If interested, check it out and give us a shout.