Guest essay by Eric Worrall
For once Bill McKibben is right – if all the towns and cities in the world went 100% renewable, big oil would be crushed, and Washington’s bipartisan infatuation with Fossil Fuels would be defeated. The only problem with this plan: renewables are expensive, and they are not a viable replacement for fossil fuels.
We can battle climate change without Washington DC. Here’s how
Global warming is an immediate battle with enormous consequences. We dare not wait for Washington to return to sanity – nor do we have to
The most telling item in Donald Trump’s State of the Union address may have been what wasn’t there: any mention of climate change, the greatest problem the world faces. And just as telling was the fact that official Washington seemed barely to notice.
Even if Democrats manage to take back the House and Senate in the midterm elections, they wouldn’t be able to get meaningful legislation past Trump – and there’s nothing much to suggest they’d try very hard.
New York City is not as big as the federal government, but it’s big enough: it’s got lawyers aplenty, and the resources to do real damage. And it won’t be alone. We’ve just launched a huge Fossil Free US campaign, designed to make sure there are a thousand New Yorks working on a thousand fronts.
It has three main components.
The first – joining in work pioneered by groups like the Sierra Club – is to persuade towns, cities, counties, and states to pledge to make the transition to 100% renewable energy. This is now easy and affordable enough that it doesn’t scare politicians – cities from San Diego to Atlanta have joined in, and they will help maintain the momentum towards clean energy that the Trump administration is trying so hard to blunt.
Activists like Bill McKibben genuinely believe that renewables are an inexpensive replacement for fossil fuels. They believe the reason fossil fuels haven’t been replaced by renewables is that fossil fuel interests are fighting to prevent the rise of renewables, to protect their own interests.
This view is a fantasy.
I’m sure fossil fuel interests do a lot of lobbying, but the truth is there is nothing, not a single thing that fossil fuel companies could do to prevent the rise of a better energy solution.
The problem with renewables is that they are not a better energy solution.
History is littered with rapid shifts to new energy technology. Kerosene replaced whale oil in just a few decades.
Natural gas replaced kerosene lighting on a similar timescale. Electric lighting rapidly replaced natural gas.
Famous inventor and business tycoon Thomas Edison once tried really hard to prevent the rise of a superior energy technology. Edison failed. George Westinghouse’s AC electricity grid displaced Thomas Edison’s DC electricity, because at the time AC was easier to transport over long distances.
Nobody has to make pledges or campaign for the adoption of better energy solutions. The evidence from history is that people embrace better energy solutions of their own free will, without any need for government intervention or noisy activist campaigns.
If renewables were any good, the renewable revolution would be rapid and uncontroversial. The strongest evidence that renewables are inferior is the fact that the renewable revolution has been, is and for the foreseeable future will continue to be an utter failure.
Correction (EW): h/t rogercaiazza The gas used for lighting was not natural gas, at least not initially.