Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Guardian Columnist George Monbiot, the renewable energy economy is putting so much money into the pockets of greens, that money is being blown on high carbon activities like long distance holiday flights.
While economic growth continues we’ll never kick our fossil fuels habit
Wed 26 Sep 2018 15.00 AEST
There may be more bicycles but there will also be more planes. We’re still in denial about the scale of the threat to the planet
We’re getting there, aren’t we? We’re making the transition towards an all-electric future. We can now leave fossil fuels in the ground and thwart climate breakdown. Or so you might imagine, if you follow the technology news.
So how come oil production, for the first time in history, is about to hit 100m barrels a day? How come the oil industry expects demand to climb until the 2030s? How is it that in Germany, whose energy transition (Energiewende) was supposed to be a model for the world, protesters are being beaten up by police as they try to defend the 12,000-year-old Hambacher forest from an opencast mine extracting lignite – the dirtiest form of coal? Why have investments in Canadian tar sands – the dirtiest source of oil – doubled in a year?
The answer is, growth. There may be more electric vehicles on the world’s roads, but there are also more internal combustion engines. There be more bicycles, but there are also more planes. It doesn’t matter how many good things we do: preventing climate breakdown means ceasing to do bad things. Given that economic growth, in nations that are already rich enough to meet the needs of all, requires an increase in pointless consumption, it is hard to see how it can ever be decoupled from the assault on the living planet.
When a low-carbon industry expands within a growing economy, the money it generates stimulates high-carbon industry. Anyone who works in this field knows environmental entrepreneurs, eco-consultants and green business managers who use their earnings to pay for holidays in distant parts of the world and the flights required to get there. Electric vehicles have driven a new resource rush, particularly for lithium, that is already polluting rivers and trashing precious wild places. Clean growth is as much of an oxymoron as clean coal. But making this obvious statement in public life is treated as political suicide.
Good luck convincing greens not to fly so much.
The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme was recently criticised for his ridiculously excessive air travel, even for a UN executive.
Then of course you have all the enormous fly in COP climate conferences, 10s of thousands of attendees and hangers on who likely didn’t arrive by wooden coracle.
Why are most greens such hypocrites? A study published last May suggested greens think they have a moral license to pollute.
I believe the evidence suggests that, barring a few honourable exceptions, the green vision of the future is a world where the rules only apply to the little people, not to important people like themselves and their fellow greens, who will still need access to cheap energy and jet travel to ensure they can continue to make the world a better place.