Climate Battle Is Shifting, Finally Scaling to the Problem

It may not yet be apparent to most people, but "the climate battle has moved to a new phase, one in which the scale of the solutions being debated is, for the first time, approaching the scale of the problem."

That’s how former Executive Director of Sierra Club, Carl Pope starts his latest blog.

The other paragraph that strikes me is about the fossil fuel industry: "The reality is they are losing. Their campaign strategy – which worked for decades – was to mire the public debate down in climate science and risk, and thereby keep action on climate solutions at the "too small to really matter" scale. But they got greedy, and allowed the price of oil and coal to steadily soar."

He compares what’s happening in California and India as evidence – dramatically raising their renewable energy goals. Governor Brown raised the target to 50% by 2030 and a 50% cut in petroleum use in cars and trucks, and India’s outsized goal is for 100 GW of solar by 2022.

Here are some excerpts:

Carl Pope

"Brown’s and Modi’s electricity goals are bold, ambitious and exciting. They will be attacked as expensive and unwise. But they cannot be dismissed as impossible — California has already reached 25% renewable electricity, India is producing the world’s cheapest solar power, and other countries like Portugal and Denmark have demonstrated that renewable electricity is ready to carry more than half of their power load.

"But California – and the world — are starting from almost scratch in seeking fuel diversity in the transportation sector- oil powers more than 90% of the world’s transport. Both India and the US have enacted tough fuel efficiency standards to reduce petroleum waste. But California State’s low-carbon fuel standard and ZEV mandates are only beginning to kick in, and transportation fuels have just been placed under the state’s AB32 cap. (Oregon joined California a few days after Brown’s speech putting in place requirements the fuels sold in the state have 10% less carbon by 2020.) Ramping up to a 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030 will require a massive replacement of the state’s existing vehicle fleets, engine technologies, transportation infrastructure and fuel networks.

"But if California can realize this vision, the odds that the rest of the world moves beyond oil dependency go up staggeringly. Big oil gets this. Houston, Wichita, Calgary and Riyadh have no doubt seen dozens of meetings in the last week about how to crush Brown’s vision before the public realizes just how practical it is.

"Mission Impossible" will be the war-cry. "They’re going to take your car away" the Koch Brother ads and sound bites will babble. "Renewable power isn’t reliable" the coal companies will croak.

"The reality is they are losing. Their campaign strategy – which worked for decades – was to mire the public debate down in climate science and risk, and thereby keep action on climate solutions at the "too small to really matter" scale. But they got greedy, and allowed the price of oil and coal to steadily soar. That opened up a market for clean energy that wasn’t based on climate protection, although climate security is its most important benefit. No, Tesla and Solar City – and their Indian counterparts — are powered by the fact that they offered better energy products with cheaper fuels.

"Renewable energy investment demonstrated this again in 2014. Even as coal, oil and natural gas prices fell, global investment in renewable energy jumped by 16%, and with steadily dropping costs for renewable energy, the volume of new clean energy increased by more than 25%.

"And things are going badly with Big Carbon’s delaying strategy. The President has announced he will veto a bill that jams Keystone down his throat. The delay in approving pipelines has forced oil producers to use railroads – and that in turn has slowed the delivery by rail of coal for power plants reducing coal’s market share, and pitting coal and oil producers against each other for rail access.

Duke and Dominion Power tried to slow the growth of clean electricity in North Carolina by weakening the requirement that they pay full value for such electrons – the Utility Commission rejected their appeal.

China has reduced not only imports of coal, but total consumption. India’s biggest private coal developers, including Tata, Adani and Jindal, all refused to bid on two new government mega-imported coal plants, forcing India to cancel the bidding process. Clearly the companies were worried that the economics of importing coal to India no longer work. (Meanwhile Modi is paying for his solar initiative with the carbon tax India has levied on coal.)

Read the full blog:

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