John Ashton, formerly Britain’s top climate diplomat, writes in an open letter to the president of Shell Oil:
You deny your assets will be stranded. True, first tier assets are cheap, and those that are heavily invested in tend to bear fruit quickly. But your case also assumes failure on 2C and rates of renewables deployment long surpassed by reality.
The Bank of England is watching the carbon bubble. Bloomberg screens include a carbon risk valuation tool. The divestment movement may still be small but it is rallying young people, has moral authority, and can now make a prudential case as well as an environmental one.
Writing on the wall. Story of the world.
You could accept squarely that the days of yesterday’s business model are numbered, that the challenge now is to manage its decline and build alongside it a new business fit for today.
Bill McKibben writing in The Guardian on the coming shift in the world energy economy:
What in 2013 was the rallying cry of a few student campaigners has by 2015 become the conventional wisdom: there’s a “carbon bubble,” composed of the trillions of dollars of coal and oil and gas that simply must be left underground. Here’s the president of World Bank speaking in Davos: “Use smart due diligence. Rethink what fiduciary responsibility means in this changing world. It’s simple self-interest. Every company, investor and bank that screens new and existing investments for climate risk is simply being pragmatic….”
Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, did his best to explain the unwelcome news to the industry at a conference last October: the “vast majority” of the planet’s carbon reserves “are unburnable,” he said. When Shell’s chief executive hit back last month, calling a rapid transition off fossil fuel “simply naïve,” it was Tory veteran and chair of parliament’s energy committee Tim Yeo who told him off: “I do believe the problem of stranded assets is a real one now. Investors are starting to think by 2030 the world will be in such a panic about climate change that either by law or by price it will be very hard to burn fossil fuels on anything like the scale we are doing at the moment.”
Read his analysis here.
The Washington Post reports from the electricity battleground in the clean energy transition, where surprising political realignments are emerging:
“Conservatives support solar — they support it even more than progressives do,” said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of the Alliance for Solar Choice and a vice president of public policy for Sunrun, a California solar provider. “It’s about competition in its most basic form. The idea that you should be forced to buy power from a state-sponsored monopoly and not have an option is about the least conservative thing you can imagine.”
Read more here.
Some good news from the energy efficiency frontlines:
[I]nvestment in energy efficiency is large and growing: $300 billion in 2011 by companies and governments in 11 countries. That is the same as total investment in electricity generation from oil, gas and coal, though less than investment in renewable electricity plus renewable-energy subsidies. But it saves more in emissions of carbon dioxide than all the spending on renewables, and pays for itself.
Read more here.
Matt Taibbi on another improvised explosive device buried in bank deregulation – one that could lead to the biggest bang yet:
Banks aren’t just buying stuff, they’re buying whole industrial processes. They’re buying oil that’s still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they’re also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.
Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It’s something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays….
The irony was incredible. After fucking up so badly that the government had to give them federal bank charters and bottomless wells of free cash to save their necks, the feds gave Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley hall passes to become cross-species monopolistic powers with almost limitless reach into any sectors of the economy.
Read more here.
Worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels amount to a whopping $500 billion annually, according to a new report from London-based Overseas Development Institute:
They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development.
Read about another tilted playing field here.
Wanting to preserve the centralized electric power system and guaranteed returns of 10%, the nation’s electric utilities are ramping up to quash the threat posed by rooftop solar panels, writes Diane Caldwell in the New York Times:
For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.
Read more here.
Senator Bernie Sanders (Ind-VT) writes on winners and losers in U.S. energy policy:
It is not about whether government is picking winners and losers, because clearly government has been doing just that for years, with the fossil fuel and nuclear industries being the big winners. What is necessary to reverse global warming and create jobs is that we pick the right winners – the technologies that will transform our energy system and protect the environment.
Read his take here.
Bill McKibben breaks down the “new math” of global warming:
We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn….
Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically aboveground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It’s why they’ve worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada’s tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.
Read it here.
In 2010, Pittsburgh’s City Council voted unanimously to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction within city limits. Now the Pennsylvania legislature is moving to deny local governments the right to protect the local environment:
We don’t have a fracking problem. We have a democracy problem.
Read about it here.