Saturday, April 20, 2013

Coal and gas - the new tobacco

We now know enough to say that coal and gas.....and, yes, oil are having the same negative consequences that we have come to associate with tobacco and asbestos.  In fact they are worse. Despite 'big oil' and 'big coal' pursuing similar strategies to 'big tobacco' we know that some form of tipping point is approaching when the front page of a UK morning paper reports:

"Carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis – report
Trillions of dollars at risk as stock markets inflate value of fossil fuels that may have to remain buried forever, experts warn"

The article says:

"The stark report is by [Lord Nicholas] Stern and the thinktank Carbon Tracker. Their warning is supported by organisations including HSBC, Citi, Standard and Poor's and the International Energy Agency. The Bank of England has also recognised that a collapse in the value of oil, gas and coal assets as nations tackle global warming is a potential systemic risk to the economy, with London being particularly at risk owing to its huge listings of coal."

I agree with Chris Reidy when he writes that all subsidies to unused coal, gas and oil should go up in smoke. He points out that:

"More than half of global greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels. Reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use is a critical priority. Most of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yet governments around the world still pour billions of dollars into supporting fossil fuel production and use every year. Money utilised to prop up the fossil fuel industry dwarfs investment in renewable energy. This is a backwards policy that needs to change."

A tragedy that we have inflicted upon ourselves globally is how we have come to believe that natural gas is cleaner than coal and thus a transitional subsitute for oil. Who is it that sold us this discourse? In the process we are creating, or have created 'big gas' and distorted investment strategies so vital for our collective futures. Investment in renewables and more innovation in demand management are the only sure forms of energy security. As this revealing clip shows by turning to gas we are making things worse - it is a turning in the wrong direction.

We need to remove the social license to operate for 'big coal', 'big oil' and 'big gas' as quickly as possible - a good way to start is to remove all taxpayer subsidy.

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