Fossil fuel providers are merely enabling our cozy, polluting ways
Fossil fuel providers have been taking the brunt of public anxiety and frustration over climate change. However, the corporate entities that mine, process and deliver coal, oil and natural gas are one step removed from fossil fuel combustion and the resulting carbon dioxide pollution, the primary driver of climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution does not occur at the behest of Big Oil & Gas, or Big Coal. It occurs when humans operate some sort of fossil fuel-powered mechanical device.
Worldwide, an estimated two billion internal combustion engines propel a global inventory of automobiles, locomotives, ships, aircraft, stationary power generators, lawnmowers and hand-held tools. Tens of thousands of industrial boilers drive steam turbines that turn electric generators in electricity plants, and hundreds of blast furnaces and kilns produce steel and cement. Millions of oil furnaces heat homes. Millions of gas stoves cook food. For the carbon dioxide pollution to stop, humans have to stop building and using these carbon dioxide pollution devices and deploy substitutes.
The ways and means to do this are known, and are making their way into public policy in some progressive societies. The state of California is heading for 100 percent greenhouse-gas-free energy by 2045. The city of Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia aspires to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Politicians in California and British Columbia can entertain these ambitions because both jurisdictions have enormous renewable energy resources available to power their respective electric grids. California, the world’s wealthiest sub-national economy with a GDP roughly the size of India, has has a wealth of solar, wind and geothermal energy. British Columbia’s grid is already 95 percent powered by hydro electricity. On the other end of the spectrum is Poland, with relatively modest renewable capacity. The country’s new leadership is not making any moves to wean its electric grid off of the abundant coal supplies in that country. Poland would have to embrace nuclear energy, or become part of a low carbon European electric grid.
Technological solutions are available to correct what is essentially a technological problem. The main difficulty is whether these solutions can be implemented fast enough within the framework of the prevailing economic order. At present, zero carbon energy targets are only achievable when adequate zero carbon primary energy resources are available and affordable in a given jurisdiction.
But stopping carbon dioxide pollution is a technical problem that is well beyond the skill set of politicians alone.
To the extent that the collective consciousness finds expression in enterprise, politics, activism and personal choice – that consciousness needs to make it clear to the automotive, electricity, industrial and building construction sectors that carbon dioxide pollution must be stopped as quickly as possible. Use electric propulsion in the automotive sector. Phase in wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal and fourth generation nuclear energy in the electricity sector – whatever works best and is most economical in a given region. The international community will have to lend a hand to countries that can’t afford energy transition.
Where possible, individuals and organizations that own carbon dioxide pollution devices, can simply stop using them. Walk, or take a bus, if that works. Enterprises that build carbon dioxide polluting devices for any purpose can build substitutes. This is happening. The collective consciousness needs to focus on these solutions and push hard for accelerated diffusion and adoption. Fossil fuel providers are a distraction, a scapegoat even. Tell the builders and users of carbon dioxide pollution devices (that includes those who might be reading this) to cease and desist. Loud and clear. As soon as practical.