Nationalization, expropriation and revolutionary violence will sweep away any semblance of an “orderly” transition to renewable energy.
The global warming/climate change crisis is destroying our planet and our civilization. The fix is simple to understand: the fossil fuel industry must be terminated. Looking at the future from the standpoint of history, which is what I do, let me give you the good news first: this will happen. The fossil fuel industry will be terminated, and humanity will end the use of fossil fuels, one way or another. Here’s the bad news: again judging from history, violent political and military upheaval, probably resulting in the deaths of many millions of people, will likely occur before this result is achieved. This is as succinct as I can make my analysis.
For decades, many of us who are alarmed about climate change and working toward solutions have labored under a collective delusion that the transition of the world’s economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy would be gradual and relatively orderly. We’ve watched with eagerness and anticipation the cost of renewable energy go down (solar, for example, went from costing 52¢ per kW/hour in 2010 to just 5¢ in 2017) and the market share of renewables go up. I myself cackled with glee at news of the economic tailspin that had seized the oil industry even in 2019, before the pandemic; proof positive that fossils are a dying industry. And they are. Years ago, when I was still a lawyer, I worked with organizations who spoke glowingly of an anticipated endgame for fossil fuels in which they would be ultimately bankrupted by liability payments and a decarbonization project would be mandated by the courts, similar to the 1982 AT&T antitrust breakup on a larger scale. Even fossil companies themselves supposedly see the writing on the wall and they are (at least pretending to be) investing in “transitional” projects and cleaner fuels. This is the fairy tale we’ve sold ourselves.
But a sober look at history, and extrapolation from recent trends informed by an understanding of how societal-level changes of this magnitude have usually happened throughout the human past, discloses the much more likely future. There won’t be an orderly transition at all. Fossil fuel industries have too tight a death-grip on the levers of policy and economics, and they will never—never—relinquish that hold voluntarily.
Their hands will be removed from these levers, but they’ll be removed by strong-arm legislation, revolutionary expropriation, and, I’m sorry to say, ultimately by violence. It won’t matter what the cost per kW/hour of solar energy is, and it won’t matter how profitable (or unprofitable) the industry is. The laws of economics will cease to matter, and “market forces,” whatever those are supposed to be, will have no sway. The transition to a renewable future will occur haphazardly, in an unplanned and chaotic manner, bringing economic ruin to many and unjust rewards to a few. It is also likely to happen at gunpoint. Why do I say this? Because this is how change on this scale has always worked, and if humanity was going to employ a radically different option to effect this kind of change, we would have begun doing so by now. And we haven’t.
There is a lot more to this story. To read it, please click the link below.
FOR THE FULL STORY: How the fossil fuel industry ends.