The Arc Of Energy History Is Long But It Bends Toward Renewables
On this, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we should all be celebrating that the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for alternative generation sources is dependably lower than that of carbon emitting sources. (My co-contributor at Forbes, Silvio Marcacci, wrote an excellent article about this happy occasion in January of this year.)
To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of energy history is long, but it bends towards renewables.
As reassuring as that phrase sounds, the journey thus far has not been without many bumps, provided in large part by the vested interests of energy incumbents using the tools of political influence.
For decades, people of a certain political persuasion pooh-poohed alternative energy as being uneconomic without government subsidies. But after spending some time reading through the Oil and Gas Lobbying Report published by The Center for Responsive Politics, it is clear to me that the subsidies most germane to this discussion are the ones provided to politicians by the energy industry.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, over the past five years, oil and gas interests have spent an average of over $125 million per year in federal lobbying efforts, led by privately-owned Koch Industries and followed up by behemoths like ExxonMobil and Chevron.
This indirect subsidy to fine steak houses on K Street totaled well over $1 billion during the last decade; a decade which also saw the highest global temperatures since the beginning of the Industrial Age and the highest atmospheric carbon dioxide levels the last 3 million years.
What has this largesse bought energy incumbents?
- Generous tax shields for the oil companies themselves and for their investors.
- Discounted lease rates to drill on public land (as well as some pretty rocking parties, it sounds like).
- Decades’ worth of living large for oil executives.
- Decades worth of political inaction for the most pressing threat to our civilization.
Let us rejoice at the progress these fifty years’ worth of Earth Days have brought us, but also mindful that the longer one accepts lies as fact, the harder it is to adjust when the lies can no longer be maintained.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.