Investors Feud Over Renewable Energy Transition
By Brian Wagenaar
Influential financial outlets like the Wall Street Journal are downplaying the IPCC’s latest report, stating that the climate crisis is not as dire as the IPCC portends. Nonetheless, renewable energy investments are holding their own. In the first half of 2021, more money was spent on renewable energy investments than in any previous year ($174 billion), although funding lagged behind the latter half of 2020. Renewable energy advocates are hoping that the IPCC report, in combination with Biden Administration leadership, will lead to soaring investment figures.
Renewable energy investors expect the long-awaited infrastructure bill to bolster the market. The infrastructure bill that just passed through the U.S. Senate plans to spend $1 trillion upgrading U.S. infrastructure, more than half of which would be new funding. While the lion share of that money would be allocated to much-needed water, transportation, internet, and power upgrades, some is earmarked for research and development into clean energy technologies, and for the development of electric vehicles and carbon capture.
After passage in the Senate, some House Democrats want to expand and tweak the bill to focus more on boosting the clean energy economy, and to get closer to the original $ 2.6 trillion proposed by the White House. For now, we will simply have to wait and see how negotiations play out.
At this critical juncture for renewable energy, let’s take a look at the points being made by both sides of the debate around our energy future.
Renewable Energy Detractors, and Many “Old School” and Conservative Decision-makers Argue:
- Renewable energy is not fiscally viable, and that adopting these technologies at broad scales will harm the economy and bring economic growth to a standstill. We simply do not have the proper technologies to power our economy on renewables, so we should stick to fossil fuels, which are tried and true.
- Concerns about climate change are vastly overblown by IPCC scientists, progressive politicians, and those in the renewable energy field for the purpose of political and economic gains, and that the impacts of climate change will not be nearly as dire as these groups claim. We have “only” warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius, and we cannot possibly know what the future will hold, so there is no reason to tank our economy over an overblown threat.
- The status quo has produced an ideal world, and that there is justification to undergo significant transformation to our political, social, and economic systems that are fundamentally sound in their current state. We have become the wealthiest nation in the history of the world by burning fossil fuels: Why stop now?
The Renewable Energy Advocates and Many “Progressive” Investors and Decision-makers Argue:
- Renewable energy costs are plummeting, and that price decrease is not just from subsidies, either. Despite built-in subsidies for oil and gas production, solar and wind energies have become competitive, and in some instances, cheaper, than oil and gas. We have the necessary technologies to scale up these power sources to fit our needs when utilized in concert with smart decisions around energy consumption. Additionally, geothermal and biomass power generation are becoming more viable every year. Put together, these “alternative” energies and strategic reductions in power needs (with little to no negative impact on human livelihoods) should be able to power the American economy with no issue in perpetuity.
- The scientific data and reports have been getting progressively grimmer over the past several decades, and that we know more now about climate science than we ever have. While it is impossible to know exactly what planetary conditions correspond to certain greenhouse gas levels or temperature increases, we know that continuing to emit GHGs will only worsen the frightening, and economically costly, impacts we have already seen around the world. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to transform our human systems in the face of these harsh realities.
- The status quo has led us to the brink of climate disaster, while also producing vast economic inequalities. Additionally, our current economic and political systems value large, disconnected supply chains and energy systems prone to catastrophic failure, rather than localized, systems that prioritize resilience and community control. We need to radically transform these systems quickly to avert further human suffering, and to prepare for an increasingly hazardous future.
It is clear that under examination, the detractor’s arguments just don’t hold up to scientific inquiry, or to the realities on the ground. Renewable energies are picking up momentum, despite numerous political setbacks, and offer our only real option to enjoy our modern lifestyles while curbing carbon emissions and addressing our climate crisis.
Click HERE to read analysis about the infrastructure bill’s impact on the energy industry
And click HERE to read more about the strong renewable energy investments in the first half of 2021