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The Green Power Illusion

America is finally showing leadership on climate change. But unfortunately the Obama Administration and the majority of US climate change activists haven't learned very important lessons from the peak oil debate and look to be leading the world down an illusory path.

The climate-energy problem needs solution now - not by mid-century. Peakists know that green power - renewable energy: wind, solar, etc - will take many decades to scale up and will never replace fossil fuels to repower America as a consumer-based, car sprawl economy. Therefor green power - even promise of 100% of electrification generation with green power in ten years - is no more a climate change solution than clean coal. Green power and clean coal are lies we tell ourselves because we are in denial about our future and don't want to even consider needed but daunting substantive change.

Powering down and relocalization are instead the key steps on the path to a healthy American future beginning an immediate reduction of fossil fuel use. Keeping dirty coal and oil sands dirty oil in the ground is the necessary first step to mitigating the emergency danger of going over a tipping point to runaway climate change.

But to even those who understand that we must get back under 350 ppm fast, the American lifestyle remains non-negotiable, and so the Obama Admin and the nations leading climate change activists and pundits have all been seduced by the dream of a technofix.

The Arctic is melting; the era of cheap oil is over; the Obama bounce will become a dead cat bounce as oil price spikes with renewed demand - time for a Secretary of Transition to get serious about the Energy-Climate Era.

In Confronting Its Biggest Foe, Green Movement Also Fights Itself
Jeffrey Ball, WSJ Power Shift Blog
The modern environmental movement is having an identity crisis. Staring down its biggest enemy yet, it's fiercely divided over how to beat it.

The global challenge of climate change is tougher than the localized problems the green movement has spent decades fighting. To some environmentalists, it requires chucking old orthodoxies and getting practical. To others, it demands an old-style moral crusade.

The pragmatists have the upper hand. One sign is that the movement is moving beyond small-scale backyard wind turbines and rooftop solar panels. It's calling for technological change at industrial speed and scale -- sometimes to the detriment of local ecologies....

Nothing underscores the green movement's soul-searching more than its conflicted view of coal, which provides about half the world's electricity. Should society pour billions of dollars into trying to perfect a way to turn coal into electricity without emitting greenhouse gases? Or should it reject coal as inalterably dirty and try to replace it entirely with renewable sources like the wind and sun?
(3 April 2009)


Obama gives the best clean energy and global warming solutions job to Cathy Zoi
Joseph Romm, Climate Progress (also at Grist)

Cathy Zoi, CEO of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) under Energy Secretary Steven Chu...

So we know Zoi gets energy efficiency. Here’s what she wrote last year about “ Embracing the Challenge to Repower America“:

Many Americans have a hard time thinking about our energy future, largely because their energy present is so challenging. With gasoline prices hovering near $4 per gallon and rising energy bills at home and at work, our economy is struggling with the burden of imported oil and reliance on fossil fuels. The need to satisfy the nation’s oil appetite has shaped our foreign and defense postures, and is a primary reason for our current entanglements overseas. Extreme weather here in the U.S. has us feeling uneasy. And the scientists remind us more urgently every week about the mounting manifestations of the climate crisis.

To solve these problems, we must repower our economy. Fast.

Vice President Gore has issued a challenge for us to do just that: Generate 100 percent of America’s electricity from truly clean sources that do not contribute to global warming ­ and do so within 10 years. It is an ambitious but attainable goal. American workers, businesses and families are up to it.
(28 March 2009)


Message To Cathy And Repower America: Green Power Is Not A Climate Change Solution
Bill Henderson, Countercurrents
I keep getting these e-mails from Cathy Zoi. They are all the same: green power is good, green power is jobs; clean electricity within 10 years; you can make a difference by joining our petition for clean cars or the green stimulus package or cap and trade, etc. But she always implies that green power, clean cars, or cap and trade are solutions to climate change and although I tried to e-mail her back asking why she is mis-educating Americans at such a crucial time she never replied. So:

Hey Cathy Zoi and Repower America,

Climate change is an immediate tipping point danger. There is no time to develop green power as a mitigation solution. 7% of the world's population (us) are causing this humanity threatening problem. We need to get serious about climate change, seek treatment for our addictions and radically reduce our emissions. We can't remain in New Denial. Why are you using weasel words like the coal industry? They pretend that we can use technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS) when it hasn't been developed, won't be practical for decades if ever, instead of doing what we have to do. Which is stop our use of coal and dirty oil like Alberta's oilsands immediately. (And when CCS is a practical reality then we can burn these fossil fuels again.)
(17 March 2009)


The fierce urgency of now
Bill McKibben, Toronto Star (Also at Common Dreams)
Yes, windmills and dams deface the landscape but the climate crisis demands immediate action.

Watching the backlash against clean energy projects build in Canada has moved me to think about what Americans have learned from facing this same problem. I have been thinking and writing for several years about overcoming conflict-avoidance and the importance of standing up for "Big Truths" even at the price of criticizing fellow environmentalists.

It's not that I've developed a mean streak. It's that the environmental movement has reached an important point of division, between those who truly get global warming, and those who don't.

By get, I don't mean understanding the chemistry of carbon dioxide, or the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, or those kinds of things – pretty much everyone who thinks of themselves as an environmentalist has reached that point. By get, I mean understanding that the question is of transcending urgency, that it represents the one overarching global civilizational challenge that humans have ever faced.

In the U.S., there are all manner of fights to stop or delay every imaginable low-carbon technology. Wind, solar, run-of-river hydro – these are precisely the kinds of renewable energy that every Earth Day speech since 1970 has trumpeted. But now they are finally here – now that we're talking about particular projects in particular places – people aren't so keen.
(25 March 2009)


Bill McKibben and the Technofixers' Tragic Myopia
Jan Lundberg, Culture Change

Like all the global-warming commentators who between them get almost all the press that's not pro-fossil fuels, Bill McKibben is trapped in the faulty logic of the technofix. To understand the pseudo-green vision, read McKibben's recent essay "The Fierce Urgency of Now" that appeared in the Toronto Star and the Common Dreams website (and below).

McKibben says in his March 25, 2009 essay, as he has repeated many times, that the number 350 (parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) is the goal of our time. Yes, if we don't manage it we're all cooked. But it's in the implementation-scheme that we must not be manipulated and tragically misled.

McKibben says we must "reverse the fossil fuel economy", but we must END the fossil fuel economy. Now -- not in "ten years." The fossil fuel economy is collapsing anyway, and since it has no future -- due to the workings of petrocollapse (discussed in this column innumerable times) -- it must be shut down by grassroots action. This will take the form of community survival strategies, not government policy initiatives or green venture capitalism.

For McKibben to advocate a "clean energy" transition to a green consumer economy without a fundamental culture change means several things. One is that he does not "get" peak oil or the impossibility of replacing the petroleum infrastructure. Another major error on his part is his corporate position of better cars being the answer; rather, they are the threat. If we waste time on this scam that does not promise to save energy or lives, then McKibben may as well be campaigning for 460 ppm instead of 350. Let us briefly excoriate the corporate news media that is much more friendly to the technofix trap than to fundamental change:
(30 March 2009)
Collapse promises serious emission reduction IF all the world's economies collapse together but is that likely? In a world full of armaments and remaining fossil fuels a quiet descent to relocalized arcadia is more than a little naive. And what cultural treasures do we lose? A controlled descent is preferable to a spiral to chaos but not a choice so long as 'Yes we can' remains an ad for yesterday's American Dream. -BH

UPDATE (April 19, 2009) Jan Lundberg writes:

Editorial Notes: Bill is certainly making some valid points here. While I take issue with the way some of them are expressed, and I disagree with Jan Lundberg about Bill McKibben not "getting" Peak Oil, see here and here, I do think there is a lot of "green power myopia" out there. KS.

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