On November 13, 2013, I wrote the letter below to Bill McKibben, head of the 350.org. This group asserts that CO2 atmospheric concentration should be held below 350 parts per million (ppm) to avoid catastrophic climate change. According to Mr. McKibben, this goal can be achieved by pressuring fossil fuel corporations to turn away from revenue generated by non renewable energy and concentrate instead on renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar. His plan is to convince stock holders to divest their portfolios from fossil fuel shares and support companies specializing in renewable energy technologies. The American political system with embedded emphasis on political campaign fund raising and lobbying will probably hinder a significant advancement in renewable energy technologies, in my opinion. My reasons for this stance are explained below.
Dear Mr. Mckibben,
I watched your sobering video, “Do the Math” and was motivated to check your organization 350.org. Getting people to sell their fossil fuel stock may force that industry to “retool” and pursue renewable energy technologies to sustain their revenue stream. The remainder of this brief letter poses a few questions, comments and suggestions on how I may help your organization.
“Retooling” assumes that enough people will sell their fossil fuel stocks and Oil & Gas will succumb to the financial pressure. How much pressure will be enough? Will Oil & Gas forego their huge investment already made in exploration, well completion, oil/ gas pipeline transmission/distribution networks, refining and retail sales?
Another issue is that Oil & Gas are inexorably entwined in our economy. For example, the rise and fall of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the last 30 years correlates well with variations in oil consumption. How will the expanded use of renewable technologies and the decline of fossil fuels affect the GDP? Please see my blog post on GDP and oil consumption .
Assuming that fossil fuel divestiture occurs on a large scale and quickly enough to reach 350 ppm of CO2, can renewable technologies ramp up fast enough for wide spread commercialization? As of 2010, only 8 percent of our electricity production was due to renewable technologies. Of that 8 percent, only a “sliver” was from wind and solar. Please see my blog post on this matter.
Your organization, 350.org, may want to also consider how political campaign contributions affect the regulatory and tax processes for the benefit of some industries and to the determent of others. For example, political campaign contributions from Oil & Gas totaled nearly $360M from 1990 to 2014. (See OpenSecrets.org). During this same period, political campaign contributions from Alternative Energy and Production Services amounted to slightly more than $10M, while contributions from Environmental Groups totaled nearly $46M. The ratio of these latter two groups compared to Oil & Gas is 0.16. The ratio of Alternative Energy contributions to Oil & Gas is even more pathetic at 0.03.
Based on these ratios, one suspects that Congress is for sale in view of the consistent tax breaks and regulatory favors bestowed upon Oil & Gas compared to Alternative Energy. One might also assume that if Wind and Solar contributed more campaign money than Oil & Gas, those renewable industries would be afforded more Congressional largesse.
In contrast to the United States, Germany has taken the lead on supporting Wind and Solar. Our Government could do the same if it were not owned by Oil &Gas. Please see my blog post on this topic.
In addition to massive campaign spending by Oil & Gas industries, they also finance an army of lobbyists to remind lawmakers how much they owe their political campaign donators. Here is a blog post I wrote on that subject.
As a beacon of inspiration on solving protracted political campaigns and office holder indebtedness, Canadian political campaigns for prime minister have limited duration. The minimum was 36 days, while the longest period amounted to 74 days. This limitation derives from the Canada Elections Act, which constrains campaign spending. Unfortunately, American presidential elections are laboriously plodding along for at least two years with no campaign spending constraints, especially now that corporations are “people.”
While this obscene political campaign spending and lobbying grows each year, our planet is becoming warming…
Dr. Jeffrey Everson350.org, Bill McKibben, Canada Elections Act, CO2, Do the Math, Fossil Fuels, Gas, GDP, Lobbying, Oil, OpenSecrets.org, Renewable Energy, SBIR Consultant