*Big Oil spends $15 million each day advertising
Okay, so the winds blowing through Congress may set back any energy and climate legislation for years. But all is not lost: With the corporate world embracing innovation in clean energy, lawmakers will soon be forced to keep up with the times.
Of course, we’re still up against a wall of doubt built by opponents.
We consistently see the anti clean energy media making the point that a transition to renewables will drive prices up, lose jobs and cause damage to an already fragile economy. It’s a classic “denial” marketing strategy – trumpet exactly the opposite of reality. Some leading this effort are experts at this strategy and earned their stripes after speweing decades of misinformation while working for the tobacco industry, and have moved to crafting the response for challenges to the status quo of energy production.
Certainly those currently making money in the fossil fuel industry have a lot at stake as they don’t want to become this century’s Black Smiths. Robert Kennedy Jr. pointed out in an excellent interview with Grist.com that collectively, Big Oil spends $15 million each day advertising their “scary” message. By comparison, that’s about what the entire Clean Energy and Environmental Community spends in a year.
Little wonder why there is no legislation for clean energy and climate policy, that 25-30% of the public question Climate Change’s existence and that government subsidizes the oil industry to the tune of between between $130-280 billion annually. This last point seems patently absurd when you realize that three of the five largest companies on the planet are oil companies (Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP) – and they’re the most profitable. Even after paying out billions in Gulf Oil Spill damages in the summer of 2010, BP still was able to earn almost $2 billion in profit during the same period. Do these guys really need taxpayer financial support? Sad when you consider that a new transmission line to bring the Mid West wind and Southwest Solar energy to our population centers would cost less than four years worth of that oil subsidy.
All of these inequities are bought and paid for – plain and simple.
We can go on and on ranting about the lack of common sense that goes into the energy hopper of public policy and discourse, or we can look enthusiastically at making a difference through innovation. Looking back through history, it has always been improvements in technology and business models that have brought about change.
It was the cotton gin and steam engine that spawned the industrial revolution (outlawing slavery in the British Empire also helped); harnessing electricity and oil was the key to such incredible growth in the 20thCentury; and the interent created a vast network that formed the basis of our today’s information-driven global economy. In every case it was the implementation of new technology that undid our past practices and ushered in greater waves of prosperity.
It will be no different this time.
We certainly have our Morgan’s, Carnegie’s and Rockefeller’s in our midst that pull the levers of power and retain most of the wealth. But this time around there are Gate’s, Khosla’s and Buffett’s to balance out the Cheney’s, Koch’s, Blankenship’s and their ilk.
These and others have been powerful thought leaders in this sector. In addition, the efforts of clean energy opponents have been thwarted by giant companies like WalMart, Intel and GSK that have turned to renewable energy solutions to power their businesses. In addition, other giant conglomerates like GE, Siemens and Honeywell have become leading investors in clean energy solutions; GE has pledged to spend hundreds of billions in new energy technologies in the coming years, and recently announced that it would also buy 45,000 electric vehicles for its sales fleet.
The Carbon Disclosure Project, which reviews the Global 500 biggest companies and rates their climate and sustainability policies, recently reported that more than 80% of top companies are working on carbon emissions reduction and sustainability programs. In addition, a recent UN sponsored study conducted by Accenture of 766 global CEOs found that 93% say that sustainability will be critical to the future success of their companies.
With this kind of support from the corporate world, there’s a real chance that we can continue our progress even without consistent support from Congress. As innovation keeps brewing, federal lawmakers will have no choice but to listen.