By Bill Paul
What a coincidence that as ExxonMobil’s interest in shale gas grows, the company declares, in its latest long-term energy forecast, that it has seen the future and it is natural gas. Or as the Wall Street Journal put it, “Exxon Declares Gas King”
Every clean tech advocate and investor should beware this statement – and others like it that fossil fuel’ers like Daniel Yergin have recently made – because it underscores clean tech’s greatest vulnerability, namely: the more embedded investment fossil-fuel firms have to protect, the more ferociously they will fight to stop the development of “game-changing” clean technologies.
Cynic that I am, I would argue that clean tech has been “allowed” to develop by the fossil folks and their Wall Street allies who truly control the global energy industry partly because billions of embedded investment in coal-fired power plants and other aging fossil-fuel infrastructure have been coming off the books in recent years. Couple that with the expected surge in energy demand through at least 2050, and it has become advantageous for Wall Street to put money to work building a global clean-tech industry.
With shale gas ascending, however, clean tech is faced with the prospect of billions of its dollars being diverted into new fossil-fuel infrastructure that won’t come off the books for decades. Bonds that are sold to develop the shale gas industry are bonds that must then be protected from game-changing clean technologies.
Could this push climate change past the “tipping point”? Absolutely. But that’s not an argument that will sell on Wall Street.
Here’s one which, if enough people start talking about it, may help keep clean tech in the big-money game. A new study from the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) concludes that switching from coal-fired to gas-fired power generation would do little to significantly slow down climate change and might actually accelerate it.
Bill Paul – firstname.lastname@example.org – is a consultant and the owner of Earth Preservers – http://earthpreservers.com — an environmental education newsletter and edutainment website for kids of all ages. A former Wall Street Journal energy reporter and CNBC special energy correspondent, in 2010 Paul was named a “thought leader” in energy by the US public television program “Consuelo Mack WealthTrack” — http://wealthtrack.com.