The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report made it clear that by 2030, one of two things will have happened: either we will have reduced emissions by 45% (and continued to lower emissions to 0% by 2050), or we will have burned through the remaining carbon budget and be on track to hitting temperature increases above 1.5°C.
For businesses, the future is binary and will require some sacrifice either way. Within the next decade, we will blow through the 1.5°C ceiling and have absolutely no license to operate any kind of energy-intensive business (which would exponentially exacerbate the climate problem). …
We’ve all known about the problems of climate change for decades. Will we finally do something about it in our generation?
Oil-and-gas corporations were some of the first to know about the dangers of climate change, from as early as the 1950s. But instead of alerting the public, oil companies led multimillion-dollar disinformation campaigns after realizing that climate change had the potential to hurt their profits. In 1988, Exxon’s manager of science and strategy development urged Exxon to “emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions.”
What’s the greatest limitation to a nation’s economic productivity? Data from the World Bank shows that energy is the leading barrier to a nation’s productivity.
Electrification rates rise steeply as countries move through the income bracket of $500-$1,000 per capita GDP. It intuitively makes sense that a country’s economic potential is highly correlated with its energy access — energy is an input to nearly every good and service, so when people make things or import/export more services, people need more energy. …
“With the broadcast system, you have one person in one station deciding what gets put out over the airwaves. When you have a distributed network, like the internet, everybody can be a server. There’s no distinction between the broadcaster and the receiver: every computer does both. You can take your home laptop and run a server off of it in the same way that the biggest computers at Google can. There’s no fundamental difference between the computers they have in their server rooms and what you have on your desk.” — Aaron Swartz, cofounder of Reddit
Decentralization eventually comes to every industry. …
J.D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, became the world’s first billionaire in 1916. It wasn’t Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, or Cornelius Vanderbilt, the transportation mogul, or J.P. Morgan, the legendary banker. It was Rockefeller. And this was even considering the fact that oil had largely been used only for machinery, medicine, and lighting up to that point, and transportation only came into the mix in the early 1900s.
Oil has since become the most important commodity, ever. In fact, almost every major geopolitical event in the past century can be tied to oil.
How did oil get to be so important? …
“Electricity is different from everything else. We cannot do without it, which makes opportunities to take advantage of a deregulated market endless… In electric power, we must have openness. There is no place for companies like Enron.“ — David Freeman, Chair of the California Power Authority
The US introduced electricity deregulation with the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Power generation was unbundled from other electricity services and turned over to a competitive market, allowing customers to choose where they bought their energy from. Within a handful of years, 20 states had introduced market competition.
Then, in 2000 through 2001, power prices suddenly spiked in California for no reason. California should have had more than enough capacity for the demand, but electricity suddenly became in short supply and prices spiked 20x. By the time the dust settled, major utilities like PG&E had gone bankrupt, Southern California Edison had become nearly insolvent, hundreds of thousands of businesses and households were without electricity, and there were $45B in damages. …
A democracy only functions with a well-educated electorate, and those who are misinformed or are too intellectually lazy to find out the truth are ergo dangerous to our democracy. The misinformed aren’t “bad” or “stupid.” But they do hold a fundamental flaw in their conviction in their right to hold an opinion.
Everyone is not allowed an opinion. Opinions are earned.
First off, we need to accept that we can’t blindly rely on others for all of our opinions. Just because some people are smarter or more reliable than others about certain things, they aren’t necessarily smarter than everyone about all things. Overconfidence leads experts to make proclamations on matters far from their field of expertise, like a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who becomes convinced that vitamin C is a wonder drug, or a pediatrician from Australia who becomes a global spokesperson for Soviet foreign policy, or an atomic physicist who goes on TV to tell people that CO2 is good for the environment. …
“We are as gods, and might as well get good at it.”
-Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog
Global efforts such as the Paris climate agreement have tried to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Despite bold proclamations and enthusiastic rallies, the world is still right on track to hit warmings of 3.2°C. According to a Nature paper from last month, the odds that temperatures will increase by more than 4°C by 2100 is 93% (much higher than the 62% given by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013). …
Imagine an electric car that could be fueled as quickly as a gasoline powered car. A generator that could lie dormant for years without any damage to the system, making it ideal for backup power applications. An engine that could achieve a higher energy conversion efficiency because it relies on electrochemistry to generate power and not combustion.
Yeah, imagine. Wouldn’t it be fantastic? It would justify the $20B valuation of the fuel cell market.