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Why Dirty Fossil Fuel Barons' Power and Wealth May Be Reaching its Limits

There are very concrete and practical reasons to believe that their power and wealth is reaching its limits and will soon decline.

Photo Credit: © Robert Lucian Crusitu/ Shutterstock.com



This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

"I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”  - - Thomas Edison, 1931

I’ve been doing just about all I can for the last 10 years to help build the climate movement. For virtually all of that time I’ve done so without much hope that we can defeat Dirty Coal, Oil and Gas in enough time to prevent massive climate disruption.

In all honesty, many times I’ve felt that I was doing this work mainly to be able to live with myself, to know when I die that I have done all I could to try to stabilize the earth’s unraveling climate and the extreme, catastrophic weather that would come with that unraveling.

But over the last month or two, for very specific reasons, I’m coming to see things differently. I’m beginning to believe that the human race has a fighting chance of preventing runaway, catastrophic climate change and, in so doing, open the way for a much more just, peaceful and democratic world.

Why do I think this?

One reason was the Obama victory and the Congressional losses for the climate-denying Republican Party. It isn’t that I expect great things from Obama and the Democrats, especially if left to make energy decisions without any major political pressure; it’s that their winning gives the climate movement, and other movements, openings we wouldn’t have with Republican control of the White House and Congress.

Another reason is Obama speaking more substantively than he has in years about the climate crisis in both his Inaugural and State of the Union speeches.

Then there is the important initiative taken by the national Sierra Club, joined in by 350.org, the Hip Hop Caucus and 165 other groups, to organize the first actual “march on Washington” by the climate movement. And that demonstration was a big success, 40,000 or more determined and high-spirited people on a very cold mid-February day, from all over the country.

There is the on-going development of the No Keystone XL pipeline movement, from the cutting-edge actions of Tar Sands Blockade, to demonstrations taking place when Obama or Kerry leave their offices to speak publicly, to legal action winning initial victories in Nebraska, to over 52,000 people signed up to engage in “peaceful civil disobedience” if Kerry/Obama approve the pipeline, to much more, and much more to come.

There is the emergence of a nationally-connected, impacted-communities-rooted and activist-oriented movement against fracking via Stop the Frack Attack that will likely be organizing a national week of action against fracking in late spring or summer.

And there are the continuing series of polls that show, in part because of all the extreme weather events in the US in 2012, growing numbers--about 2/3rds of the US American people--who support action to deal with the climate crisis.

All of these developments, essentially political and movement-building developments, are evidence that we are winning the “hearts and minds’ battle, at the same time that we are ramping  up and deepening the climate movement.

Just as significantly, the last couple of months have made me aware of good news as far as the developing economic and social shift from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy, particularly wind and solar.

At the national Stop the Frack Attack conference in Dallas, Texas I was inspired by solar entrepreneur Danny Kennedy’s presentation about how solar energy is poised to take off in the United States (it’s already doing so in Europe, China and elsewhere). Reading his book, Rooftop Revolution, provided a deeper understanding of what is going on: solar panels are becoming more efficient, they are coming down in a big way in price, and there are new ways for people to have them installed that make them much more affordable to many more people. As a result, rooftop solar in the US grew by 76% in 2012. China “recalibrated the target in its 12 th five-year plan to 15 gigawatts installed by 2015—50% higher than the previous target.” (p, 22) “Globally, solar is the fastest-growing industry, valued at more than $100 billion. And in the US, it’s the fastest-growing job creating sector.” (p. 24) “The year 2011 marked the first time in history that [Europe, China and the US] invested more money in renewable energy than in fossil fuels.” (p. 28). “I think that history will look back on this period and see that the tide turned in 2010 when fully half of new electric generation coming online globally was renewable.” (p. 102)

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