Renewables Are a Reality: How We Can Ditch Fossil Fuels Without Any Help From Congress
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I think it’s partly for this reason that climate leadership has shifted from international negotiations and national policies to the private sector, and many companies are racing to pocket the real profits while the politicians and theoretical economists argue about how big the costs are. Dow [Chemical], for example, invested a billion dollars in efficiency and so far has $19 billion of savings to show for it. I don’t think they are terribly concerned about what some theoretician says this will cost. They’ve added $18 billion net to their bottom line. They’ve very happy about it and their competitors have to catch up or lose share.
Montaigne: When you look at your 2050 vision, yet you also look at all the carbon that’s still being burned, how do you reconcile the two?
Lovins: Well, one system is dying and others are struggling to be born. It’s a very exciting time, but I think the transitions that we need in how we design vehicles, buildings, and factories, and how we allow efficiency to compete with supply, are well under way. Most of the key sectors are already at or past their tipping point. And it’s clearest for oil, but will become clearer for coal that the stuff is becoming uncompetitive even at relatively low prices before it becomes unavailable even at high prices. It’s the whale oil story all over again. They ran out of customers before they ran out of whales.
Fen Montaigne is a senior editor Yale Environment 360.