You say "Climate", I say "Energy"

Which one is true? (a) Energy Production is one of the issues around Climate Change, or (b) Climate Change is one of the issue around Energy Production…

That is not an idle question, because we are usually presented with (a), whilst there is some strong indication that the underlying situation is (b): in other words, that the panicking about Climate Change is one of the strongest levers in an overall strategy to shift economies away from their reliance on fossil fuels.

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We can start from the recent curious decision by the UK Government to bring together Climate and Energy in a single “Department” (=Ministry). The new Department is being sold as the best way to handle the often-opposing forces towards a “cleaner” country, and the provision of the necessary amounts of energy.

Following the same logic, what’s next? A “Department of Land Use” taking care of transportation and rural affairs at the same time? Why have all those departments then, since everything can be concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister?

The BBC itself noticed how peculiar the whole arrangement looks, but did not examine it fully in too-short an article by Roger Harrabin. In any case, the marriage of “Energy” and “Climate Change” (usually in the shape of “Environment”) is taking place elsewhere as well.

On The New York Times, a “new blog on energy and the environment” has just been inaugurated. The European Climate Foundation has recently launched a survey on “Energy and Climate Change”. The IPCC has just decided to publish its own study on “Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation” (at this rate, by the way, there will soon be an omnicomprehensive IPCC-pedia with the Panel’s view on everything…).

But in truth, “mitigating, preventing and/or adapting to Climate Change” (just as “protecting the Environment”) is much more than just switching from one energy source to another. And energy policy cannot simply be dictated by climate change concerns.

So if Energy and Climate Change are forced together, which one gives?

Consider Thomas L Friedman sudden summer interest in everything Climate Change:

  1. On May 28, 2008: “Truth or Consequences“, decrying the lack of a good “energy policy for the long-term economic health and security of our country” and advocating high prices for gasoline, forever. “We need to make a structural shift in our energy economy“.
  2. On July 20: “9/11 and 4/11“, denouncing President Bush’s decision to “lift the executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the country’s shoreline“. Once again we are told the energy crisis should be used “to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on clean energy” to solve a “multifaceted, multigenerational energy/environment/geopolitical problem“.
  3. On Aug 3: “The Iceman Cometh“, about flying to a remote scientific outpost in Greenland researching climate history in ice cores. Results seem to indicate that “our climate system has the ability to make very abrupt changes all by itself“, hence “the last thing that mankind should be doing is adding its own forcing actions
  4. On Aug 5: “Learning to Speak Climate“, talking about his “very strong opinion” that “our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy“. Cue stories about a warming Greenland.
  5. On Aug 10: “Flush With Energy“, applauding bicycles in Denmark and the notion that the 1973 oil crisis made that country become energy-independent. Local Prime Minister confirms: “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil“.
  6. On Aug 12: “Eight Strikes and You’re Out“, denouncing Sen. John McCain absence from every vote on renewable energy legislation. Without public financing, there cannot be “investments by many players in solar and wind so these technologies can quickly move down the learning curve and become competitive with coal and oil“.

What is Friedman’s overall concern? I think it is not climate change, rather moving energy production away from oil and all other fossil fuels.

“Climate Change” plays a secondary role, because the thrust is all concentrated on “breaking the addiction to oil”.

Friedman of course has a new book just coming out now: “Hot, Flat, and Crowded“, where he talks of being not in the year 2008, but in ““1 E.C.E.,” the first year of the “Energy-Climate Era””. Friedman makes the case that everybody wants to reach American levels of consumerism, and that is unsustainable: because of the excessive demands in energy, bring about Climate Change and other environmental bad news (such as the loss of biodiversity). And the solution? From the NYT review of the book:

What’s needed is the presidential leadership of an Abraham Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt to command enough authority to face down the fossil fuel lobbies and create a single, national system that would instantly release the pent-up innovation and creativity that is ready to get to work, cleaning up America’s energy supply and reducing its demand. Once the United States has done that, and shown that there’s money to be made from the new industry of “greening,” the rest of the world will, as a matter of self-interest, follow suit. In the process, America will have discovered a national mission for itself once more.

The central point is energy production, not changes to the climate. And therefore: when we hear commentators and politicans mention “Climate Change”, it’s “Energy” what they mean but cannot confirm in public.

Climate Change is “just” a tool in the quest to “improve” Energy supply.