- Trends in Energy
- Degrowth Ambitions
This Week's Trend In Brief:
Last month, Los Angeles Times staff writer Sammy Roth pondered if the “occasional blackout” might actually be a good thing in the fight against climate change.
Roth’s fantasizing about energy unreliability in the name of combatting climate change is a theme echoed by a number of voices in the climate movement, including New York’s PEAK Coalition, which just last month claimed shutting down the state’s peaker plants was preferable to “profligate summertime energy consumption.”
Vice President Kamala Harris even went so far as to declare the U.S. needs to “reduce population” to fight climate change. While The White House quickly insisted she intended to say “pollution,” her gaffe gave voice to a belief held by many environmentalists that personal sacrifice is necessary to save the planet.
Indeed, some of the Administration’s policies seem consistent with that view. Meanwhile, across the pond senior EU officials are giving their imprimatur to the degrowth movement, which touts the benefits of shrinking the economy to save the planet.
Skeptics of the climate movement have long argued activists’ true goals are impossible to reconcile with the goals of energy reliability and expanding prosperity. Now it seems many activists are acknowledging that as well, creating an opportunity for industry to offer people a responsible alternative of climate solutions rather than extremism.
Last month, the Los Angeles Times’s Sammy Roth pondered if the “occasional blackout” might be good in the name of fighting climate change. In his piece titled, “Would an occasional blackout help solve climate change?” Roth openly wondered if perhaps “Keeping the lights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” was less important than “solving the climate crisis.” In his conclusion, Roth argued that we should all have to live with sacrifices “for the sake of the greater good,” and while perhaps “learning to live with power outages” shouldn’t be one of those sacrifices, “we might not have a choice.”
Roth is not the first to advocate for energy insecurity in the name of climate change - extremists have supported this for years, including New York’s PEAK Coalition, which last month advocated shutting down the state’s peaker plants instead of guaranteeing reliability. In 2020, Rutgers “Climate Justice Chair” David McDermott Hughes argued “to save the climate” we ought to “give up the demand for constant electricity,” contending we don’t need residential electricity to “operate seamlessly” and people should “eat a cold dinner here and there.” New York climate groups with the PEAK Coalition, echoed this sentiment recently, in response to findings from the NYISO that New York City faces a reliability shortfall as a result of peaker plant shutdowns. When NYISO suggested that some plants may need to have their lifetimes extended to ensure reliability, PEAK coalition stated it “refuses to accept a scenario in which environmental justice communities must suffer further harm to guarantee further profligate summertime energy consumption.” Notably, Roth’s argument comes only months after the launch of How To Blow Up A Pipeline, another instance of climate zealots advocating against energy security in order to combat climate change.
Vice President Kamala Harris put this ideology into words when she declared the United States needs to “reduce population” to fight against climate change - The White House claims she meant “pollution” - but much of the Administration’s agenda seems geared towards mandating personal sacrifice in the name of climate. While the White House alleged she meant to say “reduce pollution,” Harris’ gaffe echoed the beliefs of a strain of the climate movement that has long supported population control for the environment, which has become more and more popular recently. While The White House may not support population control, it is advancing policies that will require personal sacrifices in the name of climate, including their myriad regulations on home appliances, their auto regulations, and their acknowledgment that some people may not be able to work in the fields that they choose.
Nor is the Biden Administration alone -- the European Parliament hosted a major “Beyond Growth” conference earlier this year, another indication the environmentalists’ degrowth agenda is moving beyond the fringes. In May, Financial Times reported the “degrowth” movement has started to “move in from Europe’s policy fringes,” with “Advocates of ‘degrowth’ say[ing] that addressing climate change requires nothing less than a fundamental rejection of the whole principle of continuous economic growth as a policy objective.” Indeed, in May, the European Parliament hosted a conference on “Beyond Growth,” with organizers alleging “The climate crisis, rising inequalities and persistently slow growth in many advanced economies has brought a renewed focus on the beyond growth debate.” The Economist notes this conference was attended by thousands, including President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Opponents of climate activism have long contended the activists’ true goals could not be reconciled with energy reliability and prosperity — as the activists increasingly say out loud what many suspected, this climate conundrum gives industry an opportunity to tell its story and offer responsible solutions. Activists increasingly see degrowth and energy blackouts as acceptable, or even desirable, in the fight against climate change. Yet the public questions whether combatting climate change has come at too a steep cost. Indeed, to quote California ISO COO Mark Rothleder, people “didn’t sign up for a clean, affordable, less reliable grid… They signed up for a clean, reliable and affordable grid.” This climate conundrum gives industry the opportunity to tell the story of the work it is doing advancing the energy transition, and lay bare the divide between climate industry participants, and climate activists who will never be satisfied.
Trends in Energy is your weekly look at key trends affecting the energy industry, brought to you by the competitive intelligence experts at Delve. As the political and regulatory landscape continues to shift, reach out to learn how our insights can help you navigate these challenges.