As “Powering Forward: What Every American Should Know about the Energy Revolution” becomes available for sale today, I am grateful to Bill Ritter, his team at the “Center for the New Energy Economy” (CNEE) at Colorado State University and to Fulcrum Books for providing a copy of the book for this review.
Bill Ritter Jr. knows a thing or two about the energy revolution and the sun that is setting on the fossil fuel industry. As Governor of Colorado, he turned the State into a leader in clean energy and then launched the “Center for the New Energy Economy” (CNEE) to help other states accelerate their transition to a clean-energy future.
Having hosted Gov. Ritter at the Geneva “Green and Inclusive Economy” Conference ahead of the Paris climate summit, I was familiar with his work as governor and at the CNEE including the need to address climate change, the cost of clean versus fossil energy and green jobs. All are well covered, as one would expect in such a book. But “Powering Forward” is different in that it goes much further to address the role of science and education, the need for well informed citizens for a functioning democracy and how biased and misleading media coverage has helped the climate denial industry. But his most important contribution is to shed some light on the government intervention versus the free-market myth and his attempt to turn a divisive energy debate into a consensual and bi-partisan quest for a better future.
The Myth of the Invisible Hand
For many, government intervention amounts to “corporate welfare” and invariably drives up costs for consumers. It may therefore come as a surprise that fossil fuels have been subsidized since 1916 and that American energy utilities have been run as quasi monopolies with no competition. While most will agree that governments should not pick winners or losers, thinking that energy markets are “free” is a misinformed illusion. The reality is that government still largely favours fossil fuels with obsolete policies from the carbon age that are slowing down innovation, artificially restricting consumer choice and undermining American energy security.
The Tea Party Turns Green in Georgia
A good example comes from Georgia where the Sierra Club and the local Tea Party took on the monopolistic energy structure. It did not sit well with them that people could not choose where they get their electricity from and they forced a change in law to allow customers the ability to generate their own electricity and sell it back to the grid.
Consensual and Bi-Partisan
Business as usual is no longer an option. We are at the crossroad and must now decide if we will become the victims of our future or its architects. By working together and reconciling our differences we can turn scarcity into abundance and crisis into opportunity. This is the key contribution of Powering Forward.
Powering Forward Energy Facts:
– Scientists understood the link between CO2 and the greenhouse effect in the late 1800s
– Lyndon Johnson is the first US president to raise the climate alert in 1965
– In 2006, Colorado College warned there would be no more skiing in the state by 2050
– On windy days 60% of the electricity in Colorado comes from wind
– At $25 per megawatt hour, wind power is over 20% cheaper then natural gas
– Centralized power wastes up to 2/3 of the primary energy put into the system
– Americans prefer energy conservation to energy production
– 87% of Americans think the US government should act about climate change
– The US Department of Defense sees climate change as a threat multiplier
– The IMF estimates fossil fuel subsidies at nearly $2 trillion including external costs. Most of the income is received by the wealthiest according to the IEA
– US fossil subsidies amount to $2,180 for each man, woman and child annually
– The true cost of coal-fired power amounts to some $0.27/kWh
– 6 of the top 10 solar manufacturers are Chinese
– 9 of the top 10 wind manufacturers are non-US
– Warren Buffet is buying solar power for $0.038/kWh (the avg. price paid by US households is close to $0.12/kWh)
– Arizona’s energy utility installs free solar panels and pays its customers $30/ month for 20 years to feed power into the grid