Remember “green” Enron and “beyond petroleum” BP? Ken Lay and John Browne touted their respective companies as the new future of an old industry. Shell, too, burnished a green image from its European headquarters.
In contrast was Lee Raymond of ExxonMobil, rejecting investments in wind and solar as a fad that would not serve his stockholders well. Renewable energy, generally speaking, Raymond told the Economist magazine back in 2003, “is a complete waste of money.”
Today Enron is a decade gone, and a humbled BP is back to petroleum with gusto. Shell has big plans for Arctic oil and gas development and tells plodding regulators: Let’s Go. And as Chevron CEO John Watson explained in a recent policy address: “Affordable energy is the priority that should underpin all of our actions.” Renewables, he added, need to become cost-competitive to have their era.
Even the New York Times is waking up to energy reality. In its special energy section this week, the Times had multiple articles educating readers about how the future belongs to the efficient, and political favor is the lifeline for the inefficient. Clifford Krauss in the feature article explained that fossil fuels are entering a new phase of productivity and growth. Matthew Wald’s “Solar Power Industry Falls Short of Hopes in Job Creation” was joined by Kate Galbraith’s “Future of Solar and Wind Power May Hinge on Federal Aid.” Reading these articles, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said: “It will be interesting to see how the Times’s columnists Paul Krugman and Thomas L. Friedman will handle [all this energy] news.”
At Energy Biz, Ken Silverstein, a perennial cheerleader for politically correct renewables, wrote of a new mentality from the oil and gas industry. “The fossil fuel sectors are fighting back against a wave of popular sentiment that they say is ill-founded,” he noted. “The oil, gas and coal industries say that their products are abundant and reliable, allowing this nation to achieve its economic well-being.” Silverstein quoted the philosophical, public-good argument of Chevron’s Watson.
I believe the United States has an opportunity – in fact, a great responsibility- to create an energy policy with affordability at its core. We need a refreshed policy approach that recognizes the value of fossil fuels and allows a market-driven transition to affordable substitutes over time. And I would suggest that only an energy policy with affordability as its central goal has the potential to deliver long-term economic, energy and environmental security.
But what is new is really old. As W. S. Jevons explained so well in his 1865 classic The Coal Question, dilute, unreliable renewables cannot power machinery. Today, the message of energy density is being promulgated by the nation’s leading energy journalist, Robert Bryce.
Energy reality is demoting “politically correct” to Obama Bad. Does the President’s so-called “dream ‘green’ team” get it.