Alternative Energies

Germany is one of the countries leading the world in the switch to renewable energies. And like other countries that have seen large-scale switches to clean energy, the utilities are taking it in the shorts and crying “uncle.” This includes not only private homes but also the industries in Germany, 16% of which are now off the grid — double the percentage of the previous year. This is cutting into the profits of the utilities, Germany’s mega-utility company, RTE, claiming to have lost $3.8 billion lat year alone. The Swedish utility company Vattenfall, which has large investments in Germany, claims to have lost $2.3 billion last year.

Declining demand for electricity from the grid in Germany

Declining demand for electricity from the grid in Germany

Needless to say, this doesn’t disturb the clean-energy advocates one bit but, more to the point, it should have been seen coming by the energy companies. Germany has been shifting its energy priorities for some time now and it is inevitable that the utility companies would see their profits fall. As a recent story tells us:

When unveiling today’s dismal earnings, RWE’s Terium admitted the utility had invested too heavily in fossil fuel plants at a time when it should have been thinking about renewables: “I grant we have made mistakes. We were late entering into the renewables market — possibly too late.”

To which I simply add: Duhhhhh! One can only ask when Big Oil and Big Coal in this country will climb aboard the clean energy train. In its small way, alternative energies like wind and solar are already making inroads into the profits of the utility companies — in places like Hawaii, for example, as reported recently. And this despite the absence in this country of a clean energy policy and very little Federal support.  In fits and starts the switch to clean energy will continue to happen, despite the unwillingness of the Congress to get behind alternative energies and the necessity for private investors like T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffet, and a few of the states, to lead the way. It will happen. This country will eventually follow Germany’s and China’s lead into the 21st century and if the corporations that blindly push for fossil fuels continue to ignore the handwriting on the wall, their overpaid CEOs will echo the cries of “foul” we now hear from Germany. It’s not rocket science, it’s just good business. One would think that American businessmen who are supposed to be among the best and brightest in the world would realize where their own long-term best interest lies. But, then, business doesn’t teach us much about the long term; it’s almost always about short-term profits. Brace yourself for the coming outcry! Relish it when it comes.

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

A recent story in Yahoo News about Heidi Heitkamp, a newly elected Democratic Senator from North Dakota, is worth pondering. The story quotes Heitkamp as follows:

“I think, you know the one thing that has gotten lost by everyone is one of the best ways that we can perform here is by getting people back to work, making sure that this economic recovery, slow as it is, gets amped up and moves forward,” Heitkamp tells Politics Confidential. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been such a big proponent of the Keystone Pipeline. There’s a shovel ready, private sector jobs program, good paying jobs.”

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Heidi is disconcerted that President Obama seems to be concentrating on gun control and climate change and (she says) ignoring the economy. Good grief, how thick are some of the heads in Washington? Here’s a Democrat spelled with a capital “R,” talking about the necessity to pollute the earth some more in the name of profits while we ignore the health and well-being of our children and their children for generations to come.  But then she comes from North Dakota which is a very conservative state and where the bulk of the wealth (and it is very great deal indeed) comes from oil. Gee, do you think she’s pushing the Keystone Pipeline because of a debt she owes to Big Oil? I’m just askin’.

In any event, Heidi is dead wrong about climate change and I really do get tired of the conservative mantra that drones on and on about how a commitment to the environment and the pursuit of clean energy will invariably cost us jobs — and, by implication, if we want to help the economy recover and create more jobs we must go the route of fossil fuels.  It is a false dichotomy and yet we continue to hear it repeated as though it is beyond doubt. The facts belie the claim: we can have it both ways — clean energy and jobs. In fact we are already on our way.

Wind energy alone, as my blog buddy BTG recently pointed out, is currently employing 75,000 workers (more than the coal industry) and could employ 500,000 by 2030 if this Congress would get its collective head out of the sand (or wherever they have it at present) and commit the country to the pursuit of sustainable energy where we can be assured not only of more jobs, but also a cleaner environment, better health, and general economic recovery. Consider the fact that the solar industry also currently employs over 100,000 workers and could also take on more with a commitment from Washington. And we haven’t even begun to tap the potential energy from the ocean tides. Sustainable energy is the energy of the future in a world where we have become almost totally dependent on finite resources that pollute the air and raise the temperatures on the planet.

The old environment versus jobs argument simply won’t wash. It is a worn record and it flies in the face of every fact available to anyone who doesn’t happen to be in the pocket of the oil and gas industries. But that includes Senator Heitkamp, it would appear, who will continue to push for dirty energy while the rest of us wonder what it will take to wake up those closed-minded politicians in Washington who have lost sight of what really matters in this country — which is the health, well-being, and prosperity of ordinary citizens. What really matters is certainly not more obscene profits for Big Oil, though they play the tune and the politicians dance the dance.