This is a copy of a letter I’ve just written to a chap who works as a “Finance Analyst – Environmental” for BP. I post it here for reference.
I promised to send you some bits and pieces about how there *is* a real alternative to the tiresomely immoral, impractical, unnecessary, well-paid yet deeply regressive job you currently find yourself lumbered with.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s somewhat of an environmental disaster / tragedy going on, with most everyone who’s looked at the numbers agreeing that environmentally and economically we can not afford to burn the fossil fuels which remain. In fact many are doing all they can to sequester carbon back into the ground, so the elegance of leaving if there is a very tidy solution.
To deal quickly with the economic aspects, let’s take a parallel example:
The annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe is estimated at 70-320 billion Euro, which is considerably higher than the estimated benefit of using mineral nitrogen fertilizers in European agriculture (20-80 billion Euro).
ie it’s not actually worth it, it’s just that we have a system which slices and dices reality such that individuals agents along the line are able to profit from it, which perpetuates its existence.
To apply to the same reasoning of measuring the triple bottom line cost / benefit analysis to the oil industry we don’t need to go very far before drawing the same conclusion: whilst expedient in the short term whilst we transition to alternative energy sources, the net impact is a very large cost to the economy, the planet, and all its inhabitants.
When the worlds best and most trusted climate scientists think that the US droughts and EU flooding are caused by climate change (http://www.newscientist.com/search?query=climate+change), and you consider the financial and socially disruptive effects of these alone one comes to the swift conclusion that society is bearing a net cost on account of BPs activities. Factor in the spills, hurricanes, air and water pollution, and cascading energy profligacy of cheap and subsidised fossil fuels and we have to ask why has this not been regulated out of existence already?
But we don’t need to get into numbers or regulation here. We can merely consider the enlightened self-interest of the fossil-fuel companies.
- Fossil fuels are going to run out.
- Burning them is not good for environment or health.
- We waste most of the energy we produce: avg UK building loses about 30% through the roof, cars are 97% INefficient.
- Alternative energy sources are increasingly viable and scalable.
So we can basically agree that fossil fuels are a dying industry. So can the extractive industries reframe themselves as being ENERGY companies?
Fossil fuel subsidies are $600-800bn / year. Alternative energy R&D is about 1% of this in the USA, so probably no more than 8% globally. Should they instead be taking this subsidy and investing in the alternative R&D, thus preserving their profits for generations to come?
You asked about the alternatives, and how we transition to them. The report which can be downloaded from http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org is nothing short of brilliant. It outlines a fully costed, fully calculated plan for moving Britain to be a zero carbon country by 2030.
Adopting this plan would reduce our risk, create employment, rejuvenate the economy (in a lasting manner, since it creates livelihoods more than just jobs), and drastically cut our emissions meaning that we’ll be early in meeting our legally binding emissions targets and thus can grow still richer on the tardiness of countries. Still more: by being an early mover we will build up expertise and production capability which we can export, too, giving us not only sovereignty, but also economic and political leverage in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. I, for one, would certainly like to be holding these cards in the coming century.
Please do read the report – not all of it, perhaps, but at least the executive summary. It’s inspiring, credible, actionable, possible, and most of all it is desirable.
On a personal note I’d also like to point you at http://www.goodfuckingidea.com/706 which tells the tale of someone in a similar position to yourself.
If you’d like more reading, or a beer to discuss the possibilities, I’d really welcome that. You now know where to find me.
In the meantime, try not to be TOO evil, but recognise that no matter how hard you try, you’re going to fail with a magnitude that is unprecedented in human history.
Looking forward to buying you that beer,
cc Marisa, who was listening intently so that she might influence US foreign policy, I suspect.
Marie Berry, who just quit BP having realised it was completely dumb on account of a blog post I wrote.