An argument posed by some would-be green folks is that their contribution doesn’t matter. The few watts saved will not reduce total greenhouse gas emissions. Why bother? The changing face of energy may leave some asking the same question regarding renewable energy.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The United States has witnessed a dramatic turnaround in the energy sphere that has little to do with green energy. Natural gas development has skyrocketed, while coal has plummeted with plant closures.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in Great Britain reports that green energy output increased by 6.5 percent since 2011. In the United States, output increased by 300 percent over the last decade. Despite these figures, greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2 percent from 2009 to 2011 in the United States.
The Shell Game
Part of the reason may lie with the facts that these figures hide. Australia, for example, has a carbon plan with its own carbon pricing laws. Like the United States, Australia is a major player in fossil fuel exports, specifically, coal. The industry expects to continue to grow by 5 percent each year through 2020 despite the domestic restraints.
Likewise, the United States has curbed coal production and increased natural gas output. While Australia’s coal goes to primarily to Asia, Europe imports U.S. natural gas and coal.
Brownouts of wind-powered energy in the United States and threats of blackouts due to energy shortages in Britain add further complications to the quest for green energy. When it comes down to basic living conditions, renewable energy may be sidelined out of necessity.
The Big Picture
The problem is that climate change is a global problem. It matters little if Asia or Europe burns fossil fuels rather than the United States. What does matter is cost. Asia realizes this with its imports. The EU realizes this too as coal power is set to boom. Bloomberg projects that coal will become nearly 60 percent more profitable.
The question then becomes have we really made a difference with climate change? Sluggish economies will push countries back to less expensive fossil fuels. While they may succeed on the environmental front, renewable energy must become profitable too. Ideas may drive change, but profits drive economies.