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The battle over climate change is more often than not pictured, especially by the liberal community, as an ideological conflict between idealistic environmentalists allied with the vast majority of the scientific community arrayed against a coterie of low-information obsessives ginned up into a frenzy by the fossil fuel community.

To the scientists and the environmental community the solution resides in overcoming the resistance of the fossil fuel industry, their lobbyists, and allied interests (Wall Street etc.) as well as the low information voter foolishly seduced by them. Once that is accomplished they seem to believe, we can march together into a fossil fuel free future with footprints low in carbon and cocooned with sustainable energy. In that way we can avoid the apocalypse those stupid greedy people are wishing upon us.

Alas, we may avoid the apocalypse, but probably not in any way that resembles that picture of the future.

What is wrong with that picture is that it assumes that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry are both blindly greedy and stupid. Greedy they may be, perhaps even blindly so, but stupid - they can buy smart.

It is a gross error believe that those who own and control the vast reserves of fossil fuels, estimated by some to be worth more that the combined GNP of most of the countries on earth, for no reason other than greed, disagree with the almost unanimous conclusions of scientists throughout the world. It would be just as wrong to assume that they believe the arguments of their lobbyists and hired consultants as it would be to think they believe in the truth of the advertisements they produce to sell their products.

It is equally incorrect to assume that these masters of the universe are, in real life, the same as those stunted trolls who haunt the internet or Faux News convinced of the truth of that stuff.

A business has two very important, if not all important, goals. The first is to maximize its returns from the resources it controls and the second is to seek new sources of revenues and profits.

As someone whose job it was at times to develop political strategies for corporations, it was not at all unusual to develop strategies to persuade the public, more often than not through use of surrogates, that a competitors proposal was unreasonable with the goal of eliminating that competitive threat along with the hope that eventually my client could acquire the competitors resources for his own benefit.

Look the current situation. The value of existing fossil fuel reserves are astronomical. At current value it has been estimated by some as greater than the GNP's of most of the countries of the world combined. The financial goal of those who control those resources is to extract every drop of value from those reserves they can, by whatever means they can. For this reason they seek the highest prices for their product that they can achieve without substantially reducing their market (OPEC approach). It is also to their advantage to destroy any competitor they cannot control or that would lower the value of their reserves (Koch brothers, EXXON etc. approach).

If this were all it was about then all well and good. It is a simple battle. Us versus them, good versus evil perhaps. If we win the world prevails, if they win armageddon, if not apocalypse.

Assume instead, as we must, that they, those in control of the reserves and those dependent upon them, are not as stupid as those who believe them. Then they also must know that not only are they risking the end of their enterprise, as well of every other enterprise on earth, but that end may occur before they maximize the value that can be extracted from their reserves.

So what does one in that situation look and plan for? It is simple really. It is a mechanism that allows them to continue to maximize the value of their reserves while staving off the apocalypse. Conversion to solar or other renewables is anathema to them as is most efficiency initiatives (Not all of them. Those that  are slow acting enough that relatively high fuel prices can be maintained, they grudgingly accept).

In addition, in order to maintain control of the process and the solution, is is essential that the situation reach a crisis at which any solution they propose cannot be rejected (from their standpoint there is too much at stake for them to do otherwise)

I am sure one can come up with a number of options they could consider. The one solution that I assume being considered, has been hinted at in the various international conferences on climate change.  "Respectable" scientists and engineers who will (if not already) profit from it and so-called, "independent" non-committed organizations (who one could assume already are) declaim that they believe human ingenuity can be relied upon to come up with a "technological" solution to the crisis before it is too late. Often it is followed by vague references to mechanical "carbon sinks" or other means to "scrub" excess carbon from the atmosphere  (Big science, big engineering and big profits for the fortunate few).

I imagine that before any truly significant international action is done on climate change, the proverbial s**t will have hit the fan and the world will be at the verge of panic. At that time, a publicly funded, "Manhattan Project" solution could be proposed to develop the technological solution. Everyone will most likely rally around this. The "environmentalists" will because, if one reads most Diaries, posts, blogs, reports and the like on the subject, a strong number seem to hint that any solution that saves the world and has a minimum impact on our standard of living would be acceptable. It is similar to the emotion and rationalization behind the support of many otherwise rational people for most wars.

The "business" community will support it because in addition to the overarching panic, the huge contracts for research and development will go to private companies.

The financial community will love it because enormous sums of money would have to be raised and they would get their cut in fees (It may be even a better deal than privatizing social security).

The fossil fuel industry will like it because it is, after all, their program. The only thing they will concern themselves with is making sure the burden of the cost is not laid solely on their shoulders. They will argue that it is humanity's need and they should not bear the burden alone. Our governments will of course agree.

The "Manhattan Project," as can be expected, will produce a capitol intensive solution that ultimately will be privatized.

All of us will continue to pay to put carbon into the air in the form of the residuals of fossil fuel use. We also will pay for removing the carbon from the air. In other-words the ultimate goal of free enterprise will be within reach, the privatization of the air we breathe. But hey, we will still be alive.

The primary economic issue that affects this scenario, at least for those behind this approach, is can the system be managed to remain less expensive than alternatives or can the barriers to entry be imposed and maintained.

Alternative energy technologies have inherent problems, among them are they require entities to develop, manufacture and distribute them. Should the costs of these alternatives threaten the fossil fuel approach, they can either be bought out (as was public transportation during the march to the automobile-fossile fuel economy) or legal and legislative barriers can be raised to their entry into the market (Solar energy un-American?).

Am I being overly pessimistic or paranoid? Perhaps, but when the debate, among many scientists and environmentalists, changed from not how to prevent human induced climate change but how to deal with its effects, this scenario inched closer.

Is there another alternative out there? Perhaps, I am sure there are many other scenarios that can be imagined. I doubt they will be more realistic.

I originally thought that the new economic powerhouses of the world like China and India, because of the lack of significant fossil fuel reserves in their country, would resist and strongly move toward completely sustainable economies. China, however, has moved just as vigorously, perhaps even more so, into acquiring foreign reserves as they have moved into sustainability. Also their approach is based more upon their perceived need for energy independence than any climate change concerns.  Also I suspect, when the dust settles, many of these "scrubbers" or whatever will either be located in their countries or owned or financed by them.

(Note: For those who argue that the "big science, big engineering" solutions are unfeasible or scientifically faulty or even ineffective, remember that in the drive for war rationality often disappears when faced with fear, expediency and profit)

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Comment Preferences

  •  Unfortunately, you have spoken of the future as I (0+ / 0-)

    expect it will happen.

    Idealism doesn't compete well with entrenched money & power structures.

    Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

    by CA wildwoman on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:18:02 AM PST

    •  CA wild (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA wildwoman

      Thank you for your comment.

      Alas, what it means to be liberal is to compromise principle in favor of avoiding injury to people, for a conservative it is too often preservation of the principle no mater the pain to others.

      For this reason when confronted with the choice presented in my post we will always choose to protect people from harm. Only too often, the best we can do is to moderate the collateral damage.

      •  Thank you. It's the differing principles that (0+ / 0-)

        separate liberals from conservatives.

        Liberals believe fairness includes everyone.
        Conservatives don't believe in fairness at all, they just want more of what they like, just for themselves.

        Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

        by CA wildwoman on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:59:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  there's always the other option (0+ / 0-)

    they will sqeeze every bloated dollar they can out of oil and when they can't do that any more they will pull out their green technologies that are highly efficient that they have been sitting on for decades but still pretend that they just invented it.

  •  I have no faith in any action of any consequence (0+ / 0-)

    I am reminded of that wonderful movie, A New Leaf, when Walter Matthau's character is at the bank and the manager is trying to get through to him that he has spent his entire inheritance, only to face incomprehension on the part of Matthau, who just cannot grasp the concept that he will be unable to continue his lavish lifestyle.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:22:54 AM PST

    •  Anne (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Anne Elk

      Thank you.

      I have been told that I look a lot like Matthau. Like his character in New Leaf, although losing my lavish life style has never been an issue, I have at times been unable to grasp the impossibility of persuading very many Republicans that people do matter for more than electoral votes.

  •  I understand why you feel cynical, BUT (0+ / 0-)

    one very important thing to remember is that these corporate interests, though large, have exactly no power other than what we (collectively) assign them.

    In this way the situation differs greatly from, say, a wartime situation in which there is a real enemy, with real guns and tanks that can do real damage.

    These corporations' wealth and power is all on paper. They don't actually physically possess the fossil fuel reserves; those are still in the ground (and rather hard to get at in a hurry). The only thing that allows them to drill, extract, refine, ship, and burn these fuels is our consent.

    If we, collectively, withdraw this consent, then they will lose their power. In one sense, it is that simple.

    The question, of course, is how to do this, without a total collapse of the system (which could result in World War III among other rather nasty things)?

    Let's make 2013 the year we take back our planet.

    by Eowyn9 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:22:54 AM PST

    •  Eowyn (0+ / 0-)

      Thank you for your comment. Although I share your sentiments. We need to recognize there are only perhaps a 1000 or so of us talking to each other on Daily Kos and perhaps as much as 10,000 or so more on other blogs, we fit this into our otherwise busy lives. On the other hand there are literally millions of people out there whose livelihood, hopes and dreams are devoted, whether they know it or not to promoting the future I describe it the post. When the time comes, you and I will compromise. We will do so because as liberals we will always put avoiding injury to others over principle.  

      •  I disagree, actually, (0+ / 0-)

        with this:

        "there are literally millions of people out there whose livelihood, hopes and dreams are devoted, whether they know it or not to promoting the future I describe it the post."

        Our current system benefits very few. Mainly the executives of large oil companies and those with large investments in them.

        In fifty years, if we do nothing, our current system will benefit NOBODY because we will all be dying/starving/drowning/etc.

        Secondly, we are not doomed to do anything as "liberals". Much less compromise on an issue that is central to our collective survival.

        (If someone was trying to start a nuclear war and wanted to launch 20 warheads, would you consider "compromising" and letting them launch "only" 10?
        ...Or would you oppose the entire thing?)

        Secondly, regarding numbers, I think your estimates are unrealistically pessimistic. Check out, which is 17.4 million and rapidly growing.

        We have the numbers, if we only knew it.

        Let's make 2013 the year we take back our planet.

        by Eowyn9 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:05:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Eowyn (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Thank you for your comment.

          I am confused about you opening statement. Do you disagree that there are millions of people whose jobs require then, knowingly or unknowingly, to promote the goals of the what you describe as the "few?" If so then you are both wrong and naive.

          The nuclear choice example is disingenuous. A choice between the number of missiles with which to destroy lives is no choice at all. If, however, you were presented with the choice of nuclear war and a political system with which you do not agree, you as a liberal will (or should) chose to save lives.

          You use "if" as though it is a plan. There is no "if." There is only you and me. And frankly unless you are willing to dedicate as much of your waking life, to prevent it as those who are paid to bring it to pass, do not expect me not to continue to predict that we will ultimately be presented with the unhappy choice I describe.

          •  Well, this is actually what I'm doing. (0+ / 0-)

            As a piano teacher, I have the luxury of relatively flexible hours (and a light schedule in terms of hours.) Increasingly over the past year, I have been devoting much of my extra time to activism -- particularly environmental activism.

            (I say this not to brag or make myself look good, but simply to let you and others know that they're not alone in striving to bring about change.)

            I wrote up some thoughts in a diary this morning about how to motivate others to get involved. Would very much like your thoughts and feedback.


            Let's make 2013 the year we take back our planet.

            by Eowyn9 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:20:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

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