Why We Have No Choice But to Stop Oil and Gas

Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International explains what will be needed to successfully prevent complete climate catastrophe.

Oil Change International is a not-for-profit research, communications, and advocacy group. They use research and data to support the climate movement, particularly on issues around fossil fuel supply, and why fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground for us to achieve our climate goals and save the planet from climate catastrophe. Lorne Stockman, their research co-director, joined Current Affairs editor in chief Nathan J. Robinson to explain why organizations like OCI and Just Stop Oil are so insistent that there is no way out of our current predicament without ending fossil fuel use. He rebuts some common nonsense conservative talking points on climate change, explains how a transition to 100% renewable energy can happen, gives a clear assessment of how much progress we’ve made so far and how much is left to go. It’s a crucial conversation for understanding where we’re at in the fight against the climate catastrophe, and you may be surprised to hear that there is actually some good news. 

This conversation originally appeared on the Current Affairs podcast. It has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Nathan J. Robinson 

I don’t often enjoy getting press releases in my inbox, but I enjoy getting press releases from your organization, Oil Change International. I feel a lot of the time on climate like I’m going crazy, as if there’s a quite simple truth, which is that if we want to avoid the catastrophic future, we have to stop burning fossil fuels. I really appreciate an organization that seems to recognize the plain truth that we have to stop burning fossil fuels.

Stockman 

You make a very good point there. And in fact, that’s something we’ve been talking about since we were founded in 2005. We have spent the last nearly 20 years telling that story and pushing that narrative. Remarkably, plenty of decision makers in particular, and obviously, the fossil fuel industry, don’t want to accept that truth. It’s clear that there are a lot of extremely well-funded interests that have been pushing back against that narrative for quite some time.

I think we have made a lot of progress over that time, particularly in bringing on board the rest of the climate movement, as well as some portion of decision makers, both in the United States and around the world. I point out that the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on the world’s governments to recognize and do something about fossil fuels by keeping them in the ground to address climate change. There [have been] demonstrations and protests held all over the world, including in New York City, to support the UN Secretary General in that call.

Robinson 

Yes, that’s important. I’m sure that a lot of the listeners and readers of Current Affairs, because we hammer on this all the time, understand the simple facts of the situation. However, did you see the [first] Republican debate, where they talked about climate?

Stockman 

Oh, god, yes. I didn’t follow all of it. But yes, I know what you’re referring to. 

Robinson 

But you know that what happened at it. I don’t think they were asked if climate change was happening; I think the new position on the Right is there may be something changing, humans might have something to do with it—maybe—but if so, we certainly don’t need to scale back our fossil fuel use because we will just use the increased gross domestic product that comes from amplifying our fossil fuel use to mitigate any possible consequences.

That is certainly the position of Vivek Ramaswamy, who it says explicitly in one of his 10 point policy platform points that he wants to “drill, frack and burn coal,” so that we can “unleash American prosperity.” I understand that borders on sheer madness, but what is your reaction to someone who says that?

Stockman 

It’s one of the most misguided, destructive, and irresponsible statements that you could possibly hear from a candidate for office. He clearly doesn’t understand a single thing about the climate issue, and he’s just jumping on what has become, sadly, a Republican playbook of turning climate change into a culture war issue, despite the massive consequences for the people they claim to represent. So yes, it’s entirely inaccurate, and grossly irresponsible.

Robinson 

I’m sure you saw the movie Don’t Look Up a couple of years ago, which I thought was quite good in it’s a representation of denial. The film is about an asteroid coming to earth, but over the last couple of years, I feel like a lot of the denial that I actually see in the real world—a lot of the pivots that we see on the Right on this issue—are almost worse than they were in the film. I see almost a renewed determination, not just to not reduce fossil fuel use, but sort of romanticizing and embracing it. It’s as if in the film they pleaded with the asteroid to come to earth or tried to actually direct it toward the earth.

There’s a new book by Alex Epstein called Fossil Future, which says that all we need is more fossil fuel use. Could you respond to this idea that we’re going to use the additional prosperity that will come from fossil fuels to just mitigate or adapt to any possible negative climate consequences that come from it? 

Stockman 

Golly, where to begin? First of all, the revenues. They’re imagining, as many a Republican politician has for some time, especially since the fracking boom has come along, the American oil and gas resources are an endless source of wealth that will last forever, and apparently can be extracted at almost no cost. They seem to assume that there is this massive amount of profit and revenue to be had, and that obviously couldn’t be the case. The main thing that’s keeping the price at the pump up currently is because the cost of fracking and producing American oil and gas is actually pretty high. For the first 10–15 years or so of the fracking boom, investors were willing to keep pumping cash in and not get a great return on that capital invested. Since about 2019, Wall Street and other investors in the oil and gas industry here in the United States have been demanding some profit from the billions that they’ve pumped into this industry, and that is one of the biggest constraints right now on why the rate of production has not been increasing the same way it had in the previous decade. Investors are actually wanting to get some of the money back.

Robinson

Thank God. If it were like free money, goodness knows how bad this would get…

Stockman

Even then, they were going at an irresponsible rate because we need to actually be decreasing the amount of oil and gas we’re producing and consuming, not increasing it. But the increased rate has slowed down, and it’s not because of Biden administration policies about federal lands or the Gulf of Mexico or anything like this. It’s just about the pure fact that fracking is expensive, resource intensive, uses lots of energy and water, and needs a lot of people and staff that need to be paid quite well because it’s very dangerous and intensive. It’s an expensive business.

And so, this myth that if we just got rid of all the regulations and opened up all the federal lands and waters, we would somehow become energy independent—which has been talked about since the Nixon administration, and we still have not achieved it, despite literally trillions in capital—is just the stuff of myth.

And then secondly, I think what Mr. Ramaswamy is referring to—although I certainly have no insights into his quite bizarre psyche—is probably this idea that there are technologies that can capture the emissions and can be stored underground, and therefore, we can actually mitigate the impact of burning all this oil and gas. Unfortunately, that’s also a bit of a myth. Yes, carbon capture and storage exists. It’s been around since the early 1970s, so we’ve been doing it for nearly 50 years and have actually failed to really scale it up to any meaningful degree. And while there’s a lot of excitement currently, and a lot of federal money that’s being pumped in—and certainly been pledged—to scaling up carbon capture and storage, we’re not seeing the results, certainly not yet.

And I think anyone who takes a sober view of what’s happening in the carbon capture sector understands that while there may be some advances and cost-cutting, it really isn’t the answer to climate change. At the very best, it makes some difference at the margins. Essentially, the only way for us to solve this problem is to stop burning fossil fuels.

Robinson 

Let me ask you about the other talking point that they often use, which is called “adaptation”: yes, it’s happening, and may be caused by using fossil fuels—fine, we can’t mitigate it through magic technology. But it’s not so bad—we’re going to be able to adapt to whatever the consequences are. I certainly am dubious about this, having lived through the past two months here in New Orleans [note: interview was recorded in the summer], where the heat has been so unbearable that 10 minutes outside leaves me sort of gasping for breath, with homeless people on the streets begging for water. It’s just been a horrible, horrible situation. I think to myself, if this is the beginning, where does it end? Could you tell us about the kind of future that we face, and why there is no alternative to trying to stop the warming by stopping burning fossil fuels?

Stockman 

I think those that are throwing around this phrase of “adaptation” should go and speak to people on the streets of New Orleans today, and cities like Dallas and Houston and other places, and the folks on the west coast of Florida who having just cleaned up from one massive hurricane last year are likely to get hit with another one. It was actually Ron DeSantis’s statement at the GOP debate that really, I thought, was the most irresponsible because he was so dismissive of even being asked the question, despite apparently heading a state that is probably one of the most vulnerable pieces of land in the entire world to the impacts of climate change.

Putting that aside, though, we’re looking at much more frequent and intense droughts and flooding. We’re looking at serious threats to global food production from extreme temperatures and extreme swings in climate impacts. We are talking about the survival of our species, as well as the species that we share the planet with. The climate system is completely integral to the planet that we know and recognize today. For sure, it’s changed over the billions of years of planetary history, but the world that we have become accustomed to, in which human beings have thrived for the last several millennia, is one in which the climate looks very different from the one in which we’re creating. We fundamentally altered the chemistry of the world’s atmosphere, and if we don’t stop, we will not be able to continue with the kind of lifestyles that we have come to expect today.

Not only that, but the impacts of climate change and these climate disasters disproportionately fall on those that are least responsible for causing the problem and least able to adapt to dealing with the problem, those being the lower income citizens in our country and the lower income countries around the world. I think if you’re Ron DeSantis, or Vivek Ramaswamy, or any other global elite, millionaire, billionaire, or whatever you want to use as your measure, I’m sure you feel like you could just go and build yourself another house on some higher ground in a more temperate climate, but for most of us, we are stuck with the impacts. And I think one day that chickens going to come home to roost. 

Robinson 

I want to ask you what kind of progress we are making toward the elimination of fossil fuel use. I read the Op Ed page of the Wall Street Journal, and one of the things they say is that we are still overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels for energy, and so it’s a fantasy to totally impossible to imagine a society that isn’t fundamentally built around the use of fossil fuels. It’s almost like an extreme pessimism, and they sort of downplay any progress that has been made. What is your perspective on whether we are making what we would call measurable progress towards what we absolutely need to do?

Stockman 

First of all, we are making tremendous progress on producing renewable energy for electricity generation. Last year, wind and solar met 12% of global electricity needs, and that was a growth of 17% for wind and 24% for solar just from the year before. So, we’re getting into a kind of exponential growth trajectory for renewable energy, whereas typically new technologies take a while—the growth is very slow for a number of years, sometimes decades, and then you get to this kind of point of adoption that then rises quickly before plateauing. It’s known as the S curve of technology adoption. We’re getting very close, or if not already at, the point in the S curve where things are going up very quickly.

Saying that, this progress is nowhere near enough, and we should have been doing a lot more in the past decade than we have done. That comes down to government policy as much as the market for these technologies. When you hear what you were referring to—the attitudes in Wall Street Journal op-eds, and others, that simply the technology isn’t available—I would absolutely dispute that. I think that we actually have all the technologies we need. We know how to build and create them, and we just need government policy and financial markets to invest in those solutions.

Those solutions aren’t just about wind and solar power, although those two technologies are absolutely at the heart of how we solve this problem. The electrification of transport and of heat and cooling for buildings, etc.—all of these technologies are there and available, and we can produce that electricity with clean sources based on wind and solar, and forms of energy storage, “as well as investing in energy efficiency, which is described by the International Energy Agency as the first fuel have a sustainable global energy system.”

So, we can do better with the energy that we have, and get more out of every unit of energy. I find it remarkable when I hear these kinds of global capitalists giving up on this one crucial challenge to save mankind, or to save planet Earth. When you think about the way that global capitalism has broken barriers and exceeded frontiers in all sorts of things, for some reason, the denizens of global capitalism seem to falter at this one challenge, and I’m wondering why that is. Basically, what they’re saying is, we won’t be able to solve climate change, so we’re just going to have to put up with the consequences. That’s just unacceptable. It’s not only unacceptable, it’s also simply not valid. We do know how to address this challenge.

Unfortunately, I think the main barrier is political will, and the willingness of our decision makers to challenge incumbent wealthy interests who are threatened by not maintaining the status quo and moving towards new technologies that are more decentralized that will distribute more widely the revenues of energy generation and the global economy, rather than concentrating it in the hands of a handful of huge fossil fuel companies. So, I think there’s a direct challenge here, that currently, incumbent interests are doing a good job of keeping at bay because generally, they have decision makers in their pocket.

Robinson 

Give us a little bit more of a sense of the magnitude of the challenge that we face. You cited there some encouraging statistics about the lowering costs of solar and wind energy and the increase in their usage. At the same time, we are seeing more and more alarming news about the rise in global temperatures. Just to read a quote from CNN from a couple of months ago,

“the world is now likely to reach a key climate threshold for the first time, within the next five years. According to the World Meteorological Organization, global temperatures have soared, and that trend shows no sign of slowing between 2023 and 2027. There’s now a 66% chance that the planet’s temperature will climb above 1.5 degrees Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels.”

So, how much is it going to take? What is the gap between the path that we are currently on and where we need to be to hit key thresholds for containing warming? You can give me overall judgments rather than actual numbers. I just want to get a sense of the scope of what we’re talking about here. How much are we screwing up?

Stockman 

A lot. That’s for sure. But I think there are reasons to be optimistic because as I’ve said, we have the technologies, we know what they are, and we know what we need to implement them. We know where the gaps are in things like energy storage and energy efficiency to make these resources meet what we need. Again, what we’re lacking is the political will, and that political will is being influenced by interests that will profit from the status quo.

You hear some big numbers being bandied around—I’m not going to give you precise figures, but we’re talking about trillions of dollars of investment needed to redesign our energy system. But at the same time, our energy system has been sucking up a trillion dollars a year primarily channeled towards fossil fuel development—extraction, processing, refining, transporting. The fossil fuel system we have that is energizing our world today is already a trillion dollar annual system.

So, it’s not like the money isn’t there. It’s about where the money should flow, and how we should divert it. So, I don’t think anyone, including myself, is denying the challenge to get the world of fossil fuels onto alternative technologies and clean energy resources like wind and solar, but it is technically feasible, and we have the global capital available. That capital is just flowing into the wrong place. I would also add that our lack of action is actually one of the things that’s increasingly going to impact our GDP and our ambitions for growth.

Climate catastrophes are costing the economy billions of dollars, pretty much now on a daily basis, whether it’s wildfires in Canada, the Western United States, or Europe, to floods and droughts and hurricanes and intense storms. We are losing increments of our food production capacity. We are losing literally billions in GDP. It’s unevenly distributed around the world and within our economies; again, it’s usually the people who can least afford to bear these impacts who are bearing a disproportionate amount of these impacts.

It’s impacting our economy on a daily basis to the tune of billions of dollars, so I think when you hear people wringing their hands and say, how are we going to finance this? How are we going to do this? I think they’re either ignorant or being very disingenuous because there is actually plenty of capital sloshing around in the world to fix this problem. It’s just being channeled into the wrong places.

Robinson 

I’d like to ask you about the Biden administration’s climate policies. Obviously, the administration’s signature piece of legislation was the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which has been touted as the most important piece of climate legislation perhaps ever. Obviously, those who are defenders of the Biden administration will say that this is a massive, landmark, game-changing piece of legislation, and skeptics will say that it is not. How do you assess what actual change has been brought about by this piece of legislation? How much has this altered our course?

Stockman 

I think there are some very positive impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act. It is an unprecedented investment in things like EV manufacturing, energy storage, and battery manufacturing and development, as well as giving more solid investment signals for the medium– to long–term for wind and solar, etc. It’s progress.

But unfortunately, the Inflation Reduction Act also constituted one of the biggest handouts to the US fossil fuel industry in US history. I can give you some figures around that if you like. The Inflation Reduction Act was less of a policy and more of a spending bill. It was about allocating government money towards holding different technologies, and it was about tax credits. This is kind of the way that the US governs nowadays, and seems incapable of actually setting clear policies and things into law. It’s really all about spending money.

There were tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at carbon capture and storage, which is a technology that the fossil fuel industry is very keen to exploit to keep itself going, to justify continuing to burn fossil fuels well into the future. The idea is you can continue to burn those fossil fuels, but you can capture the emissions at the chimney stack or similar. Despite this technology having pretty much failed being able to capture emissions at scale for the last 50 years—it’s actually been around for 50 years—the tax credits offered in the Inflation Reduction Act are uncapped, and that means if companies build enough projects, there is no limit to how much they can claim under this new tax credit.

The Congressional Budget Office in the bill estimated the carbon capture tax credits would only cost about $3.2 billion over the next 10 years, but there are analysts in the private sector who dispute that and have very much higher numbers. The bank Credit Suisse gave an estimate of $50 billion that could be claimed as tax credits for carbon capture and storage by US companies in the next 10 years. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which produces some of the most robust analysis on the clean energy market and these kinds of technologies, put the figure more at $100 billion that could be claimed if all the projects that are currently being proposed and planned by US companies go ahead, and they capture as much carbon as they plan to do, which in of itself could be questionable. That is down to an increase in what’s known as the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and storage; it was increased by 70% in the Inflation Reduction Act.

And let me point out that there’s absolutely no transparency on who is claiming what on 45Q. 45Q has actually been around since 2010, but as I say, it was increased 70% under the Inflation Reduction Act. And in 2020, the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that fossil fuel companies had improperly claimed nearly a billion dollars in 45Q tax credits since 2010. So, this is just almost a blank check to the fossil fuel industry to build projects that would otherwise not be commercially viable. It could continue the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and processing on the communities that live around those resources, and nonetheless claim literally up to $100 billion in tax credits.

Robinson 

I want to ask you about pseudo-solutions. You have debunked at various points propaganda about either technologies or creative accounting, which seems to often be used as a means of suggesting that certain courses of action get us closer to our climate goals. You hear a lot about things like promising not to chop down a forest that they wouldn’t have chopped down anyway as getting credit for that and that sort of thing. Can you warn us what we should be on the lookout for in terms of pseudo-solutions?

Stockman 

I would say anything that doesn’t mean reducing our fossil fuel use is a pseudo-solution. Like anything that says, we can continue business as usual, but we’ve got this offset: you can pay a little bit extra, and we’ll plant some trees, or we’re going to capture those emissions further down the line.

I also think one of the things that we’ve been hearing an awful lot about, and people kind of buying into, is hydrogen. Hydrogen is not really an energy resource; it’s something we have to manufacture. It’s been touted as the solution to just about anything right now, and it’s really a bit of a red herring in the climate solution field. As I said, you’ve got to manufacture it. So-called “green hydrogen” is about using renewable energy to use something called electrolysis to make hydrogen out of water, to basically separate H2O into hydrogen and oxygen. It’s a nice idea, it’s doable—the technology is there—but there’s an energy penalty of as much as 40%.

So, we’re still trying to convert our electricity system from burning fossil fuels to wind and solar, and the industry is talking about using a massive amount of wind and solar really inefficiently with a 40% energy penalty to create hydrogen to then burn in a gas turbine to make electricity. It makes sense if you’re a company able to claim massive amounts of public money to bend over backwards to try and create this hydrogen from electricity. The other issue with it is there isn’t that much demand for hydrogen today. And there aren’t actually that many uses for hydrogen that make more sense than using electricity for the same purpose. In other words, it would be far more sensible for us to use wind, solar, and various forms of energy storage to back up that wind and solar when the wind isn’t blowing hard enough or the sun isn’t shining bright enough, to just electrify processes that are currently being touted as needing hydrogen.

So, I wouldn’t completely dismiss hydrogen as having some role in the green energy transition. But what we’re seeing is a tremendous amount of emphasis and money flowing into hydrogen as like the nifty solution to just about everything, when actually we already have that solution in the form of electrification using renewable energy. And the reason we’re seeing that it’s, again, about the interests involved. The hydrogen is a gas: it can be moved around in pipelines and can be burned in modified gas turbines. It’s more about the fossil fuel industry trying to stay relevant in the energy transition than us actually needing vast amounts of hydrogen for the energy transition.

Again, I’d say we probably need some, but we don’t need nearly as much as the industry is trying to tell us. And unfortunately, they’ve done a good job of persuading Congress and the Biden administration that they should throw billions of our tax dollars on this rather foolish waste of capital and energy.

Robinson 

Let me ask you what role nuclear power has in the transition. Another one of the common talking points that I hear is—in fact, I think this is the thing Ramaswamy said. He said, the climate cultists aren’t serious about the climate because if they were, they would embrace nuclear power.

Stockman 

This guy pretends to be a capitalist, so you’d think he’d understand basic economics. The cost of building new nuclear generation capacity and running it would mean relying on uranium imports from some of the same countries that we’re rather concerned about importing oil and gas from, i.e. Russia and others. It makes no sense. Wind and solar beats nuclear on the cost of electricity generation, hands down—there isn’t even competition. The nuclear plants that we have open today basically exist on government subsidies. Building new nuclear is so expensive that when you add up all the figures of the financing, construction, maintenance, fueling, and operating, the price that you’re paying for every megawatt hour delivered is exponentially larger than just about any other solution that we’ve come up with.

So, it’s just basic economics. Why would you build more nuclear when we have a solution that is far cheaper and is here now and available? It makes little sense. It just seems to be talking points that are trotted out as part of the culture war against climate. Republican presidential candidates say some really irresponsible things. They’re generally quite irresponsible, but this kind of takes it to a new level when we’re talking about the survival of the planet. They just want to kind of trot out talking points to win another notch in the culture wars.

Robinson 

But it’s very concerning because they might also win an election next year and have a tremendous amount of power at a very crucial time.

Stockman 

We should be really scared, unfortunately.

Robinson 

You had this excellent piece you wrote a couple of years back about the Permian Basin, which you visited, and about what you saw there. And I liked this because you bring home the reality of what the extraction of fossil fuels looks like on the ground, and what it does to the world. Could tell us what the Permian Basin is for those people who are only just hearing of it and what you saw there?

Stockman 

The Permian Basin derives its name from a geological basin that the oil and gas industry are exploiting for oil and gas. It basically covers an area about the size of Kansas that spreads from the southeastern corner of New Mexico into northwestern Texas. It is the most prolific oil and gas producing basin in the world today. When we count things like the natural gas liquids in which it’s very rich in—used primarily for things like propane, butane, and petrochemical production—and add that to the crude oil, the Permian Basin is producing nearly as much hydrocarbon liquids as Saudi Arabia. It also produces a lot of gas, which is a kind of byproduct of drilling for the liquid, and it’s of less value to the oil and gas companies that are pumping oil there. They target the oil, but they get a lot of gas, and therefore, waste a lot of that gas in gas flares and other wasteful practices, like venting methane, which is one of the most potent global warming substances that we can emit.

So, it’s an extremely prolific oil and gas basin. It’s quite unique, not only in its abundance, but also in its richness in these gas liquids, in both oil and gas. The oil and gas is accessed through fracking, an extremely intensive process. If you were to go to an app like Google Earth and hone in on the Permian Basin and look at recent satellite images, you’d see the whole area is very densely packed with these little rectangles of land where all the vegetation has been scrubbed away, with little roads connecting these things, and each one of those is a well pad. It requires tens of thousands of wells being drilled on an annual basis to keep the production growing. Particularly in Texas, but also in New Mexico, it is very unregulated. They actually have more regulations in New Mexico, but they do a really poor job of enforcing them, whereas in Texas in pretty much just a free for all.

And so, when you travel there and go around the oil field, you see an environmental disaster almost round every corner. You see gas flares burning off huge amounts of dirty gas with black smoke. It’s not the gas that burns on your stove top where you don’t see any smoke coming off, it’s gas mixed with all sorts of other hydrocarbons. So, they’re burning off this gas, and there’s intense black smoke coming off these flares everywhere you look. You see pipes everywhere. You see water pits everywhere, containing contaminated water that’s been pumped out of the wells. You see poorly maintained and rusting pump jacks all over the place.

If you do what I did, which was to go with some colleagues from a not-for-profit called Earthworks where they use these kinds of special cameras that can see the visible gases leaking from these well sites, you will see that there is methane and other volatile organic compounds leaking from the well sites, pipeline compressors, and storage tanks all over the place. It’s a kind of oil and gas hellscape.

Robinson 

That comes across in your blog post.

Stockman 

It’s not somewhere you want to live. And unfortunately, this is where a lot of our oil and gas is coming from today, close to 50% of a US oil and gas production at this point. A vast amount of it is because of its relative proximity to the Gulf Coast and export terminals on the Gulf Coast in places like Corpus Christi and the Houston area, with a lot of it actually being sent out for export.

So, we are trashing not only our climate, but really quite beautiful parts of west Texas, a unique ecosystem there in a high mountain desert with very interesting biodiversity. It’s a quite unique part of the world, and the oil and gas industry is trashing it at a hell of a pace. If you want to know more, you can go to our website, permianclimatebomb.org.

That kind of describes a little of what’s going on there. It really is ground zero for the fracking boom, and unfortunately, because most of it exists in a state called Texas—not that fracking is really that much better in other states around the Union—the regulation is particularly bad there.

Robinson 

That certainly comes across in what you wrote, which is an excellent piece introducing this place and showing us what we don’t usually see. We in the United States sort of keep the uglier parts of our society out of view: the factory farms, the prisons, and the Permian Basin—things we don’t want to look at because they are the dark, ugly underbelly of the economy that we depend on. So, you’ve told us some good news and some bad news.

You’ve told us about the fracking boom, the new climate investments, the threat posed by the Republican presidential candidates to any progress we have made, and the diminishing costs of wind and solar. What do you want to see happen next? As we think and live in this world, many people are terrified of their future. What needs to happen for us to move forward productively to get ourselves on the path to a livable future?

Stockman 

Essentially, we need to not just think about emissions, we need to actually target the fossil fuel industry and come up with a way to manage its decline in a way that is equitable for its workers and the communities dependent on it. But, we need to wind down the fossil fuel industry. We need to stop thinking of fossil fuel exports as a prime driver of our export economy. We need to stop pretending that things like carbon capture and storage are going to solve the problem and that we can continue to burn fossil fuels and simply find the techno fix for the emissions. So, we need a rethink of the Inflation Reductions Act. I think we need to focus much more on energy efficiency, on supporting the real solutions to climate change, which include things that are already here today and are performing very well, like wind and solar.

As I said, we do see some positive investment and advances in energy storage, not just lithium-ion batteries, but all sorts of new methods and chemistries for storing energy, which hold huge amounts of promise. And again, the Inflation Reduction Act goes some way towards this, but the United States has only just started to produce some energy from offshore wind—it’s 20 to 25 years behind Europe in doing so.

We have the technologies here and now today. We need to stop being distracted by fossil fuel interests that don’t want to face up to the hard truth that their industry needs to be sunset, and we need to build a new energy economy. We can’t do it overnight. It is a challenge. It may cause some disruption, but we need to actually be planning for that and thinking about how we’re going to manage that instead of pretending like the problem isn’t fossil fuels. 


Transcript edited by Patrick Farnsworth.

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