Jude Clemente is Confused About the Energy Transition

Energy Aware

Jude Clemente says he is confused about the energy transition. Not really. It’s just camouflage for his true opinion that it’s a farce.

In a post late last month, he reiterated well-established criticisms of renewable energy, electric vehicles and the urgency of climate change in the first place. For example,

“On the holy climate panacea triad of more wind, solar, and electric cars, I’m so utterly confused. How is it that we can increasingly rely on non-dispatchable (i.e., intermittent, usually unavailable), weather-dependent electricity from wind and solar plants to displace, not just supplement, dispatchable (i.e., baseload, almost always available) coal, gas, and nuclear power?…If wind, solar, and electric cars too are as effective and low-cost as so many keep promising us, there would obviously be no need for government subsidies for broad adoption.”

That is not interesting.

It is interesting that his very unoriginal message was so well-received.

True believers in the fossil energy-climate hoax-human flourishing tribe now sense that the momentum has shifted. Despite their best arguments, every day they see the advance of laws, regulations and public support to do something about climate change. Even the infallible market is increasingly on-board with massive investments in the energy transition.

They are terrified and see those who don’t share their views as a danger to society and to their way of life. It’s both similar and related to the enmity of political parties across the world today. Jude Clemente’s post appears to them as a safe harbor from the furious tempest.

Clemente has a very narrow focus so naturally he is perplexed. Like Alex Epstein, he frames our predicament as a cosmic conflict between the forces of good versus evil energy choices. That is hugely unproductive and yet it resonates with a lot of people. Its appeal may be that it seems to simplify an otherwise bewildering mix of  complex subjects.

Many climate activists also have a narrow focus. For them, the armies of light and darkness are in locked in mortal combat over carbon emissions. They similarly lack the broader systems perspective graphically shown in this figure.

Figure 1. Carbon tunnel vision. Source: Jon Konietzko.

I am not taking sides. Positions and beliefs on all sides of this debate have merit. And that is precisely why so many people—unlike Jude Clemente—are genuinely confused. There don’t seem to be any solutions.

I recently listened to an interview with Gaya Herrington. She holds masters degrees in both econometrics and sustainability studies, and works in the financial sector. In discussing her recent book, Five Insights for Avoiding Global Collapseshe offered these observations about her own experience.

“We’re talking about global systems, so it can feel very overwhelming and if everything is connected, you’re never really done. So working in systems is very overwhelming. And at the same time, it’s such a personal journey. It starts with yourself, and not only that, it has to start with yourself. And I think that’s a very important point to make. And for me, these big global planetary boundaries, to respect those, is to respect your own boundaries. I feel like there’s a connection there.”

She goes on to describe a hypothetical situation in which someone asks what price you would put on your own child. The obvious response is that there is no price. Life is sacred. It is the same for the earth.

Most people only think about the state of the earth in its most superficial aspects.

They recognize that pollution is a big problem and clearly something caused mostly by human activities. Similarly, they are aware that many animal species are endangered because humans are crowding them out of or polluting their habitats.

In fact, the animal population—not the number of species—has decreased by 69% since 1970. Animal population and pollution are not, however, part of most people’s daily experience. A common response to those who mention these problems is that they are “tree huggers.”

For those who only place value on human flourishing, they should at least heed energy expert Vaclav Smil’s observation,

“Without a biosphere in good shape, there is no life on the planet. It’s very simple. That’s all you need to know.”

I suggest that we look up from our phones and stop trying to be right about our favorite topic for just a few minutes. Are we capable of getting beyond our simplistic talking points about energy and climate change long enough to see what is happening to our planet?

Gaya Herrington suggests that the solution to global collapse may not really be about logical arguments, cost-benefit analysis, or good versus evil.

It’s a psychological problem.

Art Berman is anything but your run-of-the-mill energy consultant. With a résumé boasting over 40 years as a petroleum geologist, he’s here to annihilate your preconceived notions and rearm you with unfiltered, data-backed takes on energy and its colossal role in the world's economic pulse. Learn more about Art here.

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