Global spending on energy is probably somewhere between $5 and $7 trillion US dollars. It’s actually difficult to be more precise than that, but when figures are that high perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Our climate, any changes to it and our responsibility for some of those changes matters to all of us. But because the bulk of whatever changes we have caused are caused by our use of energy, those involved in the $5-7 trillion sector have a lot at stake. It matters more.
Although all of us involved in the Climate Debate know who the Koch Brothers, Exxon, Shell and Peabody Energy are, they are only one side of the playing field. General Electric, Siemens, Solar City, Archer Daniels Midland, Trina and Yingli, BHP Billiton, Vale and a host of other very large companies are competing to be the dominant energy supplier for the rest of the century. Many have more than one offering–Exxon supplies natural gas as well as oil, General Electric works on nuclear power as well as wind turbines, etc.
In what I described yesterday as The Greater Game, I noted the number of players, ranging from companies and governments to NGOs and organized crime. But it’s time to recognize that the reason everybody is involved is not just a concern for our health and well-being. People want a bigger slice of a pie that is very large and is going to grow rapidly through most of this century.
Whether it happens by 2030, 2040 or 2050, energy consumption is set to double in the medium term future. And it may well double again by 2075. If the dollar figures involved in energy production and provision double along with it, a $10-14 trillion dollar market is well worth playing for.
And when playing for that kind of stakes, you can bet they will play hardball. NGOs inclined to oppose nuclear power get donations from fossil fuel companies. NGOs opposed to fossil fuels are supported by other energy providers. Those appalled by the strength of the fossil fuel lobbying battalions would be equally appalled by the strength and numbers of lobbyists for other types of energy, especially nuclear.
As each of the competing energy technologies has both strengths and weaknesses, there is plenty of room for argumentation and horse-trading. But scientists, bloggers and citizens won’t have any seats at the table where winners and losers are decided.
Our signals from outside the casino may have some marginal effect, which is one reason I continue to write. But a lot of money is involved in the Greater Game–enough to deafen the players to outside information and blind them to the probable effects of wrong decisions.