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From Washington to Brussels, Western politicians are bent on imposing a top-down “green” agenda on the scientific community and industry. They cancel out dissenting voices and impose a single discourse.
Countless scientists and environmental activists support an accelerated transition to green energy as the solution to climate change that they attribute to the current global energy matrix, but science has always been a decentralized process of conjecture and refutation. An energy transition of the scope of the one they intend to impose on us would only be feasible under two conditions:
- Applying decentralized science with solid, empirically proven results and discarding errors.
- Introducing new green technologies to the market that are economically more profitable than the ones they replace.
The reality is that at their current level of development, the “green” technologies that the political agendas of the West insist on promoting are not very environmentally friendly or economically efficient. Centralized science, huge subsidies and transfers, crony “capitalism” and geopolitical dependence on the most polluting of today’s major economies are some of the inconvenient truths behind the “green” discourse of our times.
During the first Cold War, government-centralized efforts in applied science bore remarkable fruits in the West. The space race, in addition to the moon landing, made possible a number of technologies that otherwise would have taken longer to emerge, from freeze-dried food to communications satellites. But the testing procedures were clear, open and with competing options. And much was decentralized science and technology in competition. To cite the obvious, myriad private NASA contractors competing to bring their solutions to a centralized public project.
But the subsequent economic profitability of space-age technologies was a fortunate accident, only possible in market economies. The space race was about political prestige and parallel military development. What the United States and the USSR were showing off to each other was the ability to build intercontinental ballistic missiles to carry nuclear weapons.
What they are trying to impose on us today is much more costly and its economic implications much more profound. With “green” technology they are promising much more than it could technologically and economically deliver at its current stage of development.
The world has already gone through great energy transitions, first from wind to coal and steam, and then to oil and internal combustion. Science reveals that these were transitions from lower density energy sources to higher density sources. The transition was only successfully advanced when the new technologies were more profitable than the ones they displaced.
With the “green economy,” the intention is to go in the opposite direction. The transition offered to us would displace energies of higher density and economically profitable, by energies of lower density and lower economic profitability. Energy is the material basis of all economic activity. The highest possible energy efficiency is indispensable for economic growth without which it would be impossible to reduce poverty. Less energy means less economic activity and more poverty.
Renewable sources currently generate about 5% of primary energy. The investment needed to make them the main sources would quickly have to be subsidized with more taxes or more debt in already over-indebted, over-regulated and over-taxed economies. That would mean rapidly reducing the standard of living in the West and condemning underdeveloped nations to abysmal poverty. The geopolitical cost would be total dependence on China as a source of key green technology materials, such as rare earths elements.
Despite their greater battery-to-wheel energy efficiency, the best electric motors are still less efficient than internal combustion engines in vehicles. The best batteries for electric vehicles take much longer to recharge than liquid fuels or natural gas. Wind and solar power have high economic costs, intermittency problems and significant hidden ecological impacts. Nuclear energy, which generates the least CO2 of all, leaves radioactive waste that is costly to control in the very long term.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros