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Are fossil fuel prices really how we want to assess renewable energy?

July 29, 2014

Ask your friends what they think the success of renewable energy would look like to them. I expect many of them would say that once the cost of renewable energy is reduced to the same level as fossil energy, then renewables would be considered successful.


Are fossil fuels really the success benchmark for renewable energy?

Are fossil fuels really the benchmark for renewable energy?


We seem to be saying that the most important consideration for renewable energy is that the price must compete favorably with coal and natural gas. Is that really the most important consideration?

Consider the now-indisputable fact that May and June were the hottest months in recorded history…worldwide. Consider that atmospheric and ocean surface temperatures have increased steadily over the last 25 years, and have moved dramatically upward over the last few. Then consider that methane hydrate deposits on the sea floor are now destabilizing, hovering just at the temperature that keeps methane from dissolving into the atmosphere. One more degree upward will start the unstoppable process of melting.




As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been warning for years, the gargantuan amount of barely-frozen methane in the sea is the trigger that ends the game for all of us. Once this methane begins to release into the atmosphere, it will drive global temperatures higher faster than we can possibly prevent. Game over, as they say, for life as we know it.

The very latest studies now suggest that the Earth’s sixth major extinction event may have already begun, and we’re causing it. The most recent extinction event – the fifth one that occurred sixty five million years ago – killed all the dinosaurs and 75% of all the species on Earth. We know that that event was caused by an asteroid impact. The event before that – the fourth one that occurred 200 million years ago – was caused by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. That CO2-related extinction event was worse than the asteroid impact and it took far longer for the Earth to recover.

If there’s any good news, it is that the sixth major extinction event may still be preventable with conservation and by aggressively replacing fossil energy with clean renewable energy technologies. So ask yourself, what would you use as a benchmark to measure the success of renewable energy? Would it be our ability to sell renewable energy below the cost of fossil energy? Or perhaps it’s time we all realized that our planet is worth saving atany cost?


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