Granthshala editorial: This isn’t the first energy shock of the green era. It’s the last energy shock of the fossil-fuel age

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The reality of today’s energy and the energy aspirations of tomorrow met in the boxing ring – and the status quo won, in the knockouts.

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It was not a fair fight. And that is the problem.

As the world comes out of the coronavirus recession, demand for energy has soared, driving fossil fuel prices higher. In the past year, the price of oil has more than doubled to more than US$80 a barrel. Natural gas prices have risen even more rapidly. The economic recovery in China has led to a shortage of coal.

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It has been called the first energy jolt of the Green Age – but it isn’t quite on the mark. The Green Age, for all talk and promise, has not yet begun. World’s energy sources in 2021 slightly changed from At the end of the 20th century. We are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

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You can get an idea of ​​this by looking at the prices of petrol. In Canada, the national average retail price of gasoline has risen above $1.40 a liter only a few times in the past. On Thanksgiving, it peaked at $1.47. In a decade, things could be different, with more people behind the wheel of electric vehicles. But the economic rebound of this decline was equivalent to a rebound in oil demand – as it would have happened a decade ago, or a century ago. Higher oil demand crashed directly into strained supply, as investment in new oil production fell during the pandemic, when prices were very low. in the United States, world’s largest producer, After a peak in March of 2020, production fell by 25 percent, and only half of the fall has recovered.

Such shortages will continue as the world invests in clean energy with the ongoing use of fossil fuels. The transition will be rocky. But that doesn’t change the imperative: The world must run out of fossil fuels, no matter how politically and economically challenging.

The upcoming United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow, which begins on 31 October, is an example. It’s hard to be bold about 2050 when 2021 feels like a vise. Chinese President Xi Jinping will reportedly not attend. There will be US President Joe Biden, but his climate agenda is mired in Congress.

The International Energy Agency, which presented a historic net zero report earlier this year, released its annual outlook last week. it said Progress towards net zero is “very slow”, and current energy and climate policies around the world are not enough to change course. Without much change, IEA says demand for oil and natural gas Will continue to grow until at least 2030.

The size of the task, overhauling the world’s energy system, is hard to put into words. A look at the birthplace of coal power and the Industrial Revolution provides some perspective. Five years ago, the United Kingdom still got 25 percent of its electricity from coal. It has now come down to 2 per cent. But the UK is now almost dependent on natural gas 40 percent of your power, and there is global demand UK electricity prices hit record high.

What about options? Wind produced 18 percent of Britain’s electricity in the past year. But wind, like solar, is constrained by the vagaries of nature and the limitations of electricity storage technology. the winds were strong and steady generate a remarkable 60 percent One day of Britain’s power in August of 2020. But at the beginning of last month the winds didn’t blow, and Air is only 3 percent. Was of electricity generation.

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Another clean option, nuclear power, which can replace natural gas as a base power, provided just 17 percent of Britain’s electricity in the past year.

Britain’s progress shows just how far the energy transition has to go. in IEA net zero report, it pushed solar as the largest source of future energy supply. But getting there would mean the equivalent of the largest solar array currently in existence, every day, day after day, for the rest of the decade.

And this is not happening. Clean energy investment is at a very low level. That’s why the world rests on fossil fuels. Ontario’s electricity system operator said as much this month when it pointed out that phasing out natural gas electricity in the province by 2030 was not realistic, and risks high costs and power shortages.

Right now, in the battle between the present and the future, clean energy options are still a comparative pipsak, while fossil fuels are at their prime. A massive collective effort will have to be made to change the outcome.

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