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The Geopolitics of Renewable Energy

by John Brian Shannon | January 19, 2015

What’s lacking in the world these days is a grand overriding global vision, one that large numbers of people can buy-into.

"What if we don't change at all... and something magical just happens."

The entire world bought-into Perestroika and Glasnost, culminating in the end of the Cold War and the only reason it ended, is those policies appealed to large groups of people worldwide.

The imagination of the global public was captured *and only thereby* did the Cold War end. Ergo, voters put the people into office who shared their dream of ending the Cold War.

Similarly, did South African apartheid end.

Someone created a vision to which many millions of South African and global citizens could buy-into and people voted into office those who would carry out their wishes on the matter.

So many other examples exist; ‘The New Deal (FDR), Victory in WWII (Churchill), the Moon Shot (JFK), civil rights (MLK), Playing the China card (Kissinger), the PC (Steve Jobs / Bill Gates), I could go on at length. But you get my point.

Stifling individual visionaries is non-productive. Yet it seems to be the new norm.

Not all visionaries are perfect, not all visions are inspired, but it was a visionary who created the wheel, not an incrementalist. We can all see the profundity of that vision.

He or she, may not have created the best wheel at the time, but the manifestation of that vision has moved our civilization by orders of magnitude.

Under the umbrella of a grand and popular vision, the will of millions (perhaps billions) of citizens can be galvanized toward a common cause. The Moon shot is a great example of this — but in the absence of a grand overriding vision, civilization eventually falters. Everyone on the planet can be ‘part of the solution’. Unless we bungle it, that is.

Presently, the grand overriding vision is to attack suspected terrorists and to degrade the status of ordinary Muslims in our own, and their own, countries. That’s not a vision. Nor is it wise.

And slamming Vlad Putin in the media is not visionary.

“Demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” — Dr. Henry Kissinger

What we need now is a real vision that most everyone can buy-into. We need ‘Larger than Life’ stuff — not this B-movie script stuff.

One script that millions and perhaps billions of people could buy-into, is an accelerated change-up to renewable energy and high fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.

For example, 50% of all electricity produced in the world by 2020 should be sourced from renewable energy. And a 95 MPGe standard for new vehicle fleets.

Let’s not fool ourselves, doing so would NOT be as difficult as the Moon shot, NOT as difficult as ending the Cold War in practically a matter of months, and NOT as difficult as ending South African apartheid within a handful of years.

Energy consumption by energy type. Image courtesy of EIA

Energy consumption by energy type. Image courtesy of EIA

Still, it would be a grand enough and difficult enough vision to capture the world’s attention and galvanize people towards a unifying and noble cause.

Reaching 50% of our energy needs with renewable energy is a vision and a goal that everyone could feel good about and thereby want to buy-into.

We can take a profound step towards this worthy goal by acting on one of the following choices:

  1. Remove the $600 billion dollars of annual fossil fuel subsidies over 10 years
  2. Dramatically ramp-up renewable energy subsidies to match fossil fuel subsidies
  3. Institute a carbon tax that reflects the actual cost to society of fossil fuel use

Any one of these plans would work.

I favour the (2) option — “Dramatically ramp-up renewable energy subsidies to match fossil fuel subsidies” — with equal subsidy amounts for renewable and non-renewable energy in every year to 2050. To be followed by complete cessation of ALL energy subsidies (renewable and non-renewable) on January 1, 2051 for a truly level energy playing field after that date.

We’d be leaving a cleaner world to our future generations and saving our economies trillions of dollars in environmental costs and healthcare costs.

And all that’s stopping us from that worthy and noble goal is a lack of vision and will.

Carbon dioxide emissions by region. Image courtesy of EIA

Global CO2 emissions by region. Image courtesy of EIA

In 20 years, wouldn’t it be great to look back and say;

‘By replacing fossil fuel use with renewable energy, billions of people are now breathing clean air, enjoying increased lifespan and quality-of-life, and we’ve saved trillions of dollars in carbon/climate mitigation costs.’

And those old enough at the time could say; ‘We built that.’

Is Diplomacy dead?

by John Brian Shannon | December 1, 2014


Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the 65th United Nations General Assembly

Whether Iran has, or doesn’t have, the capability to build a nuclear bomb is almost irrelevant to our world. No country in it’s right mind is ever going to use ‘the bomb’ unless it is first attacked with WMD weapons.

By making such a big deal about it, the West (with significant cheerleading by Israel) implies that Iran’s leaders are not in their right mind. Or that future Iranian leaders won’t be in their right mind.

Which neatly puts Iran, and by extension that region of the world and the entire religion of Islam, on the defensive

Maybe that’s the whole goal, right there.

Putting Iran on the defensive and by ramping-up the pressure (almost always leads even the best political leaders to some sort of gaffe or misstep) which can then, retroactively, be used to justify whatever we later do to Iran and/or the region.

Which could entail the West becoming involved in a risky regime change, stealing their oil, and changing their culture to a adopt a more Western outlook — all of which could conceivably occur — but at great military and security cost to the West. We have the power to make it happen. The question is, should we? The payoff for the West would represent $20 trillion dollars of increased economic activity over the next 50 years, but only if we survive it. A risky bit of business, to say the least.

Maybe all of that and more is on the books for that region of the world

If so, it is thinly-disguised racism which reads like this: “Let’s prevent the Muslims from getting too advanced, there’s already 1.5 billion of them, let’s keep them in the iron age.” (My employing the term “iron age” in this context, means working to keep the Muslim nations in a permanent state of non-value-added resource extraction, and never letting them advance past that stage. By force, if necessary)

I doubt that I’m blowing any secret agenda

It’s pretty obvious to anyone with an interest in geopolitics that someone, somewhere, is driving this agenda and is pushing the West towards this potentially catastrophic and apocalyptic conclusion.

Unless it’s about regime change and stealing the oil/gas. Then it’s no longer primarily about racism, it’s about interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation and theft of resources.

Either of which read like a B-movie script from the 1960’s.

Good international relations (which are everything, as we only have one planet to live on) are of prime importance. Racism, or regime change/resource theft, must rank much further down the scale. Our survival depends on good international relations, it does not and cannot depend on racism or theft. Nor even regime change.

If we are the diplomats we think we are, then let’s prove it!

(No problem is too big for us to handle, because eventually and profoundly, it can’t be. Otherwise we cease to exist)

Surely we must delegate racism and theft to the bottom of the priority scale, to continue our civilization on this planet.

I thought all of this was agreed to at the end of WWII and again at the end of the Cold War

Why are some people now ‘cheap-shotting’ Iran and trying to unlearn what we have learned in past decades?

Rather than allow the ‘tail to wag the dog’ by defaulting to some 1960’s B-move script, diplomats must work with Iran (and the other nations of Islam) to build a paradigm of win-win success and move forward, past the present potentially apocalyptic temptation.

We are either the diplomats that we think we are — or we are racist, regime-changing, resource-pirates

By definition, we can’t be both at once.

Who are we?

As I have faith in human nature (ultimately, but with an asterisk) I hope that by empowering our diplomats towards sustainable outcomes, we will become the people that we should become — and not be a people who revert to the thinking of a bygone century. Feudalism brought us two World Wars and the Cold War we can now admit.

Why play for marbles in Iran (and Ukraine, for that matter) when we could be playing for gold bars in the Pacific Rim nations? Why spend America’s prestige and effort on mere marbles? Especially when there are boatloads of gold bars to be had with less effort and far less risk.

Part of our maturing as a civilization can be seen in the forward-thinking APEC, TPP and FTAAP, which I hope is a foreshadowing of things to come for the nations of the Pacific rim. If we allow that to become all that it can and should be, all of us will be the richer for it.

In addition to the existing economic engines of the U.S.A., EU, and BRICS, we could add depth and strength to our global economy by creating a new, interdependent economic engine, the Pacific Rim bloc, which could represent $111 trillion dollars of increased trade activity over the next 50 years. Each nation of the bloc would make its own valid contribution to a greater whole, instead of continuing with the until recently, largely unguided economics of the present pan-Pacific totality.

The pivot to Asia combined with a wealth-generating Pan Pacific multi-layered partnership could and should result in changing the entire geopolitical conversation to a grand and positive one — instead of one where everything is about sniping at Iran (the bomb) and Russia (eastern Ukraine).

It’s all how you look at things

Two men look out through the same bars
One sees mud. The other, stars!
Frederick Langbridge

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