Last week the World Economic Forum published a report imploring the energy industry to use this unprecedented disruption of the status quo to consider building a “new energy order.” While the novel coronavirus has caused major damage (in some cases irreparably) to vast swaths of the global energy industry, this could be a great opportunity to dedicate resources, investment, and research and development into renewable energy ventures. “Though this is the worst possible way to begin a decade, the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices also offer an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy markets and global collaboration to support the recovery phase once the acute crisis subsides,” stated the World Economic Forum. “This giant reset grants us the option to launch aggressive, forward-thinking and long-term strategies leading to a diversified, secure and reliable energy system that will ultimately support the future growth of the world economy in a sustainable and equitable way.”
As business as usual ceases to become an option, “transforming America into a country that runs on clean energy is one way experts hope to alleviate the devastating economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” writes The Verge. Some policymakers, activists, and academics are already hard at work trying to spin the crisis into an economic opportunity.
One idea is a $2 trillion “green stimulus” package, which “aims to create millions of jobs by dramatically expanding renewable energy capacity and retooling the nation’s infrastructure for the transition away from fossil fuels.” one of its co-authors, political economist Mark Paul, told The Verge that “Right now is the ideal time to be investing in renewable energy that can produce millions of family-sustaining wage jobs across the United States.”
With shale oil in crisis and tens of thousands of employees fired or furloughed across the Permian Basin, clean energy could provide more and more stable jobs in the energy industry. Even more than just getting some of the 30 million unemployed U.S. citizens back into the workforce, aiming more of the federal budget at the clean energy sector “would put Americans back to work, shift the balance of power away from polluting industries with big lobbying budgets, and meet key deadlines for climate action that scientists say are necessary to limit the damage done by climate change.”
In a column written for Oilprice earlier this month, I posited that a new, more ecologically and socially responsible era of investment and R&D spending is in store for all industry sectors, not only energy--a “financial revolution.” The global economy had already been veering toward a tipping point toward crisis long before the coronavirus pandemic, as exemplified by the protests that sprang up around the world late last year, fuelled by economic unrest, not to mention how fast many international economies crumbled under the stress test of coronavirus, especially already precarious petro-states that may not recover.
Increasingly, investing in clean energy seems to be a far more financially responsible and reliable economic plan for the future, not to mention how essential and energy transition is for the planet. “Renewables like solar and wind create more jobs per unit of energy delivered than coal or natural gas, a 2010 study published in the journal Energy Policy found,” reports The Verge. “While $1 million in stimulus spending on oil and natural gas generated roughly five jobs, the same amount would result in 13 to 14 jobs in wind and solar, a 2009 report found.”
The numbers are there, and the need is certainly there. Now we just need follow-through. There are already grassroots movements popping up around the country in support of building up green energy infrastructure, with one petition out of New York calling for $500 billion to inject into state budgets and to expand their clean energy spending. But while local and state-level initiatives will certainly go a long way to driving a clean energy transition, the heavy lifting has to be done by federal governments worldwide.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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