Big Oil's War on Solar Power

Big Oil's War on Solar Power

By JP Sottile

Do you remember the "peak oil"?

The others do not remember either.

It is because of the operational theory of why, at the turn of the century, the big oil companies increased their pressure on the political system and used it to acquire a large part of the “diminishing” resource by whatever means, often through imperialism. custom-made has suddenly become irrelevant.

It is not that the fear of an imminent and precipitous decline in oil production was not an effective instrument for manipulating markets, influencing authorities, and fueling oil-thirsty masses to support oil-based wars, even if they were not. subconscious way.

It was effective.

Rather suddenly the planet is flooded with oil. New discoveries in Africa, the long-awaited Caspian Sea oil and gas pipeline, the expansion of reserves in the US and the possibilities of the South China Sea have turned the earth's ecosystem into a source of youthful exuberance for the big oil companies.

Add to that the increasingly sophisticated technologies now used to extract oil from shale, boil glob of toxic tar sands, and the massive construction of new infrastructure projects to transport it across the continent and the globe, and you get a supply of oil. oil that is not going to “peak” sometime in the foreseeable future.

In fact, with the opening of the last pristine frontier - the Arctic Ocean - due to oil-fueled climate change, those responsible for the big oil companies could be reaping even more profits than they pay for fuel. Burning many hydrocarbons is big business for the oil industry.

It's good to be king, and right now it looks like Big Oil is king of the world!

But there is a problem.

Every day the executives, geologists, engineers, lobbyists and political accomplices of the oil industry wake up to an existential threat. And all the lobbying in the world won't stop you from increasing every day looming over them and challenging their every act.

The oil industry cannot hide from the sun.

It turns out that the sun not only supplies the essential energy that powers all life on earth, but - thanks to the ingenuity of some particularly annoying humans - its reliable light can be converted into useful electricity by a miraculous device called a photovoltaic cell.

Let's imagine it, what if people stopped burning oil, gas, and even coal, and just used those miraculous devices to transform solar energy into the electricity required to power almost everything?

Well, if someone is one of the masters of the oil universe, they have probably lost many hours of sleep worrying about precisely that problem. But worrying is not enough. The oil industry is springing into action to stop the sun's attack on its energy monopoly. Big oil companies are striving to counter market-driven innovations that not only make solar power more and more affordable, but also make solar power an increasingly attractive investment for previously trusted benefactors. on Wall Street of the oil industry.

In fact, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) recently published a report especially recommending the future of renewable energy as an investment. Suddenly it's not about environmental ethics. Now it has to do with profit and loss.

According to BNEF, annual investment in new renewable energy capacity is set to increase significantly between now and 2030. The report notes: “The most likely scenario involves a 230% jump, to $ 630 billion through 2030, driven by further improvements in the competitiveness of the costs of wind and solar technologies with respect to alternatives based on fossil fuels ... "

But there is more: "The improvements in cost competitiveness mean that renewables will represent between 69% and 74% of the new energy capacity added until 2030 worldwide."

And even better yet: Renewables are not just crossing the line of hippies' dream of being the goose that lays the golden eggs; the manufacturing sector moves so fast that there is an “excess” of solar panels. So is. Solar panels are no longer "too expensive" or an "unrealistic" alternative to the oil industry's monopoly on power production. Instead there is a production surplus in solar manufacturing.

If so. There is a surplus!

The surplus may be the real reason Solyndra, along with other major solar manufacturers, collapsed in recent years. They were simply outmaneuvered by rapid advances in manufacturing and cheap labor in China. That combination led to the rapid and irrevocable obsolescence of its original production model. It is not an example of the castles in the air of green technology multiplying. Rather, it is an indication that market forces are moving at breakneck speed to offer us all the miracle of photovoltaics exactly at the moment when the planet needs it most.

Now, for the first time in history, the oil industry faces an obvious and present danger that actually promises energy supply without a panoply of oil-related problems:

Without the CO2 that alters the climate

Without all the cancers, asthma and birth defects that cause tailpipes

· No spills, explosions and ruptures of pipelines that destroy the ecosystem.

· Without all those wars and political bribes and support for repressive Petro-States.

And without all those moral, ethical and ecological commitments that are dragging the entire planet, and us with it, in a lethal spiral of destructive consumption.

But you haven't started selling your Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell or Halliburton stock yet. The oil industry has spent billions of dollars on the care and well-being of its collective control of the energy market and, indeed, the soul of the modern world.

The primary strategy of the preventive war of the oil industry against the revolutionary and liberating power of the sun is to "exceed" the "surplus of renewables."

In fact, US oil inventory hit an 82-year high on May 1, with stocks rising to 395.3 million barrels at the end of last week! The price per barrel was set at more than $ 90, down from the peak of $ 118 in February 2013, but still far from the $ 11-25 per barrel of the worst days of the Clinton years.

Not surprisingly, the price at the gas station hasn't dropped in 82 years. But it's come down and CNNMoney he touted it as a handout to consumers and the faltering economic recovery with an ambitious headline on the front page: "Falling Gas Prices to the Rescue."

But who is being rescued?

Consumers? Small companies? Obama's economic team?

Or are the big oil companies being bailed out?

Fattened by Bush-era oil and gas price hikes, it makes sense for them to “sacrifice” a few pennies or even years of “fixed profits” to flood the market with hydrocarbons and limit the progress of renewables, and in concrete solar energy.

In March 2013 - just a few weeks before the 82-year peak in oil inventories - the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reported that photovoltaic power plants generated 100% of the entire new electric power capacity. USA It was a first in US history, by the way.

That may be why Saudi Arabia is embracing the US shale boom that is currently transforming the US into an energy exporter. In a pure free-market sense, this doesn't seem like it makes much sense to oil-dependent Saudis. But Khalid Al-Falih, CEO of Saudi Aramco, was enthusiastic about the Financial times on the positive impact of US oil and its crucial role in "reassuring" consumers about the "reliability of oil supplies."

More specifically, Al-Falih told the FT that more oil production in the US “… only cements the public and global consensus that we have already known. Oil will be the fuel of choice… for a long period of time and we have to manage it, we have to invest in it ”.

And they are doing it with ever deeper drilling, political lobbying, new fleets of tankers and, taking an ace from one of their many holes, the fracking hydraulic.

And the frenzy of fracking It is the main front in the preventive war of the big oil companies against the increasing capacity of renewable energies. Armed with the growing supply of so-called “clean” “natural” gas, the plan to “exceed” the solar surplus is being developed in the US.

A massive increase in natural gas production is not only poisoning water supplies and causing earthquakes, it is also undermining the transition to renewables - solar especially - and forcing money-strapped governments to forego the future in favor of a cheap and easy present.

Natural gas is indeed an "influencer" for the big oil companies that will preserve hydrocarbon infrastructure for decades to come and undermine both rapid progress in renewable technologies and the declared desire of the American public for more emphasis on energy. solar and wind. They are comfortable with more "neutral gas", also probably because of the fancy brand of hydrocarbon gas as "clean" and "natural".

But nothing trumps the net result. And the oil companies know it. All the bad news about the weather and the world's pipeline extinctions and spills doesn't outweigh simple economics, particularly in tough times. Perhaps that is why so many are convinced that the approval of the Keystone XL pipe is, in fact, the “end game” of the planet.

If approved, the new surge in oil to the market - in combination with the fracking and a recently identified massive source of methane "trapped" in the seabed called "fire ice" will amplify Khalid Al-Falih's "encouraging reliability" and "consolidate" the monopoly of the big oil companies in the future.

And by the way, it's a bleak future.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentarian ( The Warning), 2008).


Translated from English by Germán Leyens


Video: California solar power plants ignite birds mid-flight (January 2022).