Renewable energies have to compete with fossil fuel companies that will put up a fight
Credit: Pexels by Pixabay

Peter Dykstra: Headwinds remain for clean energy

Will the Inflation Reduction Act mark the time when fossil fuels begin to fossilize?

"What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General Motors is good for the country."

Charles Wilson, 1953

As President Biden turns his victory lap for squeaking a major climate victory through a 50-50 Senate, the ghost of Charles Wilson remains. Wilson was the first defense secretary in the Eisenhower administration. And yes, he was a bit partial to GM because his previous job was CEO of the company.


If on top of Wilson’s ghost you throw in Big Oil and its dominance in U.S. foreign policy — witness Biden’s making nice with the Saudis last month — you’ll see the tricky road ahead to realize the promises of the Inflation Reduction Act.

To be sure, the climate and energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are significant, even if they’re long overdue. But in order to placate the fossilized wing of the Democratic Party, for example, the bill broadens industry access to federal lands — even if the industry holds over 9,000 public lands drilling permits it hasn’t used.

These are some examples of the type of tactics that could jeopardize the implementation of the law.

Bumpy roads remain for electric vehicles

The 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?details successful efforts to engineer GM’s EV-1 out of existence in the late 1990’s. The EV-1 was praised by engineers. For all the world, it looked like an electric passenger vehicle was finally ready. Within six years, not only was the EV-1 program shut down, but the existing cars were destroyed, leaving virtually no trace.

The push of the fossil fuel industry against electric vehicles (EV) didn’t stop with the destruction of GM’s EV-1 program. Two years ago, the American Petroleum Institute spearheaded the launch of the Transportation Fairness Alliance, as brazen a front group as any. The group argues that gasoline or diesel-driven vehicle owners pay fuel taxes at the pump. EV owners, they reason, cheat the system by not pitching into the tax pool that funds road construction and repair. (In all fairness, EVs also don’t contribute to ground-level ozone pollution or “smog.” And, depending on the source of the electricity, EVs ideally don’t spew carbon into the air.)

However, investigators at DeSmog found that “the coalition is being managed by FTI Consulting, a DC-based international consultancy firm that has a long history of running front groups and PR campaigns for the oil and gas industry.”

Rooftop solar under attack

A report last year by the NGO Environment America detailed efforts by state-level agencies and “astroturf” grassroots groups to strip homeowners of the financial incentives for installing rooftop solar arrays. States including Ohio, Illinois, California, Kansas, South Carolina and Florida – ironically, “the Sunshine State,” – have seen years-long efforts to roll back utility paybacks to solar owners who sell their excess power back to the grid.

“Fredo” Koch and the wind farm

Bill Koch is the estranged brother of Charles and the late David Koch, the politically active dynamos that have bankrolled many far right causes since the 1980’s.

Bill is an avid sailor who won the 1992 America’s Cup. While his Oxbow Industries had nowhere near the multi-billion fossil fuel portfolio of his brothers, Bill had quite a pocketful of his own. He also had strong feelings about wind power competing with oil and potentially spoiling the view in Nantucket Sound from his Cape Cod home.

He poured millions into a group battling Cape Wind, a 24-square-mile, 130-turbine proposal for the Sound. Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon won approval from multiple state and federal agencies and endured at least 26 lawsuits before quitting in 2017.

What’s the moral in all this?

After decades of false starts and dashed hopes, wind and solar are beginning to turn in the numbers: Both grew at record rates in 2021. With science, economics, the increasing urgency of addressing climate change and a huge federal boost at their backs, is it really time for fossil fuels to begin to fossilize?

Billion-dollar businesses don’t go down without a fight. Ever.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home
www.thestar.com

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — At a suburban park near Doha, the capital city of Qatar, cool air from vents in the ground blasted joggers on a November day t...
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Satellite constellations could harm the environment, new watchdog report says
www.scientificamerican.com

Satellite constellations could harm the environment, new watchdog report says

Elon Musk’s Starlink and other satellite sources of light pollution and orbital debris should face an environmental review, the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds
The world’s roots are getting shallower
eos.org

The world’s roots are getting shallower

Root-filled soils are hot spots of nutrient cycling and carbon storage. New research finds that the world has lost millions of cubic meters of rooted soil volume—and we’re on track to lose much more.
Jeddah sees highest ever recorded rain, flooding coastal city
english.alarabiya.net

Jeddah sees highest ever recorded rain, flooding coastal city

The heavy rain that hit Jeddah was the highest ever recorded rainfall in the coastal city, the spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s National Center for
China’s 26-storey pig skyscraper ready to slaughter 1 million pigs a year
www.theguardian.com

China’s 26-storey pig skyscraper ready to slaughter 1 million pigs a year

The world’s biggest single-building pig farm has opened in Hubei province, but critics say it will increase the risk of larger animal disease outbreaks
From our Newsroom
katharine hayhoe

Peter Dykstra: Journalists I’m thankful for

My third annual list of the over-achieving and under-thanked.

sperm count decline shanna swan

A new analysis shows a “crisis” of male reproductive health

Global average sperm count is declining at a quicker pace than previously known, chemical exposure is a suspected culprit.

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

"Pregnant women, and men planning to conceive a pregnancy, have a responsibility to protect the reproductive health of the offspring they are creating."

sperm count decline

Frequently asked questions on the new sperm count decline study

Sperm counts are declining everywhere — the implications are huge.

midterm elections

Peter Dykstra: Environmental takeaways from Election Day

What happened and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t happen?

coal pennsylvania

Former coal plant near Pittsburgh is poisoning groundwater: Report

Groundwater near the site contains arsenic levels 372 times higher than safety threshold. Coal ash sites across the U.S. are seeing similar contamination.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.