“The only way they can maintain market dominance is by controlling our political system, because the markets have left them,” Kennedy told EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry during a lengthy on-camera interview in Park City, Utah on June 8, 2017, at the Waterkeeper Alliance International Conference.
The economics are spelled out in a report from Carbon Tracker and the Principles for Responsible Investment released June 21, 2017. Five of the world’s six largest oil companies stand to lose $2.3 trillion on oil and gas projects that will not be needed if Paris climate targets are reached. Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell could each waste more than one third of their exploration and production investment dollars by 2025.
The transition to a new energy economy is already underway. In 2016, solar and wind added 362,000 U.S. jobs, with global employment in these sectors now totaling 9.8 million. “Renewable energy sources are set to represent almost three quarters of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generating technology until 2040, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including electric vehicle batteries, in balancing supply and demand,” states the Bloomberg New Energy Outlook 2017 report.
“You have 21 companies making electric cars,” said Kennedy. “The competition is going to drive those prices down the same way they drove computer prices down.” Kennedy mentioned that he had seen for himself a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell-powered 18-wheeler out-accelerate a diesel semi, and noted that Tesla is working on a battery-electric big rig. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects electric cars to reach price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles by 2025.
Electric vehicles, though still small in number, are already putting a dent in gasoline consumption. By the end of 2017, EVs will displace 28,400 barrels of fuel per day, or more than 10 million barrels annually. That’s frightening to an industry that maintains a business model centered on digging up, refining and selling fossil fuels.
It’s also frightening to people whose jobs depend on that industry and to the many levels of government that derive revenue from the oil economy. “We have $23 trillion of oil infrastructure in this country right now and the barriers against walking away from that infrastructure are enormous,” Kennedy added.
It’s not that the oil majors aren’t hedging their bets. Shell is investing in offshore wind. Exxon Mobil, working with researchers from Synthetic Genomics Inc., is using cell engineering to advance the possibility of harnessing algae as a biofuel, while France’s Total has invested in solar panels and energy storage.
But with an administration in the White House “almost completely staffed by oil men,” as Kennedy said, the industry is going all in on exploration, drilling and building. Trump’s rapid approvals for the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline have waved the green flag for pipeline builders. Forbes reports that $50 billion worth of new pipeline projects is awaiting approval, while construction on four started in May.
“That’s what their strategy is: build as many miles of pipeline as possible,” explained Kennedy. “And what the industry is trying to do is to increase that level of infrastructure investment so our country won’t be able to walk away from it.”
WATCH OTHER SEGMENTS FROM THE ENVIRONEWS EXCLUSIVE WITH ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.