Episode 2

Wind power, electric cars, beef and Big Oil companies

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On wind power, electric cars, the “Impossible Burger,” beef and some of the corporations wrecking the planet.

Green Mountain wind farm Fluvanna / Wikimedia

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Episode Transcript:

Hi and welcome to The Angry Clean Energy Guy podcast with me, Assaad Razzouk. This is episode two and I am so happy you’re here. Thank you. I have to say there is so much to be angry about if you’re a clean energy guy. Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us and I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying, but we’re not – as a civilization, as a collective, as a society. We’re not. In fact we’re doing the opposite because the climate chaos is just getting worse.

This week I would like to rant about four things : Wind power, electric cars, beef and oil companies planting forests. Yes. Really:  Oil companies, big bad oil companies, planting forests. But more on this later.

WIND POWER

Let me just say first that I am sick and tired of ignorant pseudo scientists who bash wind and solar power with zero – and I mean zero – understanding and zero reference to the environmental and climate costs of the alternative: Oil, gas and coal.

And I’m also sick and tired of ignorant pseudo scientists who bash our ability to be powered 100% by renewable energy, even though they’ve never built anything in their lives or are paid mouthpieces of big oil. And there are so many of these.

And finally I’m sick and tired of ignorant pseudo scientists who have a thing about electric cars because mining cobalt, which is a key ingredient we need in the batteries of electric cars, is allegedly a show stopper and we should just stop producing electric cars and moving to a 100% electric world. I have problems with these people on so many levels and they make me so angry.

Let me give you two examples of what I’m talking about.

So first, I recently read a frankly stupid story in a major British newspaper about wind power in Scotland. It was headlined “wind farms paid £100 million to switch power off”. And I particularly loved this quote from the story by a Dr. Lee Moroney, the lead researcher who said it’s an absolute scandal: “they make more per megawatt hour unit of electricity generated when they are told to stop generating than when they are selling electricity to consumers”.

Now this £100 million that wind farms are paid to switch off is called a constraint payment. That’s a payment that the grid that then transports the electricity makes to the wind farm because it cannot use all the good, clean green electricity the wind farm is generating even though it’s supposed to. And even though in many cases it has signed a contract that says that it must.

The article is stupid because first of all constraint payments are falling off a cliff as we upgrade the grid to be able to move all the green clean electricity around, even though we keep adding wind at a rapid clip in Scotland. So you would logically have expected them to increase.

If we build clean, green energy rapidly – as we must to fight climate change – the monopolists who then carry that electricity to the consumers need to make an effort to transport it. If we, those who build renewable energy projects, could then carry that electricity through the transmission lines because we own them, then we would, but we can’t because the transmission of electricity in many countries is often either in an oligopoly or a monopoly.

So to the dear writers of these empty articles, how about if you added some context to your nonsense or I have an even better idea for you: Just don’t publish, go off and do something else.

Speaking of context, I have a couple of suggestions. How about mentioning for example, in those types of articles, the subsidies that we pay Big Oil, Gas and Coal in order for them to literally poison us? Now, according to the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, we pay Big Oil, Gas and Coal $5 trillion a year in subsidies to kill us. I think that’s a highly relevant fact and it should be mentioned to give the readers some context for the hundred million pounds that is headlined in that article.

No, by all means, let’s complain about immaterial payments that ensure wind power can be deployed faster everywhere just because we don’t know what we’re talking about.

ELECTRIC CARS

Then my anger went off the rails because of another story dated 27 March on the World Economic Forum website, brought to my attention through a very kind of listener and colleague, with the headline, “the dirty secret of electric vehicles”.

It turns out that the so called dirty secret is the fact that according to the article, human rights abuses including the use of child labor in the extraction of minerals like cobalt used to make the batteries that power electric vehicles is undermining ethical claims about the cars. Yes, by all means. Let’s write an entire article about mining practices as they relate to electric cars without putting anything at all into context or into perspective or with any sense of relativity. Like for example let’s not mention that we can mine responsibly and that the industry related to green products like electric cars is in fact increasingly policing itself and trying to do that or even better, let’s write stupid articles like that without mentioning anywhere that the very same mining practices applied to everything else we mined in the world.

And how about mentioning for example, that the alternative, which is dirty cars, is helping dirty air worldwide cut lives short by 11 years in India so far, seven years in China and two years everywhere else and that’s only so far and it’s getting worse.

I would also suggest that to put things in context, we should also mention that the deadliest air pollution is caused by burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, and that burning all that oil, gas and coal has transformed our climate to the extent that we’re all going to fry.

No. Instead, let’s keep the self flagellation going instead of writing in perspective and with context.

I really urge these writers to think please before you write. As an aside, the writer of the speech at the World Economic Forum has a wonderful title. He is called “Senior Writer, Formative Content”.

I noticed that after having read the articles, so I went back and operating on the assumption that the World Economic Forum must know what they’re doing, I looked up the definition of “formative.”

The Cambridge English Dictionary helpfully offered me “developing and not yet completely formed” like for example, he or she spent their formative years in Africa. At that point, I immediately relaxed having understood that if you’re at the World Economic Forum and your title is “Senior Writer, Formative Content”, that must mean, or at least it must be a very strong signal, that you’re just starting and you don’t really know what you’re talking about. What a relief.

THE IMPOSSIBLE BURGER

A few days ago, I tried for the very first time a new exciting arrival on the global food scene, wonderfully called the impossible burger. Now, the good news is that this 100% plant-based burger with zero beef tastes just like a normal burger. And frankly, not only that, it tastes like the best of them, like the Five Guys burger as opposed to the McDonald’s one.

And I loved iT.

But what made me angry is the self-flagellation so many good people who care about the environment and want to do something about it, feel they have to impose on themselves and on others about beef.

I mean by all means, don’t eat beef if you don’t like it or if you don’t do red meat or if you’re a vegetarian or a Vegan, but don’t you then go please and pat yourself on the back for your contribution to saving the environment or to saving the planet from climate change because bloody beef is not the problem.

We are solving that problem and I’m going to tell you how in a moment. The problem is gas and oil and coal. That’s the problem. We’ve got to stay focused people. And please be very wary of repeating the talking points peddled by oil, gas, and coal companies, through their sophisticated and highly lubricated public relations machines. They are trying to distract us. They are trying to have us fight one another. We need to be aware of that. We can’t let them get away with it.

Now what’s this stuff about cows and climate change about?

Well, there’s a greenhouse gas called methane and it’s a very bad greenhouse gas. We produce it via our livestock – and that means not just cows by the way, but also sheeps, goats, camels; and via our farming activities. We also produce methane because we bury waste in landfills and they leak the gas as the organic waste and some other types of waste decompose naturally. But most importantly, we produce methane from leaks from the oil and gas industry. So since the industrial revolution, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has doubled because of human activity. And today methane pollution is behind one quarter or 25% of the global warming we are living through right now.

Now we have good news as far as livestock and farming are concerned because if you change what you feed your cows or your sheeps, you actually cut the methane they emit from their other ends.

For example, you can feed them seaweed, you can feed them probiotics and all of that cuts their methane emissions. More and more farmers are doing this. So in California for example, they’re feeding cows a mixture of dried seaweed and molasses. In Spain they’re feeding them onions. India has an entire national program focused on optimizing cows’ diets because they also want to reduce methane emissions. And that by the way produces more milk. So all over the world, farmers are investing in, for example, methane digesters systems. So that’s a very simple engineering solution to capture the methane that builds up in manure tanks and then use it to produce electricity. So we’re on it.

I should also say that the impossible burger does reduce environmental impacts because it uses 87% less water, 96% less land, and almost 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions are emitted through that burger. And that’s amazing.

But the oil and gas industry is the top contributor of methane pollution by far. It creates probably half or more of all methane pollution as oil companies drill, or even worse, inject dirty chemicals into our soil to extract oil and gas. And as they then transport that oil and gas, methane leaks from everything that they do. It leaks from their pumps, it leaks from their pipelines, it leaks from their wells. And shall we say, they underplay this aspect of their business because independent monitoring of what Big Oil is doing shows that their methane emissions are at least 60% higher than what they’re telling government.

So we can do better on sustainable agriculture and livestock, and we are.

But the oil and gas industry on the other hand is doing worse because they just don’t care. The methane as far as they’re concerned, is a byproduct of their principal business, right? They’re there to produce oil and gas. You know, they want to produce more, they want to produce it cheaper, they want to produce it faster. And they don’t care about the environmental destruction they leave behind. And in the case of the topic we’re discussing, the methane gas that they leak from everywhere, which of course they don’t pay for, is just noise for them.

What’s in fact required is simple. We need to make exploration for new oil and gas illegal.

It’s really just that simple. No more new oil and gas or coal.

And at the same time we need to of course to phase out as much of our existing oil, gas and coal use as soon as possible, for example, by having a much faster take up of electric cars, electric bicycles, electric buses, electric scooters, and eventually ships and planes too, because we can.

So it really annoys me when I hear that someone is no longer eating beef to help the environment, then broadcasting this new resolution with a smug face and trying to make the rest of us feel guilty. Please stop eating beef if you like, but leave the rest of us alone. And then when you do that, refocus on the really bad actors and I’ll say it again, it is the big bad oil, gas and coal companies. 

ENI

And now, my final rant of the week about bad actors. I was struck by a story featuring – and what a surprise that was – a big bad oil company. This time it was the Italian oil company and the story made me so angry. So the Italian old company called Eni recently announced it’s going to plant what it says are giant forests in Africa, whatever that means, to offset all the bad stuff it’s doing, exploring for even more oil that we don’t need and even more oil that we don’t want and even more oil that we cannot have anymore.

And the press as usual just printed the story pretty much as is. For good measure, the announcement included a commitment to cut down on methane leaks, which is what we’ve just talked about before, In addition to planting this probably incredible giant forest in Africa.

And what drives me nuts is what this actually means and that’s what I see everyday with the oil and gas industry. What this actually means is that they are leaking methane everywhere at the moment and they’ve done nothing about it. So yet another promise to do something in the future. And they’ve been leaking methane for decades, but they just don’t care. Now, however, they feel obligated to make some positive noises and up comes the giant forest in Africa line. I mean come on. That “pretend” giant forest in Africa is not fooling us because all they’re trying to do is divert attention from the fact that they want to go out and dig everywhere for more oil and gas and the pretend forest frankly, is absolutely pointless. The only thing that matters here is the additional climate destruction that was not reported in the press from their intent to continue their oil and gas exploration activities as if climate change just wasn’t an issue. Now would the good people of the press, please try to stop broadcasting this propaganda? Please.

Thank you so much for listening to me, The Angry Clean Energy Guy, this far.

VILLAIN OF THE WEEK

My Villain of the Week is ENI, the Italian Oil Company for its brazen and shameful propaganda. Frankly, ENI, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

HERO OF THE WEEK

I have a Hero of the Week this time: It’s the Impossible Burger for frankly pulling off the impossible, a great tasting burger made of the stuff vegetarians love. I loved it even though I am not a vegetarian and such thanks to impossible burger for creating food products that use our limited resources so much more efficiently.

Please don’t hesitate to send in any questions you have about clean energy or climate change or related topics. Stuff in the green space that makes you angry is also always welcome. Thank you for listening and have a great week.

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About Me

There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.

Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.


Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.

Assaad Razzouk

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