This Episode is a slightly longer version of a TEDx Talk I gave at Singapore’s National Gallery on 28 April 2021 about ESG.
What Bill Gates calls the “Green Premium”, the extra cost we have to pay because most zero-carbon products currently appear more expensive than their fossil-fuel equivalents, doesn’t in fact exist. We only have a “green premium” because we have been “cooking the books,” mis-stating the earnings of corporations worldwide by letting them get away with not pricing their environmental destruction through their income statements. As a result, based on mis-stated and incorrect corporate profits, we have diverted trillions over the past 40 years which could have moved us to a safer planet much faster, but instead were spent digging and burning more coal, oil, and gas, producing more plastic and paying everybody handsomely along the way. The “cooking the books” pandemic needs to be stopped right now.
The Angry Clean Energy Guy on pretty much everything you need to know about ESG, starting with the need to be very suspicious whenever you see an ESG label on an investment product. ESG has become a huge business, with one dollar out of every 3 professionally managed dollars in the US for example labelled “ESG” (and an even greater proportion in Europe). The trend is clear and pretty much 100% of funds under management will have an ESG label soon. But in order for this to have a material impact in the fight for clean air, against climate change and against environmental destruction, we need global ESG standards and we need to divorce the “E” from the “S” and the “G”. Then, we need to price the “E”: Climate risk isn’t just a disclosure issue and should be priced into earnings, as should other environmental risks. Then we would have a chance to change the world.
If you want to get elected, requirement number one is to come up with a meaningless tagline while pretending everything is going pear-shaped, e.g. “Take Back Control” or “Make America Great Again.” Adopting tactics from that playbook, today’s requirement number one to continue to pollute at will (while everything is actually going pear-shaped) is to announce “NET ZERO by [insert date, the more distant the better],” then to keep polluting at will, hiding behind voluntary carbon offsets. So I am just going to come out and say it: Voluntary carbon markets should be cancelled. All of them. Corporations buying carbon offsets when not required by law, in other words voluntary carbon credits, are greenwashing. Some know it, some don’t – it doesn’t matter in any case: They need to stop. Individuals buying carbon offsets on a voluntary basis (to offset their flights or the pollution from their gas-guzzling SUVs) are mostly being abused.
Over the past year, multiple oil and gas companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in planting trees, or threatening to do so, to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. There are, however, several fundamental problems with what they are doing, or probably more accurately, pretending to do. First, most are planting trees to earn carbon offsets, as if they are at Church, confessed, received a penance – the carbon offsets – and were imparted absolution. But even if they could be absolved by planting trees, which they can’t, surely they can’t then go and sell that absolution to consumers, which is exactly what some of them are doing. Shell for example has an entire effort trying to get petrol car drivers to pay a premium at the pump to buy carbon offsets from Shell, at a profit. Second, generating the carbon offsets from planting trees, even if this was real (it’s not, in most cases) does not mean they can keep burning down the house. They should be decreasing their emissions, not greenwashing. Finally, not much attention is being paid to what trees are being planted, how and where. The reality is that planting trees is largely unnecessary. Far more critical is to stop global deforestation and to re-grow the global forest by preparing the ground, understanding our limitations and then getting out of the way.
“Fresh air” is a myth. In reality, 90% of us (worldwide) are breathing dirty air on a permanent basis. Because we can’t see the pollution in our air, we don’t tend to think about it enough. But our air is weakening all of us and killing 7 million a year, as well as placing an undue burden on health systems in every country. This has to stop and it can: No more petrol or diesel cars, trucks, buses, two- and three-wheelers, or trains – all of which can be replaced today by clean alternatives. Soon, no more petrol or diesel ships and planes too. Let’s get going.
The latest, newest attacks against clean energy, namely “Oh my God, what are we going to do with all those solar panels and wind turbines and batteries at the end of their lives” and “Oh my God, what about the mining practices employed to get the materials necessary for clean energy ” are, in one word, bollocks. In Episode 42 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy, you will hear how the take-back and treatment of solar panels, inverters and batteries is already mandatory in the EU and is going global; how technologies to recycle solar panels are today everywhere around us and some reach an astonishing 96% recycling efficiency; how you can already recycle 85 to 90% of the total mass of wind turbines; and how 95% of lithium-ion battery components are being turned into new batteries or used in other industries. Most importantly perhaps, you can also see why the DNA of the clean energy industry is about building a circular economy around its products, in contrast to the DNA of Big Oil, which is about destroying, free of charge to them, our habitat.
October, 2020 marked the end of an era: The world’s largest solar and wind power generator, the US utility NextEra, surpassed ExxonMobil – literally the embodiment of Big Oil’s recklessness and once the most valuable company on earth – in stock market worth: It took a pandemic to show the markets that the time for clean energy and clean air is right now, and here we are.
Major announcements around new renewable energy plans were being made in the same period that NextEra was eclipsing ExxonMobil: Apparently, oil companies including Total, Shell and BP and oil traders including Vitol, Trafigura and Mercuria are intending to unleash hundreds of billions of dollars in new investments in renewable energy and battery storage.
In this episode, The Angry Clean Energy Guy attempts to weigh the depth, breadth and sustainability of the wall of money about to pour into clean energy and to assess the implications on Big Oil’s future and on renewable energy markets around the world.
Indonesia, population 270m and basking in abundant sunshine most of the year while stretched across the Equator, has less installed solar power capacity (198MW) than Finland (215MW), an Arctic country with just 5.5m people.
That’s one of the reasons South East Asia remains the global laggard on renewable energy while at the same time threatening to set the world on fire through the world’s last great expansion in coal and gas infrastructure.
But the resistance of powerful vested interests in ASEAN to renewable energy, transport sector electrification, fighting the plastic pandemic and investing less in fossil fuels can’t last: The clean energy revolution is poised to steamroll fossil fuels in South East Asia too, as the cost of renewables continues to plunge and the climate emergency accelerates.
I am sharing good news on this podcast: Natural gas is done in 10 years. Certainly in Europe. Give it another 5 years on top and it will also be done in Asia and in the US too. It’s going the same way as coal. Why? In short, because the information fog is lifting after decades of obfuscation: We now know it’s about as dirty as coal. Whoever named it “Natural Gas” instead of “Highly Explosive Climate Change Accelerating Fossil Fuel Gas” deserves a branding award.
The plastic industry says it’s a “hero” of the coronavirus pandemic. What is driving this propaganda? Single-use plastic is a big chunk of the future demand for oil forecast by OPEC or by the International Energy Agency and their other friends trying to cook the books. So if you take out single-use plastic, future demand for oil and gas will decline immediately and so will the projected revenues of that entire industry. That, in turn, has all sorts of consequences for the cost of capital of oil and gas companies, which ultimately means that they will be able to do no more new oil and gas exploration. Furthermore, they would have to close down, gradually, what they’re doing now. That’s why the plastic industry is now selling itself as a “hero” of the fight against the coronavirus – and nothing could be further from the truth.
Recently, an open letter from dozens of investors, business leaders, researchers and climate policy advocates accused the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization mistakenly labelled as “authoritative”, of marginalizing key climate goals in its research. They were being too polite: The IEA is a very dangerous organization and should simply be closed, because it’s a fossil fuel relic incapable of reform. I’m afraid this podcast is entirely dedicated to explaining why.
The Angry Clean Energy Guy on the incredible resilience of renewable energy in the midst of a pandemic, and why that means its rise will accelerate further post COVID-19; and on the incredible non-resilience of the airline industry, its irresponsible and reckless mis-management and why the earthquake in its midst means it has already seen its carbon emissions peak
In our arsenal of anti-virus weapons, a powerful force is emerging. It’s one of the most hygienic alternatives for the prevention of the virus and it’s changing the world before our eyes. This not-so-secret weapon is cheap and promotes cleaner air. It’s healthy. It allows us to move about. It contributes powerfully to the fight against climate change, yet effortlessly delivers social distancing. It’s also allowing us to re-imagine our “after Coronavirus” world. In this Episode 35, The Angry Clean Energy Guy sets out future trends that you can already bank on across the real estate, transportation, consumer, healthcare and energy sectors, all of which are driven by the humble bicycle.
“If you want a proper adaptation strategy to the Coronavirus, then you must finally properly tackle climate change. There. I said it.”
In this Episode 34, The Angry Clean Energy Guy describes what the “exit strategy” is for the global Coronavirus lockdown and how this exit strategy is so similar to the one from climate change; and then he describes some of the future trends that we can already see shaping our society post-Coronavirus and what these mean, especially from the perspective of climate change.
Twenty five per cent of the western world could be unemployed by the end of March: COVID19 shows that society failed to provide, to most, secure jobs and pensions, income support, skills training, clean air, clean water and healthy food. We must change the way we work, move, eat and live and do capitalism differently, by focusing on people not corporations. So as airlines, hotels, the retail industry, banks and other financial institutions and astonishingly, even the oil & gas industry come asking for bailouts, let’s move them from their 19th century design to a 21st century one: Focus them on green new deals
What do Amazon, Microsoft, Finnair, Teck Frontier, Llyods Bank, Equinor and Singapore have in common? Buried in the news so far in 2020, there’s been a deluge of good climate change developments around the world, signifying a clear uptick in momentum in the fight against global heating. In Episode 32, The Angry Clean Energy Guy, less angry for once, goes through these positive developments and continues to build on the case for climate optimism made in Episode 27.
There is so much anti-electric vehicles propaganda around, I’ve started hearing kids repeating it recently: “Oh, EVs aren’t clean because of how batteries are made” and “oh, we don’t know what to do with batteries when discarded.” In this Episode 31, The Angry Clean Energy Guy sets out why this is propaganda; where it’s coming from; why it’s flat out wrong; and what to do about it
The Angry Clean Energy Guy’s definitive guide (sort of) of what works, and what doesn’t, in fighting climate change: How much can you fly? Should you eat any meat? What about plastic? What’s the best approach to transport? Should you buy any carbon offsets? How much should you recycle?
Big Data, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are being harnessed by Big Tech in an unholy alliance with Big Oil aimed at increasing oil & gas production, climate emergency be damned. This Episode tells you much more about that, as well as about how we can derail this alliance.
Hero of the Week: Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, for the EU Green Deal she tabled in record time. Villain of the Week: Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, for dereliction of duty while his country burns.
A cataclysmic event (well, sort of) happened recently: The largest multi-lateral lender in the world, the European Investment Bank, said no to lending more money to oil, gas and coal. Why cataclysmic? It’s the gas bit. Because we’ve been told, time and time again, by oil companies that “natural gas” is clean, or is a bridge to a cleaner future. Now the biggest multilateral bank in the world says: It’s not true. The Angry Clean Energy Guy on why this decision is historic in the context of global climate finance flows; what these are; who’s playing their part and who’s not.
The Angry Clean Energy Guy on insects, what they do for us, why we should love them and how new shock findings confirm that we are in the middle of an insect Armageddon of planetary ecological breakdown proportions. Hero of the Week: James Shaw, Minister of Climate Change of New Zealand, for working on a new regime that would require companies to assess and report their climate-related financial risks. Villains of the Week: 7 banks with no moral compass that want to finance a new $2.2 billion coal plant in Vietnam to fry us all.
On how in 1982, Exxon Mobil published a beautiful 46 page report and estimated with stunning accuracy that the atmosphere would contain 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide this year. Then: They lied; They lobbied; They corrupted; They profited. And so we ended up, in 2019, with a climate emergency. Hero of the Week: 1,000 Australian engineers rebelling and putting engineering firms under pressure to abandon fossil fuel projects. Villain of the Week: Shell Oil, for trying to rip off British drivers at the pump
On (almost) everything you need to know about the dangerous global boom taking place in the petrochemicals industry, the plastic myths and cons it peddles and (some of) what we should do about it. Hero of the Week: Ban ki-Moon for acting on climate in South Korea. Villain of the Week: Liv Lønnum, Deputy Minister in the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, for being a pretend conservationist and a hard-core apologist for Big Oil, aiding and abetting the destruction of the Arctic
On the Saudi Aramco IPO, what it is, its risks, valuation, flawed rationale and why the IPO of the third largest polluter in history, in the era of fighting climate change, is pure hubris and greed. Hero of the Week: Every person that went out for a climate strike worldwide, notwithstanding the deafening silence in Asia. Villain of the Week: Norway’s Equinor, for lying to the British public about natural gas’ “low carbon footprint” (not!) and getting caught by UK regulators
On Shell and Exxon having their social license to operate dirty and dangerous gas fields revoked in Groningen in the Netherlands; and on China’s Belt and Road initiative and the bad rap it gets for being environmentally unfriendly. Villain of the Week: Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada. Hero of the Week (and probably of every week): Greta Thunberg
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.
Periodically, 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, energy, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, nature and forests, the oceans and other related topics.