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COP26 – 100 Million Barrels of Oil a Day – Day 3

4 marraskuun, 2021

On Wednesday, our crew split into two. Me and my colleague and friend Tea Törmänen went to a special side event at the Blair Estate, organised by TerraPraxis and others. To get there, we jumped into Mark Lynas’ VW ID3 (an electric vehicle). Too bad that when he picked me up at our accommodation (in the picture), he had only 60 miles of range left, which would be stretching it to get to our destination (which had a bit uncertain charging options as well).

Our accommodation. What a lovely place.

”Shit. Broken. Shit. Out of order. Shit. All out of order”, was Mark Lynas cursing as he tried to find a working fast charger we could stop on the way to get a bit more range. Most of the charging stations were broken. ”Imagine is 9 out of ten 10 gas stations didn’t have any gasoline to sell” I said to him. ”Well that was the situation a couple weeks ago, and everyone went nuts”, answered Mark. Good point. If we do want to see the EV revolution accelerate to its fullest, we seriously need to have a working infrastructure for charging as well. And I don’t think most people have yet realised that the growth requirements for material-flows and components manufacturing might be at odds with our targets and dreams for an EV rollout this decade.

Mark, ready to charge us up.

We did finally arrive, and from our first world problems of finding a charger for our fancy EV, we took a deep dive into another world. Don’t get me wrong, the Blair Estate was quite fabulous, and lacked in nothing. But the afternoon session we attended gave me pause. And, to be honest, it should give all the European policymakers pause.

The Blair Estate. Not the kind of place I routinely visit.

Not to make this too long and detailed, here is the situation. Maldives are already feeling the effects of climate change that people told them (not that long ago) they would feel around 2100. The coral reefs around the 1,200 islands are pretty much the only natural resource they have. They protect the islands and drive tourism. They provide food through sustainable fisheries. But the reefs are ALREADY dying. This leads to the beaches and islands eroding, the water supply getting contaminated as storms get stronger and stronger. Every rain season is another disaster. The Maldives have no technology and no financing to do much about it. And here we are in Europe infighting over which clean energy technology we should pick and which to leave out. I mean, seriously? Sometimes I’m so ashamed to be a human.

Enter Kenya. Everyone (in the rich west) is assuming Africa will stay poor and not use that much more energy in the future, and we pretty much base our climate roadmaps on that assumptions. But that is a dangerous and a wrong assumption. The households in Africa are getting electrified, though centralised and decentralised means. Through everything and anything they’ve got. The people are hungry for more prosperity, health and security – as they should. If we rich people want to see our vision of clean energy and climate roadmaps come true, we seriously need to see the reality in places like Africa and India. The situation is way different than one can imagine from the ivory halls of Brussels. We need actually useful and scalable solutions, and we need cheap financing for them toi scale, fast.

The panel also had a representative from Shell, and IcelandAir. Recently, Shell managed to make and sell their first 100 liters of synthetic aviation fuel. Right. It’s a start, and everything does need a start I guess. But we are very, very far away from 100 million barrels per day of synthetic fuel. To take aviation fuel as an example, it would need to be carbon neutral, available at large scale AND comparable in cost to current fuels, according to IcelandAir presenter. Why? Because travel should not be just a thing for the Elite. And he is right. We need ”Impossible Burger” -solutions. Solutions that can scale like crazy, that fit into our current infrastructure, habits and cost-preferences. We need power density to keep the environmental footprint reasonable, and we need public acceptance for all this.

My question for the panel related to this. Let’s assume we can make massive amounts of affordable synthetic fuels with nuclear, but only if we get the right policies in plane. The policymakers, on the other hand, require public acceptance. Now, if one combines the oil industry (needed for making and delivering the fuels) and the nuclear industry (needed for providing the 24/7 affordable energy to make those fuels), what could ever go wrong from a public acceptance perspective… Did the people in the panel see this as a risk, and if yes, what would they do about it?

I mean, those are two of the least liked industries one could come up with at a moments notice, especially in the rich west (elsewhere, people are still too busy surviving and building a better life to have the luxury of complaining where their energy is coming from). And the thing is, with EU now forming their Sustainable Investment Taxonomy, with the rich west controlling the development banks, foreign aid and other funding, if there is no acceptance for a massive nuclear-based synthetic fuels production program, the developing world might never see these scaled-up, cost effective clean energy sources and fuels.

If we do not manage the public acceptance situation and push our politicians to make the right choices, we might never get the initial policy push that is needed to scale the technology and investments up and get costs down. A synthetic fuels industry delivered by the current fossil fuels industry and powered by the nuclear industry is just so huge and easy target for any of the multitude of ”environmental” anti-nuclear and anti-development NGO’s out there and the many politicians who listen to them. The rich think they can afford to pay higher energy costs (they can’t, not in the long term – we have just not yet realised this), so they don’t need to care.

All in all, it was wonderful to finally meet (or finally see again) some of the people I’ve been working with in the last several years, and no doubt will be working with also in the future.

A lot of really, really smart people in this picture, and me of course as well. 😛

****

But what was happening elsewhere, you might ask? A lot. A mother-load, as they say. For example, the Nuclear for Climate -crew had organised a ”Flash Mob”, essentially a dancing show downtown Glasgow, to promote nuclear energy for climate. I highly recommend you watch the video behind this link.

To be honest, I could not watch it without a tear or two rolling down my cheek. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. Tears of so much hope I feel when I see these people. Our people, doing beautiful and creative things like this. Not shouting and being angry at the world, angry at the ”adults” for not doing enough. Not being afraid or depressed or hopeless. Not being against everything, against even humanity itself. But being positive, being optimistic and putting themselves out there openly and without regret, promoting effective and proven solutions such as nuclear.

Solutions that so far, most of the (rich) world have refused to even consider seriously, let alone promote and support as they should. Solutions some people would rather bury and bury deep so nobody would ever find them, just because they don’t like it, or they have vested interests somewhere else. Let’s not let them do that.

We even got a billboard! How cool is that? #NetZeroNeedsNuclear.

Ps. Luckily, this change is already happening. One of the big announcements on Wednesday was the US Loan Programs Office having a $9 billion program for repowering coal plants with nuclear reactors in the US, protecting local economies and jobs from the shock of closing down local energy production. Another one was reported on Bloomberg on Tuesday. In it, China is stating that they will invest some $440 billion to build at least 150 new nuclear reactors in the next 15 years. That is what I call a good start. But there are almost 3,000 coal plants in China, with an average age of less than 10 years. Repowering those will be a huge, but also necessary, task.

From → COP26

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