Love him or loath him, infamous climate scientist Dr Michael Mann recently made an important point about Donald Trump’s rhetoric on bringing manufacturing industry back to make the US great again.
On the America Adapts podcast Mann suggests that to achieve such a goal, manufacturing in the US must embrace the energy revolution. Implying factories running on fossil fuel energy will not be competitive in a global market.
The only way a fossil fuel based industry would be competitive is if there were trade restrictions and tariffs to keep them competitive. This makes Trump’s anti-trade agreement gambit a typical business bully approach to finding a competitive edge that, in this case, US manufacturers would not have.
The evidence is that the energy revolution is well advanced. All over the world technologies are maturing rapidly to deliver distributed clean energy. It is realistic to believe the many mayors and governors that claim carbon neutrality for their towns and jurisdictions when their constituents are all up for a Tesla wall.
Today’s first graders, who will consume a fair amount of electricity in their lifetimes, may not know or care, but most of that energy will not come from a coal-fired power station.
This change from fossil fuel to alternative energy and the accompanying shift from centralised to distributed generation is exactly the one that was needed to tackle the climate issues Michael Mann is so passionate about. Only it is happening because it makes economic sense and not because of a limp international agreement made in a Japanese city or from late night breakthroughs in Paris.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The change is happening certainly. Only it is happening because the technology is becoming commercially competitive. So competitive in fact, that a US president is elected on the back of rhetoric to prop up his countries uncompetitive energy system and hold on to the past.
Does all this mean that the world is changing? Not really. Those first graders, who will spend more of their lives looking at a screen than the trees, may notice more wind farms and will drive an electric car they plug into ports on the street to share the energy captured from the roof at home. But they will also be fiercely competitive and, just like their parents and grand pappy, rely on markets to deliver their lifestyle.
They will work, eat, sleep, and procreate with their mobile device never more than an arm’s length away. They will earn money and use it to pay for their data plans. Not much will be different…
Unless, just maybe, perhaps, possibly…
All this distributed energy makes everything easier, and the system changes. If stuff gets cheaper and cheaper, maybe value is recognised in what people do and not what they have.