I’m not sure it’s accurate to assume that oil companies are out there right now trying to “destroy” renewable energy technology or efforts to implement it. Admittedly it’s an attractive notion on some level, but most conspiracy theories are. Oil companies are like any other business; they’re interested in maximizing profit, and the sooner the better. Renewable energy is definitely a growth industry and it’s certainly coming–but it’s going to be a good many years before a significant part of our energy comes from renewable sources, and to suggest that oil companies are colluding to take action now to forestall a threat that won’t impact them significantly for 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years is to credit them with a lot more foresight than most businesses currently have. Exxon Mobil and Shell are more interested in the next quarter than the next quarter-century. And for right now, when the vast majority of the world’s energy is supplied through oil, they don’t have much to worry about; they’re enjoying record profits.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some credible evidence that oil companies (more accurately, consortiums of industry leaders from oil, coal and other nonrenewable energy industries) haven’t been doing some dirty tricks here and there. For example, the vast majority of the few scientists who oppose the overwhelming scientific consensus on manmade climate change have ties to groups funded by energy industry lobbies. However, that’s a different issue than trying to “destroy” clean energy. Many countries around the world are considering (or have mandated) targeted cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to stop global warming. Those cuts do affect oil companies’ and coal companies’ profits in the short term. Furthermore, what climate change deniers are doing to try to dismantle the consensus on global warming is too little, too late. Similar efforts funded by tobacco lobbies in the 1980s and 1990s sought to inject doubt into the scientific consensus that smoking causes lung cancer. Today it’s virtually impossible to find anyone, even a heavy smoker, who would deny that connection; so too will it be with climate change in 10 years or so, and the manufactured controversies about it will seem quaint.
Personally I believe oil companies will profit greatly from clean energy, and I think they know it. Oil companies have vast financial resources as well as existing connections to energy infrastructure. Suppose some small start-up company comes up with a surefire way to generate huge amounts of solar power cheaply. You’re the CEO of Exxon Mobil with money to burn. What’s a better option for you–try to destroy this little start-up company because it’s a threat to you? Why instead wouldn’t you try to profit from it by buying the start-up and marketing its technology under your own brand? If you do that, not only do you get to rake in the billions in profits from clean solar energy that everyone will want to buy from you, but Exxon Mobil gets sainted as an environmentally responsible company that saved the world by making cheap solar power available to everyone. It’s a win-win. This makes a lot more sense than committing illegal acts to “destroy” anyone or suppress technology, which is less likely to work anyway.
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