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Opinion | Why Do We Swallow What Big Oil and the Green Movement Tell Us?

Anschutz, the report added, “spent years lining up hundreds of permits and easements from local governments and landowners along the route.” He secured all but one — for Cross Mountain Ranch, which did not want its pristine Colorado landscape scarred by power lines. So now, “17 years after the start of the project, not a single wire has been strung.”

Sorry, I wish this were not the case, but there is no immaculate pathway from brown energy to green energy. The road is paved with cruel trade-offs. Pick your poison — but grow up.

Meanwhile, ever since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the big oil companies have basically said in each successive crisis: Sure, we need more clean energy, but you have to understand — it doesn’t scale. Right now, we’re in an emergency, so we just need to drill more. You hear the same refrain today, which is why we’re in danger of wasting yet another oil crisis and never breaking our fossil fuel addiction.

The oil companies better be careful, though, because this time could be different, thanks to more consumers demanding electric cars and more industries being forced by consumers and employees to quickly decarbonize. Recently, McKinsey issued its 2022 Global Energy Perspective, concluding: “As the world pivots to low-carbon resources, the global energy demand for electricity could triple to 50 percent by 2050, and fossil fuel demand could peak as soon as 2023 — primarily driven by increased electric vehicle uptake.”

Net-net — both the greens and the browns need to get real: The greens need to up their deployment game. “That means tripling solar installation rates, roughly doubling long distance transmission lines, doing everything possible to accelerate the electric car transition and starting to roll out renewable hydrogen for industry,” said Hal Harvey, chief executive of Energy Innovation, which helps companies and countries transition to clean fuels. And we need to do this rapidly and intelligently, “while protecting local ecosystems.”

The fossil fuel companies, Harvey told me, “need to change their business model so that it is compatible with life on earth — while they still have a chance.”

For those oil companies sitting on large natural gas deposits — which are needed in this transition because gas is cleaner than coal — it means tapping those deposits but doing so with zero methane leakage; otherwise gas becomes as bad as coal. But it also means thinking much more seriously about how fossil fuel companies truly make the transition to become “energy companies,” not just oil companies, so they can leverage their amazing pools of engineering talent to provide more energy solutions that save the planet, not warm it.

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