Bill McKibben: “Renewables are cheap, and everyone wants them, but there are big gaps in our ability to get it done”

From Watts Up With That?

Bill McKibben. Screenshot from Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans”

Essay by Eric Worrall

According to Bill McKibben quoted, renewables are so cheap, people have to be coerced into embracing them.

From Climate Exhortation to Climate Execution

The Inflation Reduction Act finally offers a chance for widespread change.

By Bill McKibben
December 27, 2022

There are about a hundred and forty million homes in the United States. … It took centuries to build all those homes from wood and brick and steel and concrete, but, if we’re to seriously address the climate crisis, we have only a few years to remake them.

The fear is not that nothing will get done; it’s that not enough will get done, because meeting the climate challenge means, essentially, changing everything. And in America that includes changing a hundred and forty million homes. E …

The market won’t do it on its own, because the market of goods and labor—the market of machines—is a fossil-fuel market,” Matusiak said. “My house has gas pipes in it. If my furnace goes out, or my water heater goes out, the contractor is not going to sell me a heat pump, even though it’s better. They’re going to sell me a replacement for what I already have.”

The scale of the task somehow looks more enormous the closer you get to the ground. 

Consider Boston, the home town of Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, whose push for the Green New Deal was instrumental in getting the I.R.A. passed, … In 2020, Massachusetts voted for Biden by better than two to one; Boston did by nearly five to one.

… even getting new construction to go electric is a trial—as attorney general, Healey had no choice but to rule that state law prohibited town ordinances from banning gas hookups in new buildings. …

A renewable-energy engineer based in Massachusetts pointed out to me that Construction on the state’s first big offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind, is just now beginning, after a decade of bureaucratic battles, and when it’s done it will supply less than half a gigawatt of power.

Can Massachusetts really build the needed twenty-five offshore wind farms in a decade?” he asked.

At least Massachusetts has something. Sam Evans-Brown, who heads Clean Energy New Hampshire, says that his state has just five per cent of the installed solar capacity that Massachusetts has.

Renewables are cheap, and everyone wants them, but there are big gaps in our ability to get it done,” he told me.

But, beyond inertia, vested interest also presents a challenge. According to an analysis of World Bank data conducted earlier this year, the oil industry has averaged the equivalent of $3.2 billion, adjusting for inflation, in profits a day for the past fifty years.

That’s both a prize worth fighting for and a war chest ample enough to make the fight prolonged and bitter.

…Read more:

McKibben wants us to believe renewables are so cheap, we are struggling to muster the resources to build them? That green advocates should fight for a share of the $3.2 billion / day oil companies make?

Bill McKibben wants us to believe plumbers and electricians are shielding us from cheaper options because – I don’t know, because they are too lazy to ask householders to agree to extra work?

Because they don’t think householders might be willing to discuss options for saving money?

McKibben’s claim the market won’t embrace the cheaper option on its own, that people have to be coerced, is absurd. My electrician and gas people make suggestions when I call them, I’ll always go for a cheaper option if it is available, if I have the cash, and if there is no downside.

For example, I switched to LED lightbulbs years ago on the advice of an electrician, even though they are more expensive than incandescents.

I didn’t like the more toxic compact fluorescent energy saving light bulbs, because one time I broke three bulbs in a row in a confined space, trying to fit a bulb to an awkward fitting.

After that I figured I had had enough mercury exposure from that particular green technology. But LED lightbulbs, they just work.

To be fair I’m not planning to get rid of my gas cooker.

I run my gas cooker on bottled gas, so it is definitely more expensive than an electric cooker.

But my gas cooker has one big advantage over an electric cooker – it keeps working, even when the electricity fails.

In our new age of renewable energy which is so cheap nobody can muster the resources to build it, even with truckloads of government cash, the risk of power blackouts is becoming an increasingly serious problem.