The fossil fuel industry looks worried, here's why

coal power plant wyoming photo
CC BY-ND 2.0 Greg Goebel

Last week, the fossil fuel industry released some well-timed attacks on the divestment movement. Coinciding with Global Divestment Day, a series of videos and reports made the case that divestment is nothing less than turning our backs on progress.

This feels like nonsense.

The growing pressure to rethink our energy habits is not about going back. It is the result of a huge, world-altering shift in how we generate, use and conserve energy. A transition that is already underway.

Here are just a few recent manifestations of this transition:

I apologize for the rambling list of stories, but you get the idea.

It is beginning to feel like there is something fundamentally different about the current clean energy climate, and the old guard has good reason to be spooked. It might be tempting to laugh at the corny anti-divestment videos, or the biased analyses suggesting divestment would be an economic disaster.

But that would be a mistake.

There is still an awful lot of money still tied up in fossil fuels, and those who stand to profit from that money will not go down without a fight. Just last week, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden called divestment advocates "naive," and argued for a "more assertive" fossil fuel industry voice when it comes to matters of climate. Meanwhile veteran environmentalist Jonathan Porritt, famous for his hopeful collaborations with big oil, finally threw up his hands in despair: Engaging with oil companies on climate is futile, he argued, we just have to get on with building an alternative.

I am more hopeful than I ever have been before that we really can transition to a predominantly, maybe even 100 percent clean energy economy, and quite possibly faster than any of us had suspected. But as that reality becomes ever more tangible, we must also prepare ourselves for a fight.

Because some people will be none-too-happy to see this day coming.

The fossil fuel industry looks worried, here's why
From divestment to cheap solar to falling demand for energy, the traditional energy giants are being squeezed on all sides.

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