Let my people go–Gain freedom from fossil fuel

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Are we enslaved to fossil fuels? If so, how would we know, and how do we free ourselves from that taskmaster?

Passover is a celebration of freedom, and at the Passover Seder (traditional meal), we tell the story about the Israelites exit from enslavement by the Egyptian Pharaoh 5000 years ago. In the liberal Jewish tradition, we look each year for current day enslavements for us to break free from. In my youth it was Jews being persecuted in the Soviet Union, and more recently issues of sexual enslavement get mention.

Preparing for leading our seder last night, I proposed that the underlying theme be freedom from fossil fuels. It sounded awkward and everyone I asked said it sounded like a bad idea. We did it anyway. It turned into an interesting conversation.

We might suspect that we’re enslaved when the fossil fuel industry tells us that we can’t survive without them. People engaged in the renewables industry know that wind and solar are doubling their new capacity every two years. Now that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels in much of the world, that growth will continue, if not accelerate, leaving us free of our fossil fuel owner in 15-25 years.

Why don’t people discuss that future? Perhaps because we are slaves to the fossil fuel industry. When Exxon and Shell tell us that it will take us 70 years to free ourselves, we believe them. Investors, policymakers, and news reporters assume that is the true future. But why are we believing them? Shouldn’t we listen to the renewables industry, the industry that is actually taking action?

In the renewables industry, there is currently a strong focus on storage. This is an important milestone because storage is only needed when wind and solar exceed 60%-80% of total electrical generation. The rush to invest there tells us that the renewable industry is expecting renewable electrical generation to reach those levels in the next ten years.

Free yourself from the fossil fuel taskmaster. Let go of oil company stories that we can’t live without them, and that we must keep subsidizing them, and even add new subsidies for the CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) that they hope will keep us in their hands for another 10-20 years.