Carbon capture technology is “putting the cart before the horse,” climate change policy analyst José Etcheverry tells The Real News Network’s Afsan Chowdhury, because the technology is unproven. Instead, Etcheverry, who works for the David Suzuki Foundation, says the world should be focusing on renewable resources such as wind and solar power. But large energy producers are opposed to these types of energy, Etcheverry says, because renewable energy is diffuse, can be owned and operated by anyone anywhere, and therefore makes it impossible for the large energy companies to continue to dominate the energy market.


Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: As the world faces the increasing impact of climate change, reducing carbon emissions is becoming an urgent matter. Tackling this problem effectively presents new challenges requiring new ways of thinking. Central to current debates are carbon-emitting fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Some are calling for an end to the fossil fuel era in favor of renewable energy sources. The Real News’ Afsan Chowdhury spoke to José Etcheverry, climate change policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation, about alternative energy strategies to combat global warming.

AFSAN CHOWDHURY: Let’s first just start with what is now becoming the emerging topic in the environment debate and the climate change debate, which is about carbon capturing. What is your take on this?

JOSÉ ETCHEVERRY, DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION: This is a technology that is not yet proven and that even if it works, it will not work everywhere. There are many places where the geography and the geology of the place will not be suitable for this solution. And in my opinion, there are much more effective alternatives that we should be concentrating on. The fossil fuel era will not end because we run out of fossil fuels. [Inaudible] because simply there’s better options that are becoming readily available. We should be concentrating on developing those options to their full potential. There is many other viable options that are becoming increasingly more salient than coal—renewable energy and conservation on efficiency would be the things that come to mind more readily.

CHOWDHURY: Why aren’t we doing that?

ETCHEVERRY: In the one hand, there’s very powerful lobbies that want to continue to sell fossil fuels. They derive a lot of income out of this. The same can be said for the nuclear lobby. There’s a lot of people that are going to make a lot of money out of these polluting-energy options. And the renewable energy business and efficiency business happen to be more decentralized in nature. There’s a multiplicity of people that are going to benefit from it, so it’s much less suitable for the established energy businesses to become dominant in those businesses. So this is about money, really. Right now we have segregation and centralized generation as the main ways to deliver energy services to people. So the classical example is that we have large, polluting plants, be it fossil fuel power or powered by nuclear, delivering electricity to faraway places, where just a few groups of people get involved in the design, usually engineering firms, and then a small group of people are in charge of maintenance. But once the plants are built, they cease to create employment, and they create a very perverse situation, where the jurisdictions that don’t have fossil fuel or uranium are forced to purchase uranium or fossil fuels from faraway places. They create a flow of capital away from their jurisdiction, a flow of capital that renewable energy and conservation instead allows to be redirected to your local community to create employment in that community in perpetuity. It may have served its purposes 200 years ago, 100 years ago, when the planet was not very populated, where we were able to situate polluting plants away from where people live. That is not the case anymore. We can have homes generating energy with solar energy systems or biomass systems; we can have buildings, rather than being a net user of energy, a net exporter of energy. And we can use advances in science, for example, that were not possible five, ten years ago to do all kinds of things that are not in the realm of the imagination of the people that are pushing for polluting forms of energy generation. I’m not talking about small power; I’m actually talking about very, very big power. The energy flows that reach our planet from the sun are enormous. The big challenge for the 21st century is: how can we tap into those enormous flows of energy coming from the sun on a daily basis, in a manner that can allow us to have the energy services that we are expecting out of our current civilization? To solve the climate crisis, to solve the energy security crisis, to solve the poverty crisis—all these things are interrelated. And the old solutions that we’ve relied upon have failed us. One of the things that I like to point out to people is that there are countries in the world that have embraced this paradigm. Germany has made a commitment to phase out nuclear power and to develop renewable energy to the full potential. Spain has become probably the second most important renewable energy country in the world. They have developed their own industry to develop wind manufacturing, solar manufacturing. This has brought a lot of prosperity to Spain. So this is not just about environmental protection; this is about prosperity, of creating new jobs that are sustainable for ecosystems, but also very good for society.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Jose Etcheverry

José Etcheverry is a policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation and a lecturer in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. He has published research on renewable energy and represented the David Suzuki Foundation in the Alternative Energy Task Force organized by BC Premier Gordon Campbell.