The intergovernmental organization eyeing a sustainable energy future for the planet has sounded an alarm about the world’s climate crisis that West Virginia’s leaders are dismissing.
The International Energy Agency last week said investors should not fund any new coal, oil or natural gas projects if the world is to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Earth must meet the mid-century deadline to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert the worst effects of climate change, the agency reiterated in a road map for the global energy sector that included the new recommendation to end all new fossil fuel projects.
“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal ... make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol said in a news release accompanying the 224-page report that details a pathway to net zero emissions.
But West Virginia congressional and state leaders don’t want to hear it.
“Extreme policies like eliminating fossil fuels are terrible for West Virginia and America,” Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., said in a statement. “Eliminating fossil fuels will lead to job losses and unsustainable energy prices.”
“The IEA is doing what the Biden administration is doing, which is applying some impossible standard to meet that is simply not feasible on any level and will lead to a lot of pain,” Republican West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement.
West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore, also a Republican, trashed the International Energy Agency report and said he is working with his counterparts in other states to encourage banks and lending institutions to keep working with fossil fuel industries.
“Abstract proposals like these may seem great to the woke liberal elite class pushing their radical agendas, but they completely disregard the realities faced by those of us who live in the real world and would be affected by these decisions,” Moore said in a statement.
The International Energy Agency calls for total annual energy investment worldwide to surge to $5 trillion by 2030. The agency predicts that the rise in private and government spending would create millions of jobs in clean energy, including energy efficiency, as well as in the engineering, manufacturing and construction industries, pushing global gross domestic product 4% higher in 2030 than it would reach based on current trends.
The agency’s report envisions coal demand declining by 90%, to just 1% of total energy use in 2050, with gas demand falling 55% and oil demand dropping 75%. Annual investment in transmission and distribution grids would expand from $260 billion today to $820 billion in 2030. The number of public charging points for electric vehicles would rise from around 1 million today to 40 million in 2030, requiring annual investment of almost $90 billion in 2030.
Most of the global reductions in carbon dioxide emissions between now and 2030 in the agency’s net zero pathway come from technologies already available today. But the agency acknowledges that almost half the reductions needed to hit the 2050 net zero deadline come from technologies that are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase.
The agency, which consists of 30 member countries, calls for measures to establish markets for investment carbon capture, use and storage technologies that capture carbon dioxide emissions from sources such as coal-fired power plants and reuse the carbon dioxide to create products or store it permanently underground in geologic formations so it will not enter the atmosphere.
“Retraining and regional revitalisation programmes [sic] would be essential to reduce the social impact of job losses at the local level and to enable workers and communities to find alternative livelihoods,” the report states. “There could also be opportunities to locate new clean energy facilities, including the new processing facilities that are needed for critical minerals, in the areas most affected by mine closures.”
Carbon capture and storage technology has been viewed as a way to keep coal in the energy mix amid the country’s shift away from coal and toward reducing emissions.
“Doing away with fossil fuels will only cut jobs, kneecap our thriving energy industry, and leave America dependent on unreliable energy resources,” Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., said in a statement. “To cut emissions, the world needs to come together to invest in new technologies, such as carbon capture, and hold the countries with high carbon emission accountable.”
Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations agreed Friday to end government support for thermal coal power generation not accompanied by carbon capture technology by the end of 2021. The G7 includes the United States, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. China, the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, is not a member.
“These investment decisions need to be left to the free market, because free-market capitalism has and remains to be the greatest driver of innovation and transformation in our global economy,” Moore said.
But there are signs that the free market is moving away fossil fuels, too.
Green bonds and loans from the global banking sector have exceeded the value of fossil fuel financing so far this year, according to Bloomberg League Tables, something that hasn’t happened since the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty that nearly 200 parties adopted aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
But Morrisey — who last month filed a petition on behalf of 18 states won by former president Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election urging the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority — has decided that the ambitious global action against climate change that the International Energy Agency urges is an impossible pipe dream not worth chasing.
“We believe there is still such a thing as American sovereignty,” Morrisey said, “and we will fight to ensure that our sovereignty is upheld and respected.”