Niche economies within the larger context of the world economy (heavy industry and other energy-intensive categories) are certainly possible. Singapore and Israel come to mind, and of course within countries there are areas that are focused on things other than industry, manufacturing, and other traditional drivers of growth and wealth.
But somebody has to make the steel and mine the materials and build the huge machines that are the basis of economic vitality, and those things take energy…oceans of it. So the idea that we can continue to innovate and grow and become wealthier as a planet while simultaneously restricting the use of energy to green versions of it is silly. Sure, on a small scale we can burn hydrogen or unicorn flatus and solar and wind and geothermal, but where are we going to get the solar energy to drive steel manufacturing on cloudy days, or run the air conditioning in critical manufacturing plants when there is no wind?
I could go on and on, but the point is clear. Petroleum is incredibly energy dense, has an existing infrastructure that works extremely well (when not used as a political tool), and is by far the most efficient energy source we have. Even nuclear power is more expensive (thank you environmentalists!).
GE’s ability to move beyond its enormous legacy of greenhouse gas will likely define its future. Under pressure from climate activists and shareholders, in July it announced an aspiration to zero out CO₂ within three decades. Critically, its latest climate goal includes eliminating emissions created by the use of its products. Reaching net-zero will take more than putting some solar panels on its factories and offices. For GE to fulfill its promise, it must also prompt customers who form the backbone of today’s fossil fuel economy to ditch carbon. Success could put a company synonymous with the heyday of American manufacturing at the center of a new, cleaner industrial era.
What exactly is a cleaner industrial era? That sounds suspiciously like outsourcing our energy intensive industrial base to places that don’t give a rat’s ass about carbon. But we tried that with China, and it didn’t really work out so well.
I want to see General Electric’s bid for the next nuclear power plant being built (if there is a God). I sure hope it specifies that the thousands of tons of steel required will be made using green energy, and the manufacture of the reaction vessels and such will be done only with green technology.
The reality is that absent a huge push for nuclear power, there is no alternative to oil. Well; that’s not exactly true. There is an awful alternative to oil — green energy — that will retard economic growth, slow innovation, condemn many millions of people to poverty, and raise the cost of literally everything.
But that is a price the elites are willing for you to pay.