Our economy, based on fossil energy, will soon be supplanted, according to Rifkin, by solar and wind. The exit of nuclear energy is also predicted.
The European Energy Review noted about Rifkin: “Perhaps no other author or thinker has had more influence on the EU’s ambitious climate and energy policy than the famous American ‘visionary’ Jeremy Rifkin.”
In the United States, he has testified before numerous congressional committees and has had success in litigation to ensure US government policies on a variety of environmental, scientific and technology related issues.
In his new book, The Green New Deal, Rifkin argues that we are entering a zero carbon economy with clean energy and digital technologies converging toward what he describes as the Third Industrial Revolution. Coal and steam powered the First Industrial Revolution, while oil and telephony powered the Second Industrial Revolution.
“The civilization of fossil fuels, which is at the base of the first two industrial revolutions, is collapsing in real time”. This statement by Jeremy Rifkin, American essayist and economist, is quite stark. According to him, the world as we know it will undergo a major upheaval, within ten years, linked to the liquidity of the fossil fuel market, reported BFMTV.
The economic and scientific prospective specialist, whose advice is appreciated by European as well as Chinese officials, is known for his alarmist remarks. His latest peremptory tone leaves no doubt as to the inevitability of the catastrophe he sees coming in 2029. “Solar and wind are becoming so cheap that their average cost is now lower than that of nuclear, oil, coal or even natural gas,” he explained.
Citing a 2015 Citigroup report, Rifkin outlined the huge financial risks now facing the oil, coal and natural gas industries.
There are thus “trillions of dollars in assets” such as “the exploration rights (oil and gas) that will remain unused, all the hydrocarbons that will never be extracted, all the pipelines that will be abandoned”, as well as other assets which could go up in smoke.
And while the fossil market has already lost $11 trillion, the US bank “Citigroup estimates we could see $100 trillion in lost assets”. This would be “the biggest bubble in economic history”.
Nuclear, although “clean”, would not be spared. Jeremy Rifkin explained that “the real price of nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant” is much higher than for solar and wind. Thus the notion of “building a new power plant is completely absurd”. An investment that is all the more regrettable as fresh water, which serves to cool the reactors, will start to run out.
Rifkin argues that key sectors of the global economy have already begun decoupling from fossil fuels. In Europe, the European Commission is calling for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 while China is gaining a commanding lead in clean technologies through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
According to the essayist, a new form of capitalism should emerge and be based on three major types of infrastructure: smartphone communication networks, renewable energy, produced in a decentralized manner and distributed by smart grids, and finally electric transport. It would then be the advent of the “glocalization”, an English neologism bringing together “globalization” and “localization”, namely the specific adaptation of a product or a service according to the place of sale or the customer.
A huge amount of data would be generated that Jeremy Rifkin does not see in the hands of the GAFA, but stored in centers governed by “assemblies of peers”, experts appointed by local officials. GAFA is of course the acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
Finally, he advised states and regions to “create green banks” and “issue green bonds” that ultimately will attract investment funds. According to him, there is therefore no need for a carbon tax.
According to Rifkin, the key to financing this transition to a green economy, is the pension fund industry as the largest pool of capital in the world. Global pension funds represent $40 trillion in investments, including $25,4 trillion in the United States alone.
Forbes magazine noted the rise of China: In a report commissioned by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it was highlighted that “no country has put itself in a better position to become the world’s renewable energy superpower than China”.
Britian led the First Industrial Revolution, the United States led the Second Industrial Revolution, and China is now poised to lead the Third Industrial Revolution, hoping to provide “green, low-carbon and circular development” to Asia’s 4,3 billion consumers.
China already has one-third of the world’s wind power, four of the top ten wind-turbine makers, six of the top ten solar-panel manufacturers, and a quarter of the world’s solar capacity although it is still the world’s largest carbon polluter. China burns half the world’s coal and has added 40 percent of the world’s coal capacity since 2002.
Forecasts however suggest that China will invest more than $6 trillion in low carbon power generation and other clean energy technologies over the next 20 years, according to Forbes.