Book Review: Renewable Energy- Following the Money

Rainy Iowa days make it a nice time to spend the night reading and this week I finished “Renewable Energy- Following the Money,” by Craig Shields who is the editor of 2GreenEnergy.com, a great “greencentric” blog. I had mixed emotions on the book and let me explain why.

follow_the_money-front-coverThe book consists of a series of interviews with various energy expects infused with comments and commentary from Shields. I enjoyed this aspect of the book. It was very interesting to hear how various expects in various fields from electric vehicles to climate change to energy to investments felt about renewable/green energy, sustainability and policy as well as how they predict the renewable energy landscape will look like in the future. Oftentimes the experts disagreed with where energy was going and often Shields disagreed with the experts. I respect him for pushing on them in areas he didn’t agree and for explaining why and what he thought.

So the purpose of the book was to follow the money and this is where I struggled. I didn’t have a good handle on where the money was in fact, going. It would have been helpful for Shields to have created a roadmap based on the expert interviews and his own insights.

One of the interviews I found particularly interesting was with Tom Konrad, Ph.D. with Alternative Energy Stocks. Shield’s interview focused on Konrad’s ideas associated with the migration to renewables vis-a-vis finance, mathematics and more. Shields first noted in the interview that is a tough conversation because there are great and vocal fores that oppose renewable energy and they are spending millions of dollars, “convincing people that global warming is a hoax, renewable energy is a job killer, and there is nothing the matter with fossil fuels, i.e. that there is nothing wrong with ‘business as usual’.” Konrad agreed.

But what really struck me (and I happen to agree with) is that Konrad said the world needs both a physiological change and cultural change. “I think certainly in America, we have a culture of waste- a culture opposed to the economics of Rifkins….I don’t agree technology will save us. I do believe in the potential of efficiency on and changing structures of how we do things. There are much more effective ways…”

He noted that people don’t like change and they liken it to capitalism. “And it doesn’t have to be anti-capitalist. Much of what we need to do is improve markets. Improving markets is about as capitalistic and you can get…The problem is that the way most Republicans seem to view capitalism is really a confusion between ‘capitalism’ and the ‘status quo’. This is wrong in many, many ways. First of all, markets in and of themselves are not efficient because humans are not rational actors. Second of all, we have all these structures that are built up over time that interfere with market efficiencies such as companies doing regulatory capture.”

I believe this supports not only the crutch of the problem across the board for renewable energy but also supports the industry-wide campaign that consumers need choice and when choice is given, markets will work properly or to use Konrad’s term, capitalism. And when capitalism is working, then the investment work and the winning technologies will come to the surface. I challenge people as they follow this industry to note how many companies and associations stress the need for choice and for hijacked markets to be set free.

I believe there is much more work to be done in the area of “following the money” and that Shields is on his way. In this context, I recommend the book. However, if you are simply looking for an outline, or white paper on the issue, then this book is not for you. You can purchase Renewable Energy- Following the Money by clicking here.

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