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Week of 11 December 2023: Do we detect an inflection point?

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The Cop28 Climate Change Conference currently underway in Dubai seems to have hit a couple of speed bumps on the way to banning fossil fuels.

According to The Guardian, "The president of Cop28, Sultan Al Jaber, has claimed there is 'no science' indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5C, the Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting can reveal.

"Al Jaber also said a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development 'unless you want to take the world back into caves'.

"The comments were 'incredibly concerning' and 'verging on climate denial', scientists said, and they were at odds with the position of the UN secretary general, António Guterres."

I don't think the above should be published without a couple of remarks. Sultan Al Jaber is President of Cop28, and he is also the Chief Executive of the United Arab Emirates' state oil company, Adnoc. Perhaps he has a conflict of interest.

Other reports tell of EV's (Electric Vehicles) piling up unsold on dealer's lots.

How to read such tea leaves?

With great care. Many times, technological advances have large pauses before they take off. It is too early to tell if the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, with climate change alternatives, or if this is merely a pause before momentum returns.

The prudent user and investor in energy activities will proceed with caution. As I have said in the past, don't dismantle old boiler assets. You never know what fuel is going to be in favor and in abundance next week. It may seem like we are hurtling down a carbon free road as fast as possible, but I don't think anyone has the final answer. For all we know, someone is working on a magic elixir at the moment that, when poured in exhaust stacks, renders them benign.

In fact, there may never be a final answer. Some of you younger folks may be surprised to know that in the United States in the 1970's, whole subdivisions were built without natural gas service. The prediction was a severe decline in natural gas, and that it would no longer be available. This condition had nothing to do with using fossil fuels, it was simply predicted this fuel was going to go out of existence. I owned two such homes built in these subdivisions, one I bought new in Missouri and one I bought a few years later in northeastern Ohio.

It has been fifty years since the first energy crisis (which was caused by a Middle Eastern war) and it seems to me that energy policy has been as fickle as the wind over this entire time.

Don't count anything out just yet.

Be safe and we will talk next week.



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