December 11, 2012
Whilst the global economy appears to be in an ever-deepening crisis---a failed growth or stagnant economy--- the economic spin is that the world is increasingly being governed by competition and market forces. Perfectly competitive markets, it is held, will provide answers for all of our ills and that this self-governing system will lead to progressively increasing welfare for all. Boom times are just around the corner.
The real world is very different from this neo-liberal economic mythology. There is an emerging ecological challenge as well as a stagnant economy. Consider this Dohar Dispatch by Giles Parkinson about the Sustainability Expo that runs with the COP18 climate change conference. He says that the Expo is:
dominated by the Gulf nations and a single technology, CCS, and overwhelmed by the corporate power of the fossil fuel giants that pervades over this conference, and are still desperate to burn as much oil and gas as they can. Renewables hardly get a look in. It should be recognised that the world’s biggest exporters of fossil fuels are investing heavily in solar technologies, so much so that they might have the greatest influence of over the cost curve of new technologies such as large scale solar thermal and concentrated solar PV than any other country. But they do so with one single goal in mind – to free up as much of their oil and gas as they can so they can export it to other countries.
The fossil fuel industry is unwilling to invest in carbon capture and storage technology itself and so pay to clean up its own mess. Nope, what Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Gas want is Big public subsidies for CCS technology--- but not for renewables.
These big fossil fuel oligopolies are deeply opposed to carbon policies and clean energy policies and they waged a campaign of obfuscation, delay, and downright hostility that has bent nation state governments to favour their interests.
What this shows is that in the real world, there is an absence of “free markets,” with market rigging and failure everywhere in the economy. Power rules in that a few corporations dominate large sectors of the industry, economy, and market. There is a strong tendency in contemporary capitalism to seek out more fossil-fuel intensive forms of production in an attempts to restart the growth engine by, in effect, giving it more gas or fuel. Increasing production and productivity are the sovereign panacea for all the ills of capitalism.