Confessions of an environmentalist – Watt with that?


Imagine if you dedicated your life to environmental protection and all its assumptions. Then imagine realizing that these assumptions are all wrong. What would you do? Entrepreneur Brian Gitt shares his personal story and where it has taken him.


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Just because you feel like you’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean you are. I have dedicated most of my life to protecting the environment. But I did wrong. I thought I was acting morally and protecting the well-being of people and the planet. In fact, I harmed both of them.

I believed that solar and wind power are the future – our only hope to avoid environmental disasters. Fossil fuels were the enemy, mined from the earth by greedy corporations that plunder the land, pollute the air and destroy ecosystems.

Keeping the wilderness as untouched as possible was my passion.

Ever since I was a teenager I have loved nature. I’ve led mountaineering expeditions in Alaska, spent months backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, and scaled the highest peaks in national parks. I only took jobs that I thought would be kind to the environment.

I started a company building composting systems for cities and businesses.

I served as executive director of an organization that promoted green building policies.

And then I became the CEO of a consulting firm that worked to make homes more energy efficient.

At the time, the Obama administration had allocated billions of dollars in federal funding to create energy jobs, and my company was awarded over $60 million in multi-year contracts.

I thought I was making a real difference in the world. I was surrounded by intelligent, successful, and ambitious people who shared my beliefs and heart’s desire to make a difference. And my company had a lot of money and a lot of government support.

There was just one problem: our project to build more energy efficient homes was a total failure.

Home energy renovations have been far too expensive for middle-class families — even with generous government subsidies. Wealthy families, on the other hand, loved the program. They got subsidies they didn’t need and the environmental credits they craved. In reality, however, we have not achieved much – apart from wasting taxpayers’ money.

The government didn’t see it that way. The government hailed the project as a major win.

It was a great photo opportunity for politicians. But I knew the program wasn’t delivering the jobs and energy savings we promised.

Maybe I should have accepted the props and got on with what I was doing.

But I could not.

I started to reconsider everything I had believed about energy and the environment.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been living in a fantasy world: perfectly fine for making me feel good about myself and my mission, but completely useless for bringing about real environmental change.

The more I researched, the more I realized that my project was just a symptom of a much bigger problem.

We’re wasting trillions of dollars on the false hope that wind and solar power will replace fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas. But over the past 20 years, global reliance on these fuels has declined by just three percentage points – from 87% to 84%.

That’s a pathetic return on our “investment.”

If we are serious about tackling climate change, protecting the environment, and helping people around the world move out of energy poverty, we need to stop chasing fantasy. Instead, it’s time to honestly examine all of the costs and all of the benefits of each energy source—wind, solar, oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

Greenhouse gas emissions are an issue, but not the only thing we need to consider when talking about energy and the environment. Here are five principles to help us evaluate the best energy options to protect people and the planet.

one. Reliability: A reliable energy source provides electricity 24 hours a day. States and countries that have doubled their use of renewable sources face energy rationing and blackouts.

Two. Affordability: The cost of energy affects the cost of everything else. If energy isn’t affordable, ordinary people can’t heat and cool their homes, and businesses can’t make the products we want and need.

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