Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

To transition from the oil age to the solar age, the question of infrastructure imposes itself. If you work many miles away from your home and there is no public transport, driving a car seems inevitable. If you have invested billions in a coal-fired powerplant, keeping it running for as long as possible seems the best option, even in the face of a changing climate. Infrastructure decisions generate path-dependencies that are very strong primers for what will and will not happen next. So in order to live well in the post-carbon age, we must put infrastructure in place, that allows us to meet our needs without burning fossil fuels. The good news is that much of the infrastructure that would take us past the worst climate tipping points is still to be built.

Source: Davis, Caldeira & Matthews (2010)
Source: Davis, Caldeira & Matthews (2010)

A question to consider locally is:

  • Which infrastructure will get replaced soon and what zero-carbon options are there?
Oil Infrastructure in Africa         Source: Le Monde Diplomatique

Another reason to consider infrastructure is that it is an Achilles’ heel of our oil-based civilizations, as has been pointed out for example by Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation (see: 9 meals from anarchy). Preparing for infrastructure failure is a wise move in times of peak oil on the one hand. On the other hand, targeting vulnerable infrastructure (such as coal export terminals, pipelines and railways used for transporting crude) may well be a strategy of more radical environmental fighters to slow down the extraction and burning of fossil fuels in a critical time when the transition to clean energy is just around the corner.

In order to engage with the infrastructure issue, here are two suggestions:

  • Map vulnerable spots, bottlenecks, pipelines to be built in your region and get involved in resistance.
  • Check if there is an “infrastructure watch” group in your country (such as for example Bankwatch in Southeast Europe) who are actively following and will flag these issues. Keep in touch with them to make sure that there is a timely response by people concerned about climate change to any new fossil infrastructure projects.