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‘No form of energy is renewable’ says Dr Scott Tinker delivering the Boulos Lecture

Each year, AIEN hosts an annual lecture series in honour of Alfred J Boulos, former AIEN president and highly regarded international energy negotiator.

This year, at the International Energy Summit in Miami, Florida, Dr Scott Tinker, director, Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, was invited to present the lecture.

Dr Tinker’s lecture focused on the energy trilemma and the need to balance energy security, economic security and climate security. However, as he discussed, priorities can change rapidly depending on a country’s economic and geopolitical issues.

‘Energy security underpins economic security, which in turns lets you invest in the environment and obtain climate security. If you start by focusing on low emissions, you will not get energy that is affordable or reliable. You need to focus on the ‘radical middle’ of this particular triangle.

‘Before the Paris accords, the middle ground was leaning towards the economy. The Paris Agreement made the focus a lot firmer on climate. Then the pandemic hit, and we went straight back to the economy. After COP26, the focus shifted again to climate, but the war in Ukraine put it squarely on security. There is always a factor to make the focus on one rather than all three.

‘Energy and economy are intertwined. 60% of the world’s population live with some sort of energy poverty. The emerging economies are desperate for affordable energy. Energy won’t end poverty. But we can’t end poverty without energy.

‘For the developing nations, the focus is much more on reliable energy, whereas the developed world wants clean energy. Our focus is very different.

‘When we think of countries’ ESG commitments, again it means a very different thing depending on where you are in the world. ‘Environment’ – does this mean clean air, or clean water? ‘Social’ – this could be a new church or a school. ‘Governance’ – being released from an autocrat so that you have a voice.’

With regards to the energy transition, Dr Tinker was unequivocal: ‘I don’t think it is happening! No form of energy is truly renewable as we have to either mine for it or dump the waste (such as used batteries and wind turbines) back into the ground. We are just adding energy to meet demand and trying to lower emissions. That is it – we aren’t suddenly going to switch from ‘today’s’ energy to ‘tomorrow’s’ energy. We can’t just make that jump – what if we don’t stick the landing…?’


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