Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

World on the 'cusp of a new energy regime'

  • "How are you going to grow the European and the world economy in the last stages of this energy era?" (Photo: EUobserver)

The world is moving towards a new third industrial revolution based on a new energy regime, argues US thinker Jeremy Rifkin as Europe considers how to reformulate its energy policy.

"We are on the cusp of a new energy regime that will alter our way of life as fundamentally as the introduction of coal and steam power in the 19th century and the shift to oil and the internal combustion engine in the 20th century", argues Mr Rifkin in an interview with the EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The hydrogen era looms on the horizon and the first major industrial nation to harness its full potential will set the pace for economic development for the remainder of the century."

To back up his thesis, he says that Hitachi and Toshiba are planning to bring the first portable fuel cells to the market in 2007.

Consumers will be able to power up their cell phones, lap top computers, digital cameras, and Mp3 players with a single cartridge. And the first mass-produced vehicles are expected to be in the showrooms between 2010 and 2012, he points out.

"Today's centralised, top-down flow of energy, controlled by global oil companies will then become obsolete," says Mr Rifkin, who is founder of Washington-based think-tank the Foundation on Economic Trends.

Europe's energy policy

Referring to Europe's intention to create a common energy policy for the 25-nation bloc, he says "I see it as the next stage of European integration. The commission report [on energy published in March] is a start, but it is still a grab bucket at this point and appears to serve all sorts of interests."

"It's not just about a common energy policy or making sure that big electricity and power companies are competitive. You've got to move to renewable energy and benchmark it much more aggressively and you've got to have the hydrogen infrastructure to store the renewable energy, or you won't be able to make it."

"I think it is a big struggle. The big power and electricity companies are certainly not going to want to be left out. It's just about what happened to communication and telecoms companies."

"We already have a distributive communication revolution; it's taken us twenty years to get personal computers, the Internet, satellites, wireless, mobiles. But we have not yet understood its mission."

"The deeper mission is that this is the communication vehicle for the new energy regime".

Hydrogen will allow anyone to carry a fuel cell around with them, generating and consuming energy as they go. It's analogous to carrying a computer around today, generating and consuming information, Mr Rifkin explains.

"We have to reconfigure the power grip of Europe and the world, so that it’s smart and distributive just like the Internet. This is open-source energy".

"This new energy regime will mean re-globalisation, this time from the bottom up".

Capitalism on trial

And re-globalisation is Mr Rifkin's other big theme; he has written several books on the matter. Globalisation needs to be re-worked, he argues, so that the world’s poor can benefit too.

Capitalism promised that globalisation would narrow the gap between rich and poor. Instead the divide has only widened, he points out.

The three hundred fifty-six richest families on the planet enjoy a combined wealth that now exceeds the annual income of forty percent of the human race. The three richest families on the planet enjoy a combined wealth that exceeds the annual income of the 940 million poorest people living on earth.

We also live in a globalised world where two-thirds of the human race has still never made a single phone call and one-third of the human race has no access to electricity, leaving them marginalised and isolated in global commerce and trade, while the top 500 or so global corporations rule much of the world.

"We have somehow got to realise that cultural relations proceed commerce and trade. Well, you don't hear that in World Economic Forum in Davos – it's all about the bottom line."

"I'm ready for an engaged struggle between cultures, in the form of a great conversation. That conversation is a precedent to a deep globalisation of commerce and trade", he says.

Mr Rifkin, who favours European corporate, human and social values over America’s emphasis on individualism and patriotism, says that the world is looking to Europe to see if the world's first attempt to act with a global conscience is going to work and if there is something worth copying.

Referring to the rejection of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands last year, Mr Rifkin argues that "what is really on trial in the recent constitutional fray in Europe is not the EU constitution, but, rather the future of capitalism itself, not only in Europe, but throughout the rest of the world."

"An increasing number of Europeans are asking themselves whether the liberal market model or the social market model is the best approach to charting the economic future," he concludes.

Feature

Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline

A joint declaration on the Southern Gas Corridor project, which should deliver Azerbaijani gas to Europe by 2020, will remain secret - because the Turkish energy minister left before signing.

Merkel: Nord Stream 2 is 'political'

Germany has for the first time acknowledged concerns on the "political" and "strategic" aspects of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Washington would still like to block a planned gas pipeline between Russia and Germany but is not yet considering hitting companies involved in the project.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  2. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  3. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  4. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  5. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls
  6. Italy defies EU deadline on changing budget
  7. Report: FBI looking into Brexiteers Farage and Banks
  8. Italian journalist unions protest 5MS 'whores' jibe

Stakeholder

Nordic electricity market presented to global energy ministers

Energy ministers from the world's biggest economies, including the G20, were shown how co-operation works in the Nordic electricity market. This co-operation is unique by international standards and is held up as a model globally.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  2. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  3. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  4. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  5. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  6. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  7. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  8. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us