In recent days, the international press has made known the amounts invested in lobbying and advertising by the fossil fuel industry in the context of COP27, which has once again brought to the media's attention The New York Times report of last September, entitled "Oil Executives Privately Contradicted Public Statements on Climate". This report reports on the review of documents from public hearings and subpoenas of the U.S. House of Representatives, in the context of discussions on U.S. climate commitments. The review of these documents revealed the fossil industry's decades-long efforts to mislead the public about its responsibility for climate change by dismissing scientific evidence that the burning of fossil fuels was causing global temperatures to rise. This, even when their own scientists warned them of a clear link between fossil fuel burning and global warming.
What these facts show is not only the existence of possible responsibilities on the part of this industry, but also the verification of a deeper problem: the misrepresentation of scientific evidence and the planned misinformation of public opinion in order to continue profiting from a devastating activity. An internal email from a senior fossil industry executive, regarding his company's communications campaigns expressing commitments to fighting climate change, states: "The company's announcement of a path to net zero emissions has nothing to do with our business plans".
Unfortunately, this mentality of North American fossil industry executives is not unique to that country. The gap between what is announced in public and what is actually thought and done seems to be the tone of the industry worldwide. Those who have forged their careers in the flames of oil, coal and gas do not consider anything else, do not believe in anything else and are barely able to adapt -reluctantly- their sayings -obliged by public opinion-.
In the context of Chile's commitment to decarbonization and the development of clean energies, as soon as the declaration of insolvency of some solar energy companies became known, actors that should play a key role in the viability of our country's energy transition ended up showing their true convictions. In public and in private. This is the case of a former executive secretary of the CNE, former executive of Enel, and who held the position of maximum responsibility in the design and implementation of the progressive closure of coal-fired plants, who allowed himself to state, in a recent column, that "closing thermal plants by dogma risks the supply and raises supply costs (...) we cannot continue naively believing that the day is near when there will be enough NCRE to replace the indispensable thermal supply".
In addition to being deeply concerned that this former government official would go out of his way to say these things in public, it terrifies us to think what they will say - and do - in private against climate policies. The same case occurs with other former executives of generating companies, currently in public functions, such as the president of the Board of Directors of the National Electricity Coordinator, who was historically an executive of the main coal companies in Chile (AES Gener and Guacolda, just to name a few). The highest authority of the Electricity Coordinator, the same day it was known that two solar companies went into insolvency due to financial problems, was dedicated to disseminate, among various industry players, two documents: "Climate Change: An expensive and unlikely transition" and "The Net Zero Transition: How much it costs and what it can give us", whose message is that the decarbonization of the energy matrix and the transition to clean energy (which he himself claims to lead) is actually a bad idea, too expensive and unlikely.
These two cases are worrying for having exercised and exercising public responsibilities in the context of the energy transition, but this vision persists in important sectors of the energy industry. Although we understand that it is difficult that people who for decades supported the development of polluting energies, defended them, and turned a deaf ear to their consequences, today can lead an energy transition based on clean energies, which they have regarded with suspicion, disbelief and distrust. But if they occupied or occupy positions of public representation, they cannot screw the opposite of what our country has established in its energy transition policies and its commitments to mitigate climate change.
Continuing to respond to the country's energy needs with recipes based on the burning of fossil fuels is an outright hindrance to the decarbonization process. To continue to use energy security reasons for not accelerating the entry of clean energies into the National Electric System; and to perpetuate as the only answer, always and on every occasion, "I have an idea, let's go back to burning more fossil fuels", at this point is no longer acceptable.
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