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Let’s all do the Solar Hokey Pokey as a way to stay sane in the convoluted, often obstreperous US solar market. In June, Nevada followed its relatively good deed concerning net metering with a head-scratcher of a decision when its governor vetoed bills that would have extended its RPS and instituted a state-wide community solar program. Florida, state of few incentives and much potential, just like an underperforming high school senior, stepped up to encourage a market for renewable deployment on commercial buildings.

In 2015 Nevada passed legislation eliminating retail rates for net metered solar PV installations adding fees and making the changes retroactive. In 2016 the legislation was altered to grandfather in systems installed before the 2015 change. In June 2017 Nevada Assembly Bill 405 raised net metering compensation to 95% of retail rates, locked in the new rates for 20 years and included other protections such as protection for system owners/lessees from fees and changes in rate classification simply on the basis of PV system ownership/leasing. Installers are also required to provide a ten year system warranty. Net metering in Nevada will decrease by 7% in 80-MWp tiers until it reaches 75% of retail electricity rates.

And then … on June 16 Arizona Governor Sandoval vetoed two solar related bills extending the State’s RPS and establishing a statewide community solar program calling the moves “premature.” AB206 would have extended the states RPS to 25% by 2025 and 40% by 2030. SB392 would have established a statewide community solar program that offered subscribers utility credits.

Meanwhile, back on planet progress and also on June 16, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed SB90 into law. SB90 allows an amendment passed in 2016 to take effect in 2018. It will make solar and other RE generating technologies installed on commercial buildings exempt from property tax for 20 years, again, beginning in 2018. It will also ensure that 80% of the value of the equipment is exempt from property taxes. In sum this means that property taxes will not increase for investors in renewable technologies installed on commercial buildings. The bill also includes protections for consumers.

Comment: Let’s all do the solar hokey pokey. Legislative progress is always one step forward and one step back for the solar industry and this is true globally, not just for the US.

You put some progress in

You take some progress out

You insert at tariff, minimum price, fee or other restriction

And you shake it all about

You do the solar hokey pokey

And you turn an emerging industry inside out

That’s what it’s all about

Lesson: Repeat the above refrain several times and then trudge on through the convoluted legislative landscape towards progress.

With apologies to Shakespeare, a readjustment of Sonnet 116, stanzas 1 through 8:

Let me not to the marriage of technology and market

Admit impediments. Innovation is not innovation

Which falters when market barriers it finds,

Or bends with conventional energy competition to remove.

O no, it is a dedicated mark

That looks on market misunderstandings and is never shaken;

Research, development and innovation are the stars to every wand’ring fad,

Whose worth’s unappreciated, although its necessity be accepted.

Technology development, that is R&D of new photovoltaic and other solar technologies, is the slow moving driver of the global photovoltaic industry without which there would be no champion cell efficiencies to announce, no government incentives to drive demand, no business models to take advantage of the incentives and no accelerated growth to appreciate.

Without innovation, dedication and a lot (a lot) of money there would be no photovoltaic cell technologies and without market buy-in no matter how achieved there would be no solar industry. In a market teeming with investors, venture capitalists, corporations, scientists, engineers and normal people just trying to understand what it means to them, misunderstandings about the timeline necessary to bring a photovoltaic technology to commercial production has doomed many a technology before it had a chance to innovate.

Crystalline cell technology is an example of a successful technology innovation. The original German Feed in Tariff is an example of a government incentive innovation. The point is that innovations must address something and then change something.

In the solar industry, the timeline from lab scale research through pilot scale production to commercialization is decades. Research and development into SunPower’s crystalline IBC (Interdigitated Back Contact) crystalline cell began in the 1970s at Stanford University. In 1975 research was published on IBC cells. In 1987 Ron Sinton, Sinton Instruments and winner of the 2014 Cherry Award, and the team at Stanford developed a 3 mm x 5 mm IBC cell with 28.3% conversion efficiency; this cell, which could not be soldered and was not stable, was a research step on the long innovative timeline from idea through commercialization.

Manufacturers are currently either announcing plans to add capacity to produce PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) crystalline cells and modules or are actively adding capacity. Research into this technology began in the 1980s with the first paper published in 1989.

The point of this history is that technology development is a slow and rigorous process. At the end of this process market acceptance is not assured.

From idea through R&D, pilot scale, commercial production and finally finding a market, it’s about the money before it’s about anything else. Millions of dollars have been poured into the solar industry often without a successful outcome. Money is necessary and the dance to get that money leads directly to the kind of announcements that confuse observers and investors of the solar industry. Announcements have led to an under appreciation of the true innovative nature of commercial solar technologies and of the necessity to continue feeding the research machine that eventually grinds out a technology that has the potential to innovate.

The solar industry is populated by successful innovators and innovations from scientists working decades to develop solar cells, engineers designing modules, governments developing incentives to drive demand and business people creating models that enable adoption – solar in the universal sense, is an example of a successful and hard won innovation. All of this effort should never be taken for granted.

There is nothing new about protectionism just as there is nothing new about aggressive pricing for market share, dumping of overproduction at low prices and the cascade of unintended consequences of government intervention on markets.

A free market is precisely what the word free implies that is, market prices and the choice of goods are set by the interactions of market participants. Under this definition, there are few, if any, free markets in the world.

Governments intervene to subsidize or incentivize production of goods and the acquisition of goods. In the US, farmers sometimes received subsidies not to produce under the assumption that over production would lead to a price collapse. Electricity rates in US states must be approved by state PUCs. Subsidies provide affordable housing for poorer populations. Pick a market and you can find a government incentive, subsidy or a control of some sort.

So, seriously, there are few, if any, free markets.

The global solar industry relies on mandates, subsidies and incentives for its demand. Though it has enjoyed extraordinarily strong growth overtime this growth has come about because of, again, subsidies. Current low prices for PV modules are possible because of China’s support for its PV manufacturers.

The 2012 US resulted in higher prices for small buyers and, frankly, no price change for larger buyers. In sum, for larger buyers the sellers absorbed the tariff. The primary goal of sellers was sales, margin was secondary. Higher margins were gained from smaller sellers who also absorbed the tariff. Exporters were then not truly punished because the goals of the exporter (seller) were not properly understood.

The lesson is that market regulations, incentives, subsidies, mandates and tariffs come with unintended consequences. When tariffs are enacted the primary entity punished via higher prices is the buyer. The price pain felt by buyers is almost always the unintended consequence of the imposition of tariffs.

Just as markets are not entirely free, markets are also not entirely rational or controllable. Tastes change. Competing products rise. Drought and heavy rains affect agriculture. People go on strike. Recessions effect buying ability. Finally, sometimes people make irrational buying choices. Consider the cell phone which went from the size of a person’s arm to the size of a watch face to practically the size of a laptop computer screen and is now migrating back to not just watch face size, but to being an actual watch.

The point is that controlling buying patterns is close to impossible and punishing sellers for low prices typically punishes the buyers and worse … almost never brings back manufacturing jobs.

A good example of the unintended consequence of government intervention is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. In the 1920s an excess of agricultural production in Europe led to low price imports of produce into the US. Farmers suffered and Herbert Hoover promised that if he were elected president he would help US farmers. (As an aside … if this seems familiar it should.)

Enter Willis Hawley, Congressman, Oregon, and Reed Smoot, Senator, Utah. Smoot-Hawley began as a protection for farmers but after much debate fed by many special interests it was eventually attached to a wide variety of imports (~900). Other countries retaliated with their own tariffs. The US trade deficit ballooned. Smoot-Hawley did not push the world into the Great Depression but it certainly was a card in the Depression playing deck.

In 1934, as part of the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt pushed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act through and the short reign of protectionism in the US ended … just in time for the beginning of World War II in 1939.

The Solar Point

Immediately following Suniva’s bankruptcy on April 17, rumors of a new trade dispute began and late in April Suniva, a US-based monocrystalline manufacturer over 60% owned by a Chinese company filed its trade dispute asking for a 40-cent/Wp tariff on all solar cells made outside the US. From Suniva’s point of view, the request makes sense as it is one of two crystalline solar cell manufacturers in the US the other being SolarWorld.

Proponents say that it would protect US solar manufacturing but as there is very little US manufacturing and the reasons for its demise are complex, there is little to protect.

Tariff opponents argue that cheaper prices for cells would help module assemblers and cheaper prices for modules would increase solar deployment.

The fact is that larger entities continued to enjoy low prices and will always enjoy lower prices than smaller demand side participants.

The fact is that bringing back US solar manufacturing is close to impossible at this juncture using tariffs. It would require a lot of time (a lot of time), favorable taxes for producers as well as other manufacturing subsidies and most important, a healthy incentive for buyers to purchase modules made in America with crystalline and thin film cells made in America and … even then … the aluminum, the glass, the backsheet – something in the module will come from some other country.

The fact is that the products bought in the US, including the foods we eat, are often produced using components from other countries.

Finally … well-meaning or crowd-pleasing government intervention in the not-so-free-not-so-rational-extremely-complex global market always brings a host of complications with it and always brings a host of unintended consequences. Just ask Mr. Smoot and Mr. Hawley.

 

There is nothing new about protectionism just as there is nothing new about aggressive pricing for market share, dumping of overproduction at low prices and the cascade of unintended consequences of government intervention on markets.

A free market is precisely what the word free implies that is, market prices and the choice of goods are set by the interactions of market participants. Under this definition, there are few, if any, free markets in the world.

Governments intervene to subsidize or incentivize production of goods and the acquisition of goods. In the US, farmers sometimes received subsidies not to produce under the assumption that over production would lead to a price collapse. Electricity rates in US states must be approved by state PUCs. Subsidies provide affordable housing for poorer populations. Pick a market and you can find a government incentive, subsidy or a control of some sort.

So, seriously, there are few, if any, free markets.

The global solar industry relies on mandates, subsidies and incentives for its demand. Though it has enjoyed extraordinarily strong growth overtime this growth has come about because of, again, subsidies. Current low prices for PV modules are possible because of China’s support for its PV manufacturers.

The 2012 US resulted in higher prices for small buyers and, frankly, no price change for larger buyers. In sum, for larger buyers the sellers absorbed the tariff. The primary goal of sellers was sales, margin was secondary. Higher margins were gained from smaller sellers who also absorbed the tariff. Exporters were then not truly punished because the goals of the exporter (seller) were not properly understood.

The lesson is that market regulations, incentives, subsidies, mandates and tariffs come with unintended consequences. When tariffs are enacted the primary entity punished via higher prices is the buyer. The price pain felt by buyers is almost always the unintended consequence of the imposition of tariffs.

Just as markets are not entirely free, markets are also not entirely rational or controllable. Tastes change. Competing products rise. Drought and heavy rains affect agriculture. People go on strike. Recessions effect buying ability. Finally, sometimes people make irrational buying choices. Consider the cell phone which went from the size of a person’s arm to the size of a watch face to practically the size of a laptop computer screen and is now migrating back to not just watch face size, but to being an actual watch.

The point is that controlling buying patterns is close to impossible and punishing sellers for low prices typically punishes the buyers and worse … almost never brings back manufacturing jobs.

A good example of the unintended consequence of government intervention is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. In the 1920s an excess of agricultural production in Europe led to low price imports of produce into the US. Farmers suffered and Herbert Hoover promised that if he were elected president he would help US farmers. (As an aside … if this seems familiar it should.)

Enter Willis Hawley, Congressman, Oregon, and Reed Smoot, Senator, Utah. Smoot-Hawley began as a protection for farmers but after much debate fed by many special interests it was eventually attached to a wide variety of imports (~900). Other countries retaliated with their own tariffs. The US trade deficit ballooned. Smoot-Hawley did not push the world into the Great Depression but it certainly was a card in the Depression playing deck.

In 1934, as part of the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt pushed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act through and the short reign of protectionism in the US ended … just in time for the beginning of World War II in 1939.

The Solar Point

Following Suniva’s bankruptcy talk began, primarily in the solar press and SEIA, of a new US solar tariff. (Another aside, this may happen but it is a bit cart before the any animal you choose.)

Proponents say that it would protect US solar manufacturing but as there is very little US manufacturing and the reasons for its demise are complex, there is little to protect.

Tariff opponents argue that cheaper prices for cells would help module assemblers and cheaper prices for modules would increase solar deployment.

The fact is that larger entities continued to enjoy low prices and will always enjoy lower prices than smaller demand side participants.

The fact is that bringing back US solar manufacturing is close to impossible at this juncture using tariffs. It would require a lot of time (a lot of time), favorable taxes for producers as well as other manufacturing subsidies and most important, a healthy incentive for buyers to purchase modules made in America with crystalline and thin film cells made in America and … even then … the aluminum, the glass, the backsheet – something in the module will come from some other country.

The fact is that the products bought in the US, including the foods we eat, are often produced using components from other countries.

Finally … well-meaning or crowd-pleasing government intervention in the not-so-free-not-so-rational-extremely-complex global market always brings a host of complications with it and always brings a host of unintended consequences. Just ask Mr. Smoot and Mr. Hawley.

From the Price Chapter of the Report: The subject of price in the photovoltaic industry is easily misunderstood and often assumed to be synonymous with the cost of manufacturing. Misunderstandings are typically over the difference in inventory pricing, pricing from distributors and pricing directly from manufacturers. Spot prices for modules can fall into any of these three categories and are thus highly uninformative. Observing so-called spot prices daily, weekly or monthly price fluctuations without understanding whether the module comes from manufacturer inventory or is being resold from developers from failed projects does not aid in coming to an understanding of current pricing trends.

The subject of cost is also significantly misunderstood. Observers assume that prices for PV cells and modules relate directly to the cost of manufacturing these products. This is not the case. In many cases significant subsidization of domestic manufacturing completely obscures the true cost of manufacturing cells and modules without subsidies. In some cases manufacturers purposely obscure the true cost of manufacturing in order to appear both more profitable and more efficient. China is the most recent and most significant country to both subsidize its domestic PV manufacturing and thus obscure the true cost of this manufacturing but it is by no means the only government/country do so. Among the other countries that have supported domestic manufacturing by offering incentives and subsidies for manufacturers are Germany, Japan and to a lesser degree the U.S.

Many times the assumed cost of manufacturing is arrived at by back-engineering from a price point using methodology that assumes a gross margin of, for example, 20%. This method of arriving at an assumed cost of manufacturing typically yields incorrect data for cost that continues to support prices that are too low.

In 2004, the global PV industry entered a period of prolonged accelerated growth stimulated by the European feed in tariff incentive which spread quickly from Germany to other countries. In its early iterations, this incentive was simple and profitable and as such invited investors to take risks on non-commercial technologies. The utility scale (multi-megawatt) application was an outgrowth of investor interest in seemingly stable FiT returns. During the early 2000s capacities to produce technology increased significantly while prices decreased significantly; for example, prices decreased by 42% in 2009 over the previous year, by 16% in 2010, by 23% in 2011 and by 45% in 2012. Unfortunately, these price decreases were misunderstood as a sign of economies of scale and it was widely assumed that the industry had reached grid parity. These assumptions were largely based the misunderstanding that price was closely correlated with cost and that price decreases represented progress.

During this period of strong activity, manufacturers in China entered with aggressive pricing strategies that rapidly drove PV manufacturers into a prolonged period of negative margins, company failures and consolidation.

In 2001 global shipments were 352-MWp and China’s photovoltaic manufacturers had <1% share. In the mid-2000s the market for solar deployment accelerated, driven by the feed-in-tariff incentive model. Between 2004 and 2009 accelerating demand for solar deployment met with a severe shortage of polysilicon starting material and therefore crystalline module product. Prices for modules increased and smaller markets outside of Europe had trouble sourcing module product. In 2004 China’s manufacturers had a 1% share of the global shipment total, 1.1-GWp. By 2007, China’s manufacturers had a 21% share of global shipments. By 2010 China’s manufacturers had a 38% share of global shipments.

How China’s manufacturers accomplished this feat has been and still is debated. On one hand the country’s manufacturers enjoy significant and generous incentives and subsidies from the central government as well as local governments. Initially labor was far cheaper in China than it was in other countries and other costs, such as electricity were also less expensive. Debt has always been a murky topic concerning China and its manufacturers expand, in some cases, using grey market debt (shadow lending).

China’s astounding and rapid success and domination of photovoltaic manufacturing also owes a lot to the market reform of Deng Xiaoping. Under Deng Xiaoping in the 1990s a new breed of businessperson came into being laying the groundwork for the country’s PV pioneers in the mid-2000s.

Aside from significant government support, China’s pseudo-capitalists operate like free market capitalists and, as long as they do not run afoul of the central government as Suntech famously did in 2013, are free to succeed relatively margin-free. China’s PV manufacturing sector is less risk adverse than in other countries and more willing to move rapidly past historic PV industry norms such as, in some cases, pilot scale manufacturing. There are also fewer manufacturing regulations.

Much has been written recently about the relationship of the US stock market to the rapid growth of China’s photovoltaic manufacturing sector. Suntech filed its IPO in 2005; Trina Solar filed its IPO in 2006 while Yingli and LDK filed their IPOs in 2007. It cannot be denied that the proceeds from the IPOs fueled rapid expansion for many of China’s PV manufacturers however, it is equally true that the foundation for success for all its manufacturers were grants as well as loans at favorable repayment terms from the central government and local governments.

Recent rapid expansions of manufacturing capacity in South East Asia that are, in some cases, relocation of equipment from China to Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, are the result of high levels of manufacturing capacity and price pressure significant enough to finally give the minimum price (MIP) in Europe and tariffs in the US some weight.

PV industry pricing began recovering in 2013 for many reasons including recovering economies and government price intervention in Europe, the US and other countries.

In Q3-2016 prices for photovoltaic crystalline cells and modules decreased dramatically driven downward by an unfortunate stew of overcapacity, vulnerable markets as well as aggressive pricing (China) and defensive pricing (India).

In Q1 2017 manufacturers began selling future production of modules in the $0.30/Wp to $0.40/Wp range. Though this range is typically only available to larger buyers it coincides with inventory sales from manufacturers and distributors that has dipped into the $0.20/Wp to $0.30/Wp range.

This situation, sales of future production, cements the current low pricing phase while potentially increasing prices to the smaller buyers.

The average price (ASP) includes a wide range of price strategies and differs country by country. The average prices for modules in 2016 by country were:

  • U.S., $0.61
  • Japan, $0.62
  • Europe, $0.61
  • China $0.47
  • Taiwan (primarily for cells), $0.22Wp
  • Malaysia $0.53/Wp
  • South Korea $0.76/Wp
  • Singapore $0.65/Wp
  • Philippines $1.47/Wp
  • India $0.44/Wp
  • Vietnam $0.43/Wp
  • Thailand $0.51/Wp
  • Global Module ASP: $0.54/Wp
  • Global Cell ASP: $0.22/Wp
  • Global Multicrystalline ASP $0.44/Wp
  • Global Monocrystalline ASP $0.67/Wp
  • Global High Efficiency Monocrystalline ASP $0.86/Wp
  • Global Thin Film ASP $0.59/Wp

 

 

Expect manufacturer revenues for 2016 and throughout 2017 to have little relationship to current prices as manufacturers continue selling tomorrow’s production today. Moreover, the ability for manufacturers to raise prices in the near, medium and long term has likely been permanently eroded. For most manufacturers current prices do not reflect costs and as margin expectations – that is, the gross margin necessary to run a thriving business – are little understood by analysts, observers, academics, researchers and even industry participants there is little possibility that the dire consequences of continued underpricing will be addressed.

Price Manipulation

The global solar PV industry is a bastion of price manipulation with significant government support in some countries and punitive tariffs on imports in others. As neither the governments providing support nor the countries imposing tariffs understand the intricacies of the market for solar panels and other components the result is an artificial marketplace where outcomes are never as intended or expected.

In markets where import tariffs have been imposed in order to offer support for domestic manufacturing recovery, no recovery was forthcoming and the tariffs had little effect on the price paid for modules.

Governments offering significant support for manufacturers find that the robust manufacturing sector that relies on the support cannot raise prices and jobs are only stable while support continues.

For example, though manufacturers of cells and modules based in China control the market, the expectation of lower prices on the part of buyer’s means that they cannot exercise their market control – that is, they cannot raise prices. Thus, the unintended consequence of market control for manufacturers based in China is the opposite of what is theoretically expected – the ability to control the price function when market control has been established.

In their 2012 paper, Market Failure and Government Failure, William Keech and Michael Munger, Duke University, and Carl Simon, University of Michigan wrote “Market failure is the standard justification for government action in neoclassical welfare economics.” The two assumptions discussed by the authors in their paper are:

  1. The presumption that market processes are the default for allocating scarce resources, essentially, perfect competition, where price information will direct self-interested market participates to correct mistakes or Pareto dominated allocations, in resource use.
  2. When competition is imperfect, the consequent market failures can and should be corrected by government. This claim amounts to an assumption that political actors have both appropriate incentives and accurate information so that Pareto optimal allocations of resources can be achieved.

Welfare economics is the theory that individuals make rational buying and selling decisions. Pareto dominated allocations refer to Vilfredo Pareto’s 80/20 rule that 20% of the effort is responsible for 80% of the resulting output.

Concerning the PV industry a much longer discussion could be had as to whether rational decision making is possible in a market where the price of inputs and the cost of manufacturing are manipulated by governments.

On the supply side sellers of modules cannot raise prices and increase margins.

On the demand side buyers of modules, though enjoying low prices, lack control over quality and do not realize that the negotiating power is also out of their control.

The buyers of electricity from the utility grid, aka the end users, have only illusory control over the price they pay for electricity as the price of this commodity and necessity is set by utilities and governments. When comparing the value of owning or leasing a solar system the point of comparison is government controlled and not an example of free market value (price) setting.

Meanwhile, market observers assuming logical supply and demand forces to be the primary factors in establishing incorrectly describe the market thus exacerbating the problem.

Assumption 2 is of particular interest when observing government intervention in the supply/demand PV industry behavior in that political actors are acting on insufficient and often incorrect information and so are unable to correct imbalances in the market. Simply put, in decision making if the input is a fallacy the output will be a fallacy and the result a mess.

The Unintended Consequences of Inexpensive Components

Price pressure to fulfill the low price expectations of the market has pushed PV manufacturers into a situation where margin must be preserved at any cost including quality. One way in which manufacturers preserve margin is to shift manufacturing to developing countries where jobs are needed, wages and other costs are low and regulations are generous to the manufacturer – that is, regulations, quality control, and worker and community protections are far more lax. One example of poor manufacturer behavior is the 2011 contamination of a river in Zhejiang province, China, by PV cell and module manufacturer Jinko Solar.

In the beginning workers are thrilled at the increase in available jobs. Overtime, safety, wages and quality of life become important to workers and they begin to demand change. Wages increase and manufacturers look for new ways to save money.

One way to save money is to source lower cost components such as backsheets, glass, EVA, aluminum and junction boxes among other components and raw materials. Quality problems arising from the sourcing of low cost inputs – and all manufacturers do this – are often not discovered in testing, not apparent visually and are discovered in the field thus increasing O&M costs for developers and installers.

When manufacturing shifts to low cost countries buyers benefit from lower prices but hidden behind those lower prices are lower quality, increased pollution, low wages and unsafe working conditions for labors. As production shifts to low cost countries manufacturing slows in areas with higher costs, jobs are lost and the country shouldering the job losses also shoulders higher medical and other costs for the unemployed.

The unintended costs of government support and punitive measures and ongoing low margin manufacturing are eventually felt by all industry participants. These costs are the slippery slope down which the global solar industry has been sliding for decades.

The Trolley Problem is a set of ethical dilemma scenarios developed by British philosopher Philippa Foot in 1967.

Assume you are the driver of an out of control train. Ahead of you on the main track there are five people tied up and unable to move to safety. If you pull a lever the train will barrel down an alternate track to which one person is tied, unable to move. No matter what you choose you will be safe.

What do you choose?

Now re-imagine the Trolley Problem in terms of Climate Change

You are driving the climate change train. Ahead of you trapped on the main track is every living creature on earth including insects and plants. If you choose this route no one will be asked to conserve, deployment of renewables will continue but at a slower pace, the climate will continue to warm, severe weather events will become more common, sea levels will rise, the air will eventually become unbreathable and the dire effects of climate change will become irreversible. Eventually everyone will suffer.

But, aha – there is an alternate route and on this route is, again, every living creature on earth including insects and plants. If you choose this route most people will be temporarily inconvenienced by an initial increase in the cost of energy as the switch to renewables is accelerated and conservation habits settle in and a few will see lower profits from coal, oil and natural gas as they make the technology switch but in the end all will be better off.

Here are your choices:

A: Do nothing and allow climate change to barrel ahead, the air to be poisoned, the climate to warm, extreme weather events to become more common and future attempts to ameliorate the damage to be unmanageably expensive. This choice does not immediately inconvenience anyone and it is profitable for a few. Eventually, of course, it inconveniences everyone and is costly for all.

B: Pull the lever and barrel down the alternate track where everyone pays a little more initially as renewables are deployed and all must learn to conserve energy while a few suffer lower profits initially but everyone is saved from future disaster.

What do you choose?