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Jeremy Rifkin on San Antonio, the European Union, and the lessons learned in our push for a planetary-scale power shift

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Jeremy Rifkin, Palgrave MacMillan, $27, 291 page


With mass-acceptance, specific to San Antonio, how significant was the kind of mischaracterization or lack of context in the initial reports about the cost of the master plan?
Well, it was a little bit of a, a big surprise to us. All of a sudden we get this feedback that “Oh my god, Rifkin and is team are saying we need billions and billions of dollars.” And anybody, I don’t know why that happened frankly. But I was in emergency mode, saying “What is going on here?” We were talking about x-billion over 25 years phased in with all the appropriate incentives, money that would have been spent anyway on old infrastructure. So that was a little bit of a shock that it happened. I hope that, you know I immediately got a hold of people in civil society and talked to folks, and … they figured out very quickly that that is not we were talking about. If you read the report, it's absolutely not. I don’t know how much that hurt in the short run. I don’t know why it was put out that way.

I still hear people that I think would know better that have been supportive of the plan say, “Oh,” it’s like it’s already gone in to our historical databases, “Oh, that was too expensive.” Somehow that caught traction because there was never any follow-up to say, “Well what is this plan really?” And I thought that was really curious…
I don’t know, I think it was because of the shake up at CPS.

Yeah, in the middle of everything else.
But I do think from what I understand that they are taking for sure bits and pieces of each of these pillars, there’s no doubt about that.

I don’t think [CPS CEO Doyle Beneby] sees buildings as power. I don’t think he sees really decentralization.
No, that’s the key. That’s the easy stuff. But then you have to move to the real economic opportunities for thousands of businesses and lots of jobs, huge amounts of jobs. And you have to move through a distributed collaborative model. This is really, we call this distributed capitalism, it’s really a democratization of energy. It allows everyone in San Antonio to be an energy entrepreneur, every homeowner, every renter, everyone. But it also requires everyone collaborating in more of a social-market model. It requires an extension of entrepreneurism, you flatten it —everyone is involved in the game, everybody that has a building — but then you also have to collaborate in social spaces together and do this in that way. So it’s very difficult for power utility companies that have thought traditionally centralized, top down, to begin to think you have to do both the old model and the new, which is distributed collaboratively. So what we’ve noticed in other power utility companies there's a generational struggle going on, but I have no doubt this is where were headed. In other words, short of a collapse, there is no Plan B. If what we're talking about isn’t the plan to move us to a new economic era, I'm just at a loss. If someone has another plan, I would love to see it. Our companies haven’t seen it and we came to this not out of some brainstorm but just, “This will work.” We realize we need to go to renewables because they’re going to be cheaper and cheaper; fossil fuel is going to be more and more expensive anyways. We knew we had to find a way to collect them, and so that's infrastructure. We knew we had to find a way to store them, because they're intermittent. We knew we had to find a way to share them across grids with everyone participating, and that’s internet. And then we had to find plug-in transport. It took us years to get to this, but all of the companies in our group, they say this is the infrastructure. And I don’t know what other infrastructure there would be. But it is a very big change in power, literally and figuratively. It changes the way we organize fundamentally our social, political, and cultural ways of life. This is truly a flattening capitalism. It’s definitely a democratization of energy and it threatens some of the old ways of doing, for sure.

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