2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which was the event, more than any other, which kick started large corporate to think about the effect that they were having on the environment. It would be interesting to analyse what benefits have accrued since then and where the world is now going.
In Europe, the picture is mixed; the fleet of solar, wind and AD installations has increased hugely and installed costs have come down. However, governmental knee jerk reaction has caused a complete loss of confidence in the Feed-in Tariff regime so future development will certainly slow. The worries following the Fukushima disaster and the loss of confidence following the financial crisis, mean that nuclear power station building, the best hope for avoiding blackouts, has stalled. In China, coal fired power stations continue to be built at a dizzying rate and much of the country has been are blanketed by smog. However, there is good news. There is a growing network of charging points for electric vehicles and it seems, at last, that viable electric cars are being produced with many further developments in the pipeline. While the swing to diesel cars in recent years is now seen to have been a backwards step in environmental terms, it seems that there is a growing number of petrol engine cars coming to the market with impressive fuel consumption figures.
In Europe, in particular, conservative legislative effort is ensuring that trucks are increasingly clean and fuel efficient and new regulations are transforming the energy efficiency of modern buildings. In aviation, passenger miles continue to grow, but aircraft are quieter and more efficient.
Of course, many of these developments have been driven by ever increasing oil prices and ever increasing fears about energy security in an unstable world, rather than by altruistic chief executives hoping to save that world.
The new game changer for the environment is fracking. At the time of Katrina, little was known of this technology outside the industry. Now it has resulted in the US, for the first time in many years, being a net exporter of oil and gas and the price of Brent Crude dipping below $80 per barrel. Both the building industry and the motor industry react slowly to events and have long development cycles. If oil prices stay low, it remains to be seen if these two industries will slip back to their old ways. Sadly, we can have little reliance on politicians to drive environmental success in the near future.