Is it possible we may end up with periods of #IndustrialQuiet, due to outbreaks of coronavirus in the future, even after the disease peaks in June or July?
In several publications today, the effects of the coronavirus are causing a bevy of, what are considered to be, bad conditions, particularly economically, in relationship to the worldwide economy. Stock markets are tumbling (or are they simply approaching more realistic valuations for certain overpriced stocks…)
As I listened to the arguments, I began to think about the conversation differently. Perhaps these are GOOD things in the short run and potentially even better in the long run for society as a whole if we are forced to manage our lifestyles differently in a time of widespread, non-vaccine available, coronavirus.
Tourism is down. BAD. (To the tune of $100 billion in air travel losses alone.) Air pollution caused by tens of thousands of aircraft not flying is also down. GOOD.
Travel to work is down as people are working from home. This is affecting the bottom line of businesses who are forced to pay rent on buildings no one is inside of, and having a workforce who is going to be without what they believe to be adequate supervision, relying on the ethical capacities of a wide selection of their workforce. Most companies will consider this a BAD thing.
While not every job can work from home, many can, and those that can, should. This means fewer cars on the road and better air quality to be had by all. Less pollution from cars, and less pollution from buildings in use. This feels like a GOOD thing to me.
The price of oil is going down. While not directly related to the coronavirus, it offers a mixed blessing as well. When gas prices go down, travel goes up in America. However, with the threat of the coronavirus people won’t be traveling as much.
The fear is, if oil is cheap, transitioning to cleaner energy won’t be as high of a priority as it is when gas prices are high. Electric car prices are now coming down to compete with gas-powered vehicles and that won’t change.
Should the price of gas fluctuate again, it may be a significant incentive to get away from gasoline and now could make it a good time to do so, since people may be able to save on gasoline while they are at home or driving far less than they used to.
As battery pricing continues its drop, the adoption of cars which won’t rely on gas may even increase. Auto manufacturers having invested in creating electric cars, won’t allow electrification to go away because the base problem remains; electric cars are still cleaner than fossil-fuel powered vehicles and are likely to remain that way no matter what a barrel of oil does when the price war ends. And it will end.
It is possible, the current oil crash may affect drilling companies to reconsider their investment in low-carbon technologies. Other companies may decide renewable energies derived from wind and solar are a safer investment in a world where oil prices may fluctuate wildly on a whim.
There is one other possibility we have yet to consider: What if companies decide to double down on investment in polluting technologies because they will bolster the economy even as they increase pollution to previously unconsidered levels for the sake of economic stability?
The New York Times opines:
Policymakers may try to bail out the conventional energy system and continue on as usual,” said Michael Webber, chief science and technology officer at Engie, a French energy company. “Or they could try to scale back subsidies for fossil fuels, help retrain workers into cleaner sectors, and take the moment to try to address the climate problem.
Our question is: Can the coronavirus’ continued existence transform the work experience permanently? Could it redefine our relationship to renewable energy in a positive way?
Will workers continue to work at home (those able to do so) and if so, what does the future of work look like? Working from home has been effective at small levels in the past, but now we are looking at entire swaths of the workforce being at home.
If they are at home, what about their buildings? Is their carbon footprint lessened? Is this significant enough to begin to see results similar to our conversation on Industrial Quiet from two weeks ago?
Less driving, less flying, less power used, less mileage on vehicles, cleaner air anywhere this is taking place… Is this a bad thing? Or the start of a radical transformation in the workforce of the future?
Economically speaking, it is going to be a bloodbath as small and medium sized regionally-adjacent businesses, dependent upon workers going to work, are now suddenly without customers. How long can they continue to exist and what does this mean if businesses consider maintaining this for an extended period?
What other questions are inherent in this BAD TREND, GOOD TREND series of events related to the coronavirus and our current business model? Do you see other ways this could become possibly a transition point in history to move toward cleaner and more sustainable energies?
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