Pondering the question of international and intergenerational equity, one idea that occurred to me was some sort of ‘pay back the joules’ process. Basically, it would be an acknowledgement that the economic strength of some states has largely been based on the exploitation of non-renewable resources, to the detriment of those in other places. The basic idea of the scheme would be to be to ‘repay’ the same amount of energy, in the form of renewable generating capacity. The transfers would run from states that have used fossil fuels to those that have done so less, in proportion to the difference between the two. A state that had used X Joules of non-renewable fuels would pay half as much as a state that had used 2X Joules, up to the point where the gap between heavy and light users is eliminated
As described before, one barrel of oil contains about 1,700 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy. With similar figures for coal and gas, as well as data on total historical consumption, one could work out a total energy figure. It would then simply be a matter of multiplying the mean output of any renewable facility by its usable life. A 500 megawatt (MW) wind farm that lasts for 30 years will produce 131.4 gigawatt-hours (GWh): equivalent to 773,000 barrels of oil. One kilowatt-hour is 3.6 million Joules.
The plan would be one way to defuse the criticism that “the West got rich through dirty fuels, so we have the right to do the same.” It would also help to ensure that the developing world builds the right kind of infrastructure the first time, rather than having to replace most of it (and overcome all the special interests who will want to perpetuate it).