Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who is the Sky Falling On, Exactly?

I don't make political posts because, well, drop in the ocean really. There are more qualified people and places for that. I just wanted to get this out of my head because it's been bugging me.

In the Great Environmental Debate environmentalists are routinely painted as Chicken Littles, overstating the horror and doom of inaction or continued waste, etc. At worst they are exaggerating and at best jumping at their own shadows.

But then look at what is predicted by, lets call them counter-environmentalists and I think we see a far greater hysteria. Going 'green' will destroy our economy, make us live like the Amish, bring us to our knees! Won't someone please think of the children!

And they think that environmental concerns are inconsistent? Cooling/warming? But then what have we heard? Global Warming isn't happening. Well, it's happening, but it's not our fault. Well, it is our fault but there isn't anything we can do about it. Well, we can do something about it but it would destroy our economy so someone else should do something about it.


We build cities and bridges, faster than sound aircraft, cure disease, go to the moon-but the mere thought that we might just maybe find an alternative to fossil fuels is going to bring civilization to its knees?

Regardless of what you believe about global warming, fossil fuels are a finite source and renewables are, well, renewable. The upfront costs of transitioning to renewable resources is somehow insurmountable, but the back end cost of sticking with a depleting source is totally doable? Forget sustainability, in the long run it's just cheaper for a source that renews itself than it is for one that becomes more rare.

The economic argument just seems so feeble to me. Green mutual funds have outpaced the market even with our notably ungreen president in charge. Someone is making money-just not the ones who have shackled themselves to 'dirty' fuels. Where's the 'best buggy whip manufacturer' anecdote for them? They're out of date. Switching off of them won't be the end of civilization.

Sure, the alternatives are not perfect and some just are not ready. Ethanol from corn from every measure seems like a bad idea, from release of nitrates, to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, to what goes into producing it. But there are already bio-diverse alternatives to corn and sugar. Ultimately I don't think that there will be a single 'magic wand' solution. Maybe that's the problem, that oil was a 'single solution' and somehow we were lead to believe that without a single solution, all would be lost.

That it would collapse the sky.

Well, it won't.


  1. Anonymous9:25 PM

    You know I think much of the hype about renewable energy is coming from the auto industry. I think that the oil companies already see this is coming and are trying to plan for the future life of their companies. After a couple of quick yahoo searches I came across a few relevant sites:




    As more mass power generation, the USA needs to follow France's example. Nuclear power. For automotive needs, Japan automakers are making major strides in hydrogen. Companies are looking to the future, however is you make people think the sky is falling you can maximize your oil profits while they last.

  2. Nuclear is more of the same problem as oil--finite resource. Yeah, we can get a lot more energy per ounce out of it, but we have a lot fewer ounces of it to go around. Renewables are the only long term solution worth a damn.

    The problem with renewables is a profit one--and that's only a problem for the companies trying to make a buck off it. It's not a problem for me, except that energy companies are in my fucking way. There's a lot less money in installing a wind farm that cracks hydrogen for fuel cells than there is for controlling the diminishing amounts of a finite resource like oil or uranium.

  3. Anonymous2:48 PM

    Nuclear sources are not as finite as you might think, with breeder reactors we can have nuclear fuel for quite a long time, even with standard reactor it will last a long time.