, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


As mankind spirals towards its own self-manufactured demise, I look with a jaundiced eye at daily events in the news and at the bread-and-circus infotainment that fills the American hologram. The mass media is replete with misinformation on the state of the world, so I wasn’t too surprised by the recent words of wisdom(sarcasm) from Kathleen White (Distinguished Senior Fellow-in-Residence & Director, Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment); nevertheless, I felt compelled to set aside a partially completed essay on capitalism and technology in order to express some of my thoughts about White’s essay on the benefits of fossil fuels to humanity:

“…Fossils fuels also augment food supply. Fertilizer derived from natural gas has increased agricultural productivity by 40-60 percent. According to economist Indur Goklany, without fossil fuels, an area equivalent to U.S., Canada, and India combined would have to be converted into crop land to meet global food demand. Fossil fuel-based fertilizer, pesticides, and mechanized substitutes for animal power have saved vast natural ecosystems from conversion to cropland. And the increased atmospheric concentration of man-made CO2 has enhanced plant growth.”

[You fail to consider that without fossil fuels, mankind would not have been enabled to overpopulate the planet to such a degree as to require so much farmland. You also fail to say that the negatives of climate change swamp (no pun intended) any supposed benefits of a warming planet. As we are already seeing, the effects of epic droughts and floods are wreaking havoc on farmers. Good luck trying to move the agricultural industry northward where the soils are extremely poor. Famine and mass extinction are the inevitable outcome of industrial civilization’s destabilizing activities on the planet.]

“Although combustion of fossil fuels releases pollutants, that environmental damage can, and is, undergoing dramatic reversal far quicker than could the conversion of natural ecosystems to croplands. The prosperity supported by fossil fuel energy allows investment in effective technologies to reduce and eliminate harmful pollution.”

[CO2 and other GHG levels are increasing every year, having gone parabolic in the last 100 years. This reality paints a bleak picture for the future of humanity. Far from being mitigated, environmental damage is accelerating everywhere one looks from the acidification of the oceans to the die-off of forests and jungles. The simple fact is that renewable energy cannot replace fossil fuel based energy at the rate the world is consuming, as European actions have recently indicated. Only a wholesale reconfiguration of the economy and our way of life will enable solutions to the environmental crisis. Rather than taking this courageous and self-reflective approach, society is putting its proverbial head in the sand concerning climate change. The public already finds the subject of climate change difficult enough to understand without having to wade through a constant onslaught of misleading articles such as yours.]

“Renewable energy still provides a sliver of global demand. Despite the billions of dollars in subsidies, retail prices are still 2-3 times higher than fossil fuels. Renewable energy from wind and solar remain diffuse, intermittent and parasitic on fossil fuels for back-up. Nuclear fission provides energy comparable or superior to fossil fuels, but the public remains resistant to broad use.”

[Yes, capitalist industrial civilization cannot be run on renewables so that is why we need to be talking about powering down and living within the carrying capacity of the planet rather than maintaining the status quo. Nuclear has the little problem of making vast swaths of the planet uninhabitable from radiation contamination, as evidenced by such catastrophes as Chernobyl and Fukushima. Nuclear energy also leaves behind tons of radioactive waste that must be stored away for thousands of years. These sort of factors tend to scare the public. With global sea levels rising and storms becoming more destructive, the world’s nuclear plants, which are mostly situated along waterways and oceans for coolant purposes, are in jeopardy. Get it?]

“Energy-dense, abundant, imperishable, versatile, reliable, portable and affordable, fossil fuels provide 85 percent of the world’s energy because they are superior to the current alternatives. And hundreds of millions still await the benefits of affordable energy. Until energy sources comparable or superior to fossil fuels are fully available, policies to reduce emissions of CO2 should proceed with caution lest they prematurely jettison the well-springs of mankind’s greatest advance — the blessings of which literally light up the holiday season.”

[The “well-springs of mankind’s greatest advance” are soon to be jettisoned into the dustbin of history and extinction as we have already tripped multiple tipping points in the earth’s biosphere such as the Polar ice melt and many others. Hundreds of millions will never experience the energy-intensive lifestyles of developed countries since climate chaos will put a halt to human expansion within this century. Fossil fuels have allowed industrial civilization to far overshoot the environment; for the rest of the world to live like Americans, we would need more than 4 Earths.]