MainLine Peace Action/DelMont PDA

December 11, 2009

Why Quit Fossil Fuels?

For those who wonder how to convince resistant people we must move away from fossil fuels due to Climate Change, I have one word of advice: Don’t.

There’s actually no need. Not because Global Warming isn’t real – it is, and the overwhelming evidence is that it’s largely fueled by human actions – but because there are other reasons why we should move away from fossil fuel-based energy. The elegant thing about a multi-pronged approach like this is that you can always find some reason to convince someone with. For example, hard-core conservatives may simply refuse to believe anything people do could affect “God’s perfect world” but they are perfectly willing to accept that we should not be sending half a trillion dollars a year to foreign oil producers who mostly hate us, and who export terrorism along with their oil (#s 4-6).

1. Climate Change: Oil and Coal contribute to global warming and will only do so more as China, India etc. emulate American lifestyles. According to many scientists, we may already be past the temperature “tipping point” where runaway synergistic effects will make warming inevitable, even if we could stop all CO2 production today (which we can’t).

2. Balance of Trade: We import 70% of our oil – $500 billion/year – often from countries that hate us, fund terrorists, and buy our businesses (Citigroup) and infrastructure (Chrysler Building). This is an unsustainable transfer of wealth, which will only make America poorer. We are now paying foreign powers both what we earn personally AND what our companies earn, while they sit back and enjoy the results of their geological luck. Take a look at T. Boone Pickens’ presentation for a more realistic assessment of what exporting our wealth will do to us in 10 years. Or, take a look at post-Columbus Spain, which thought having all the gold in the new world would keep them prosperous forever and allow them to import whatever skills and goods they needed. It didn’t and they couldn’t.

3. Green Jobs: Germany has created 250,000 new green jobs in its solar industry, which supplies 13% of its electric needs. We need to replace oil, coal and nuclear producing jobs with wind and solar installation and maintenance jobs. (It takes 10 years to build a nuclear plant and 2 years to build a solar thermal field).

4. National Security: We must not depend on foreign powers to supply us with vital energy, which is as critical to modern society as food and shelter. Even if we drill the arctic for oil (home to up to 25% of the world’s reserves, according to US Geological Survey), we will have to defend those new wells not only from nature, but from Russia, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), and others with a claim to the high north, leading to unnecessary conflict with these countries. Clearly, ANWR has never been about the tiny bit of land off northern Alaska that would supply just 2 years of oil for America; it’s been about opening up the entire Arctic to exploration. We cannot afford to defend such a large and inhospitable region from other regional players with as large or larger geological claims.

5. The Oil Curse: Countries that depend on natural resources to make money, and not people, are the most corrupt, despotic, self-righteous and anti-human rights regimes on Earth. China does not seem to care where their oil comes from, encouraging rogue states like Sudan, Iran, Burma and Venezuela, where human rights barely exist. This is a naïve and ultimately counter-productive strategy for China but not one we should be encouraging again either (see: the downfall of the Shah of Iran).

6. Military Overreach: America cannot afford to defend oil fields. The Iraq war is, at least partly, a subsidy for Big Oil. Lives are being lost and resources are being spent ($12 Billion/month) so that – maybe, eventually – we can get more oil out of Iraq (estimated to be 2 or 3 largest holder of oil reserves). Meanwhile, Iraq does not even use $79 billion surplus to pay for its own infrastructure needs, while here in the U.S. our bridge collapse from lack of care (Minnesota) and our electrical grid blacks out.

7. Peak Oil: We are probably only seeing peak geopolitical oil, not peak geological oil, now, but it will only get more expensive to drill oil. Most estimates put peak oil within 10 years, and since global demand has exceeded earlier estimates, we may be even closer. The perversion of the OPEC dominated oil market means that they will drill LESS, not MORE, as the price goes up, since they literally collect more money than they know what to do with already, and they want to stretch out their supply. It’s only when the price of oil goes DOWN that OPEC members are tempted to cheat on their quotas because their dysfunctional economies become desperate for cash. Right now, they want to sell oil only a trickle at a time.

8. Local Environmental Damage: If we drill everywhere, we will eventually have oil wells all over the west (instead of wind turbines), and even in the (newly melted) arctic. These high-risk drilling areas will be more likely to see oil spills, soot, and CO2 damage and the further eradication of local animal (Polar Bears) and plant life. Already, regional water tables are being polluted by accidents and poisoness chemicals involved in the drilling industry. This is especially true of the Natural Gas and Coal industries, which use and pollute prodigious amounts of scare water resources. The cost to clean up the toxic coal ash release in Harriman, Tennessee has been estimated to be as high as $800 million higher than President Obama’s entire stimulus bill. This “pond” was merely average out of hundreds of similar ponds located all over the south and west.

9. We eat too much oil: Oil goes into fertilizer, which goes into corn, which goes into EVERYTHING we eat, including meat. Omega 6 fatty acids (the bad kind) are higher in factory-fed beef. Omega 3 fatty acids (the good kind) are higher in grass-fed beef and almost as high as in fish, according to Michael Pollen (the Omnivore’s Dilemma). Oil-based Corn-fed meat is making us fat and raising the national health bill. Cattle, pigs, chickens live a cruel, short life in tight, economical confines because it is cheaper to make them do so than to let them live on the open range. Even an omnivore must realize there is a difference for an animal to be raised humanely and then killed for food then one that is tortured in a CAFO its entire life and then killed. Each wind turbine pays farmers $5,000-$10,000 annually and allows livestock to graze in their shade, making natural grass-fed meat economically competitive again. This synergy could make us healthier AND wean us off imported oil. It would also make our streams, rivers and the Gulf of Mexico healthier by reducing fertilizer runoff.

10. Loss of American’s position as Innovation Leader: The oil and automotive industries were born here over 100 years ago. It is time for America to lead the world into the renewable era with Zero Emission Vehicles and renewable energy. If not us, then China or some other countries will take our place and America will become a second-rate power dependent on others for everything.

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Scott Baker is a Senior Editor and Writer at Op Ed News, a Writer for DailyKos
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3 Comments »

  1. Thank you for maintaining such a terrific site. this site was not only knowledgeable but also bvery imaginative too. We come across only few bloggers who can write technical articles that creatively. All of us search for content about something like this. We ourselves have gone through dozens of websites to acquire knowledge regarding this.Keep me informed when you write more on the subject !!

    Comment by Buy SEO Articles — December 26, 2009 @ 4:22 am

  2. I particularly like number 9. Maybe its the John Lennon in me.

    Comment by badheadcheese — June 8, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  3. Why John Lennon?

    Comment by ebmeyer6w — June 8, 2010 @ 12:17 pm


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