No alternative to oil?

A recent article in The Economist took on a rather insufferable tone when talking about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and offshore drilling more generally:

The accident seems likely to strengthen the hands of environmentalists keen to turn America away from oil and towards some unconvincingly specified alternative mixture of noble abstinence, natural gas, electricity and ethanol.

Oh, those crazy environmentalists with their half baked plans! Why can’t they just recognize that oil is the way to go? It’s not like continued dependence on it ties our prosperity to a fundamentally non-renewable resource, from which many of the profits flow into the coffers of vile regimes. And it’s not like the climatic dangers of the continued heedless burning of fossil fuels threaten to undermine everything good humanity is trying to build for the future…

Renewables may be four or five times more costly than fossil fuels, per unit of output. That being said, energy costs are a small part of our economy. We can afford to pay more for safe and reliable alternatives that will carry on working indefinitely At the same time, fossil fuels are only ‘cheap’ when you ignore most of the costs associated with them. You would think that a newspaper ostensibly committed to: “tak[ing] part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress” might have figured some of this out by now.

As for ‘convincingly specified alternatives,’ David MacKay’s book is one of several that provide a suite of such options for public consideration.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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