A surprising oversight in Timothy Mitchell’s generally-insightful Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil is how he gives relatively little consideration to static versus mobile forms of fossil fuel consumption. He strongly emphasizes the production and transportation logistics of coal versus oil, but gives little consideration to special needs for fuels with high energy density (and sometimes low freezing points) in transport applications from cars and trucks to aircraft and rockets. People sometimes assume that oil demand and electricity production are more related than they really are, especially in jurisdictions where oil is mostly used as transport fuel and for heating (both areas where little electricity is generally used).

At a minimum, I think it’s important to give some special consideration to the needs of the aerospace and aviation industries, especially when pondering biofuel alternatives. Also, we need to try to project things like the deployment rate of electric ground vehicles in various applications, when trying to project how the forms of energy production and use in the future affect politics and low-carbon policy choices.

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