The standard Anti-Green argument against alternative energies goes something like, “We do not need them because climate change is a hoax propagated by left-wing college researchers. And socialists in Europe. Any changes to our climate are not caused by human actions. That’s what Sean Hannity said."
Since I’ve already written here about climate change, we won’t retread trodden trails. So, let’s try an experiment. I would like to remove, entirely, the climate change premise from our chat today on green/alternative/renewable energy.
Why eliminate the epicenter of the left’s call to ban the internal combustion engine? Because once you introduce a polarizing premise such as climate change, everything else, regardless of merit, is tainted. It’s like trying to get a spay and neuter program for dogs off the ground in South Korea. So, let’s start instead with a reasonable hypothesis which hopefully will keep both Hatfields and McCoys engaged all the way to the bottom of the page.
The hypothesis (actually a fact) is that burning fossil fuels is worse for the planet, and us, compared to alternative energies. This is a factual claim because we can prove that emissions from coal plants and all sorts of engines have negative effects on human health and the world around us. Examples of human health issues would be respiratory problems, primarily with the young and old, caused by polluted air. Some forms of cancer have much higher prevalence in heavily industrialized areas. We could also point to waterways that have had more fish kills than Captain D’s. Therefore, we can confidently state that burning fossil fuels does come with a human and environmental cost. If you have the temerity to argue this, I’d like to know how much stock you have in Exxon Mobil (note: I fully recognize that some “green” technologies leave a carbon footprint).
Despite being aware of these maladies, we, as individuals, and our government, have run a cost benefit analysis. It states that we are willing to live with the consequences of burning fossil fuels because of affordability and access. We do this kind of compromising all the time. Take food, for instance. It’s far easier, cheaper and quicker to throw a frozen pizza in the oven than it is to clean, prep, mix then cook all sorts of healthy meals that are far better for us. Comically, we would rather eat frozen pizza while watching other people cook the good stuff on TV. There’s a long list of things we do each day that involve weighing what we are willing to put in versus the benefit we receive. Again, inarguable.
This brings us to alternative energy. So far most alternatives have been deemed as either not affordable, not efficient or not easily accessible to the majority of Americans. Until they are, our society will not give up burning things. It doesn’t matter what documentaries are produced, what politicians say (especially those with whom we disagree), or what pictures of dwindling glaciers we see in National Geographic. We are not going to give up things that make our lives easier until those things have higher costs than benefits. Basic economics.
The rationality of human and financial economics, though, is no match for government tinkering. The left dictates, from their premise of human caused climate change, that we must punish fossil fuel companies and reward the green ones. Politicians, and activists of the same stripe, put great effort in trying to either shame you for your dirty little habit, or convincing you that paying more for heating your home, or getting from A to B, is in the best interest not so much of you, but for the planet as a whole.
This is a terrible sales pitch. The key to successfully selling stuff is to create a need that overcomes reluctance or habit. Let’s say you’ve been a Ford person your whole life. You’ve never seen a reason to switch to Chevy. Yet, a Chevy dealer makes the case that the Chevy is not only just as good as the Ford but is actually in your best interest as a consumer. At that point, paradigms shift. Other examples include the commercial successes of the car, the television and home computer. Once people realized that having these things were in their best personal interest, entirely new markets were created.
For Americans to be convinced that they should plug in instead of filling up, some really big things need to happen. Primarily, convenience. It must also become pervasive, reliable and, of course, affordable. It also must be something that isn’t propped up by the government, which is currently the case in much of Europe. This is false market support that's not sustainable. Hello, compact fluorescent light bulbs!
It’s baffling to me when I hear the condemnation of fossil fuels, as if we currently have a way to deliver wind or solar power to millions and millions of homes, and us selfish consumers are just choosing not to use it. Our entire energy grid will need to be retrofitted to accommodate new energy sources and the fluctuations inherent in them. It will take years and a lot of money. Bigly.
I firmly believe that humanity will look back at the burning of fossil fuels as akin to bloodletting and leaches. It will be viewed as the necessity of a people who could not find a better answer. The eventual transition to different energy sources, whatever they may be, should not be seen as an attack on the current energy sector. That’s what you’ll continue to be told because it will threaten an active lobbying group that plies the pockets of politicians. Instead, it should be marveled upon as an evolution in technology that brought about something more efficient, affordable and for the betterment of humanity. If we can satisfy those three criteria, the acrimony of politics will be replaced by the acknowledgment and wonder of human ingenuity.