Some of you folks here in the old US of A may have noticed that gas is super cheap right now. Great, right? Eh…probably not so great in the long run. Because ultimately, all cheap gas prices do is keep us chained to hydrocarbon fuel sources. Which, from a variety of standpoints, is really stupid.
Let’s start with the environment. If you hate science and think that climate change was invented by Al Gore to make scientists rich, you can stop reading and go jump off the nearest bridge right now and do humanity a favor. For those of you who believe in science, I’m glad you’ve kept reading. Anywho, fossil fuels are terrible for the environment. There’s the most obvious impact, CO2. It’s a greenhouse gas that drives climate change. Climate change is bad because we need the climate to, ya know, live and stuff (in case there are still science deniers reading). Processes for obtaining fossil fuels are also bad for the environment. Oil spills in the ocean. The destruction and pollution of the water we drink. The pollution of the air we breathe.
People around the world live in places like that thanks to the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. And let’s not forget fracking. Not only does it destroy the water table, but it also is now providing us with some really boss earthquakes. But that’s totally worth gas that’s less than $2/gallon, right?
Alright, let’s talk about why it’s economically stupid to double down on fossil fuels. At first that might seem counter-intuitive to hear. How can something that’s getting cheaper be bad economically? Because gas isn’t going to stay cheap. It’s a classic case of supply and demand. Right now, there is a lot of oil on the market and thus the price is going down. But fossil fuels are not a renewable resource. Which means that every time we use some, there is less of it to use in the future. Eventually there will come a time when the supply of oil is far outpaced by the demand. And then you know what will happen? The price of gas will skyrocket far beyond anything we’ve ever seen. That’s not fear-mongering, that’s basic math.
So, continuing down this line of thinking, what do you suppose will happen to the economy when gas skyrockets again? The price of everything will rise. Food will cost more to grow and transport, and that increase in cost will be passed on to the consumer. People won’t be able to drive as much, which means that they won’t be able to go out, and possibly that they won’t even be able to get to work. If people have to put more cash into their gas tanks every week, it means they have less money to pump back into the economy. Our entire economy–EVERY SINGLE ASPECT OF IT–is completely dependent upon a fuel source that will eventually run out and which is being used by more and more people at a higher and higher rate.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t understand when politicians and corporations talk about “energy security” and “energy independence.” You hear those terms a lot in the political theater. Now that America is producing more oil, that’s all politicians can scream, “Energy independence! ENERGY INDEPENDENCE!!” Except that we aren’t independent. We’re still dependent in a big way. The way politicians talk about “energy independence” is like a drug addict saying, “Hey, instead of buying crack from those guys over there I’m just going to make it myself!!” Still stupid, still harmful, still addicted. Here, just take a look at this crazy bullshit about how fracking is safe and can fund schools! (You know something is bullshit if people have to use children as weapon to convince you to go along with it.)
Similar to this is the idea of “energy security.” Hey, America makes it’s own gas now! And we’ve got plenty of it, guys! Yay for the economy! Except it’s not yay for all of the reasons I’ve already outlined. We’ve guaranteed ourselves another what, century, of economic “security” now? Woo. Hoo. It’ll still end, and it’ll all still collapse. Since when has it ever been a “secure” idea to put literally all of your eggs in one basket? Don’t we tell people not to do that? How many financial investors do you know who sink all of their money into ONE thing? I’m guessing none, and if you do know some I would recommend not taking financial advice from them.
If we’re willing to buy into the idea of diversification as security in our investments, why can’t people extend the same logic to energy? Why dump all of your eggs into the fossil fuel basket, so to speak? If you think it’s a good idea to spread your money in stocks, bonds, real estates, CDs, etc. then why wouldn’t you adopt a similar energy policy? Why not invest in solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, and even geothermal power? It never hurts to have a back up plan. Or two. Or three.
And that’s ultimately what I don’t get. Most people would probably agree that it’s a bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket. Most people would also probably agree that it’s good to have back up plans. Yet most people aren’t willing to think about energy in this way. And that’s why cheap gas is dangerous and stupid: it’s a disincentive for people to reevaluate renewable, secure forms of energy.
Look, am I saying that we have to give up fossil fuels cold turkey tomorrow? No. As mentioned before, the economy isn’t geared toward that. There will have to be a transition. But as far as I know, there is no timetable for such a transition in America. It’s a continuous game of kicking the can down the road. Sure, there is always vague talk about increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles by certain dates. But again, that’s not going to solve the problem. It’s like someone saying, “Oh I’m still going to do meth, but I’ll just use a little less everyday to really stretch my supply out.” Stupid, stupid, and more stupid.
I guess what I’d really like to see is someone come up with a realistic timetable. To work the logistics of such a transition out and to share it with the world. Oh wait, someone has. Denmark aims to run completely off of renewable energy sources by 2050. Germany wants to be running 80% off renewable energy by 2050. These two countries, Germany and Denmark, have made amazing strides in this area in a relative short amount of time. Of course, that’s because in Europe people respect science and logic and don’t think that climate change isn’t real because Jesus would never let anything bad happen to them. And they have highly technical and successful economies to show for it. They’re willing to invest in science instead of shun it. Unlike America, where we invest in corn. Which we can turn into gasoline additives. ‘Murica.