Year 4, Month 4, Day 6: I’m Not The Only One

Elisabeth Rosenthal has an excellent piece in the NYT on our visions for a future energy economy:

WE will need fossil fuels like oil and gas for the foreseeable future. So there’s really little choice (sigh). We have to press ahead with fracking for natural gas. We must approve the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian oil.

This mantra, repeated on TV ads and in political debates, is punctuated with a tinge of inevitability and regret. But, increasingly, scientific research and the experience of other countries should prompt us to ask: To what extent will we really “need” fossil fuel in the years to come? To what extent is it a choice?

As renewable energy gets cheaper and machines and buildings become more energy efficient, a number of countries that two decades ago ran on a fuel mix much like America’s are successfully dialing down their fossil fuel habits. Thirteen countries got more than 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency, and many are aiming still higher.

Could we? Should we?

Waxing epistemological here for a minute. March 24:

Resistance to social and technological advances is always rooted in a poverty of imagination. American conservatism’s failure to entertain hypotheticals ensures that their anticipated futures are merely copies of the past — thinking vividly on display in our political and media culture as the necessity of shifting rapidly away from fossil fuels becomes obvious in the light of the climate crisis.

Actually, two mutually reinforcing failures of imagination are at work here. On one hand, the resistance to renewable energy sources, while partly explained by the undeniable cupidity of corporate interests, is at its core a refusal to allow any alternative to the approved vision of a future energy economy. On the other hand is the incapacity to imagine the terrifying realities of the present moment, in which a runaway greenhouse effect is dessicating farmlands, breaking the Arctic, and casting in doubt the future of our civilization and our species.

Warren Senders

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