Challenge question: Can you use fossil fuels without polluting?

January 28, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature

I asked before if you could think of how to pollute without fossil fuels, or if you could. You could point to, say, mercury or animal feces as non-fossil fuel pollution, but what use of mercury comes without using fossil fuel? Can we get high enough concentrations of poop without fossil fuels? Nuclear fission and fusion require fossil fuels to create their plants and one could argue that as non-renewable resources, they’re a form of fossil fuels.

New question: Can you think of how to use fossil fuel without polluting?

I’m finding it hard to think of an answer. With nearly all pollution at least partly resulting from fossil fuel use and nearly all fossil fuel use resulting in pollution, it seems fair to conclude fossil fuels = pollution to a close approximation.

Should we stop using fossil fuels for good?

People resist stopping using fossil fuels. They want to fly and ship things overseas. We can’t create solar panels or wind mills without fossil fuels. Despite humans living more healthily than us today for hundreds of thousands of years, they think it’s impossible to live without fossil fuels.

That lack of vision is a failure of the imagination. If there are problems with leaving it in the ground starting now, which may not be the case, there are benefits too. Nearly ten million people a year die from breathing polluted air. If fossil fuels power hospitals and other life-saving measures that prevent millions of deaths that couldn’t be achieved any other way, is that benefit worth yet more people dying from fossil fuels?

Do the benefits outweigh the problems? It looks like stopping extracting this moment helps Earth’s ability to sustain life most.

Kuwait invasion oil fire
Kuwait invasion oil fire

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1 response to “Challenge question: Can you use fossil fuels without polluting?

  1. Pingback: Challenge question (and answer): Could you pollute before fossil fuels? » Joshua Spodek

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