How to fail at transitioning from fossil fuels

May 2, 2024 by Joshua
in Addiction, Choosing/Decision-Making, Nature

First, let’s imagine solar, wind, hydroelectric, fission, or fusion were “clean,” “green,” or “renewable.” They aren’t, but for the sake of understanding, we’ll imagine they are, so if we transitioned to them from fossil fuels, society could live indefinitely on them.

What Doesn’t Work

Everyone is acting as if we can ramp up “clean,” “green,” and “renewable” energies until we don’t need fossil fuels, then we can ramp down fossil fuels. It’s obvious when you think about it but not if you’re addicted: that way doesn’t work.

We may claim it’s not fair, but nature responds not to what we want but how we behave.

Take flying, for instance. I don’t think we can fly sustainably, except possibly if the human population dropped to below one billion and we devoted huge amounts of land to growing plants to make synthetic jet fuel. Even then, many technical hurdles remain. Still, I’m open-minded. I can imagine entrepreneurs figuring out ways to fly sustainably beyond my imagination.

The worst way to reach sustainable flying, if possible, is to keep flying unsustainably. First, polluting and depleting destroy life, liberty, and property, so a government that allows polluting and depleting is destroying free markets in favor of coercive ones. Free markets may allocate resources to people who can solve problems, which coercive markets may partly do too, but mostly coercive markets allocate resources to those who coerce the most. Think of plantations before the Civil War. Their owners coerced the most slave labor.

Calvin it's not fair

If you want sustainable flying, the fastest, most effective way to attain it is to stop unsustainable flying, which any government that prevents people from destroying others’ life, liberty, and property must do. Otherwise the life, liberty, and property-destroying polluting flights undermine the market for sustainable flying.

What Can Work

The only way to transition to away from polluting, depleting energy is to disallow it first, then allow entrepreneurs and innovators work without polluting or depleting. Let them solve the unmet problems. No one would be more happy than I would if people found ways to make flying sustainable.

The above analysis applies to all sustainable practices: first stop the polluting, depleting practice (which violates the principle of government protecting life, liberty, and property), then allow markets to innovate.

In other words, stop believing or saying that we have to ramp up alternatives before ramping down fossil fuels. First stop fossil fuels, then allow markets, entrepreneurs, and innovators to meet any unmet needs.

Of course, we can’t do all things we wish we could. We can’t create perpetual motion machines or move faster than the speed of light.

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