Why fossil fuel companies love that we chase efficiency, “renewables,” and “clean,” “green,” energy sources (and what to do instead)

May 28, 2024 by Joshua
in Leadership, Nature

The biggest pushes I see among environmentalists and everyone trying to solve environmental problems are to promote

  • Efficiency
  • “Renewables”
  • “Clean” and “green” energy sources

Their hope in these efforts is to lower fossil fuel uses. I support their intent, though not their unintended consequences.

Oil refinery

Does anyone else see the problems?

None of these tactics stop using or extracting fossil fuels. Making anything that uses fossil fuels more efficient doesn’t stop using them. It may use them less per use, but doesn’t stop them. As long as any part of the economy requires fossil fuels, we’ll keep buying them. Moreover, as long as anyone can find new uses for them, we’ll use more of them.

You know what requires fossil fuels? Creating solar panels, batteries, windmills, nuclear reactors, and dams, as does transporting, installing, and decommissioning some of them. Solar and wind need rebuilding and reinstalling every few decades. Building new housing requires fossil fuels. Everyone who tells me they “have to fly for work”—all those businesses require fossil fuels.

In fact, they accelerate using and extracting fossil fuels. As long as we don’t specifically stop extracting them, an economy that allows using fossil fuels will lead to entrepreneurs and innovators finding new ways to use them. People like to say “electrify everything,” but 1) many parts of our economy require them and 2) just because we electrify some things doesn’t stop someone else from creating a new use for fossil fuels.

No one will market their product or service as polluting. They’ll market it as saving lives or whatever benefit allows people to say things like they do now about flying: “Josh, I value the environment, but I value family more, so I’ll reduce my flying but won’t stop.”

What results from people who say things like that? Record numbers of flights, with more growth projected. Similar results occur in plastic and packaging use, especially in medicine, food, and online shopping. Who objects to “improvements” in medicine, food, and online shopping?

What works

Only specifically stopping extracting fossil fuels stops extracting fossil fuels. The hurdle isn’t the ability to stop extracting it, nor that lives would be worse without them. The hurdle is the belief that lives would be worse without them. If you believe lives would be worse without them, you’re perpetuating the problem. I’m not saying the transition to stopping using them would be easy. I’m saying that after the transition:

  • We’ll be glad we did
  • We’ll wish we had earlier
  • We’ll look with horror and disgust at having taken so long

We’ll benefit from setting up truth and reconciliation committees to help overcome the intense emotions we’ll have to face. The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll restore inner peace, health, security, and safety.

Read my weekly newsletter

On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Sign up for my weekly newsletter