Sunday, February 28, 2016

#59 / Muddied

The picture above is from the online version of an article that appeared in the February 20, 2016 edition of The New York Times. In the print edition, the article was titled, "Clean Power Muddied by Cheap Fuel." The picture shows a wind farm in England, and the article's description of these facilities is encouraging, since we know that we must, at the earliest time possible, completely eliminate the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels: 

A wind farm here, along the River Trent, cranks out enough clean electricity to power as many as 57,000 homes. Monitored remotely, the windmills, 34 turbines each about 400 feet high, require little attention or maintenance and are expected to produce electricity for decades to come.

This is very good news! However, the article goes on to explain that the British electricity company SSE, the owner of the wind farm, is "reconsidering plans for large wind farms and even restarting a mothballed power plant that runs on fossil fuel."

Why would they do this? The price of oil is down, that's why. “We obviously need to be pragmatic,” said Lee-Ann Fullerton, an SSE spokeswoman."

Might I suggest that there is nothing "pragmatic" about burning more fossil fuel, just because the price is low? The more fossil fuel we burn, the more we destroy the conditions that make it possible for our current human civilization to continue to exist. Self-preservation, which is universally considered to be "pragmatic," counsels that we must do everything we can to substitute non-fossil fuel energy sources for energy production that is based on the combustion of hydrocarbons. 

In other words, it is a fallacy to think that "market signals" always provide us with a reliable guide to right action. 

If "the market" encourages the use of fossil fuels, we can raise the price of those fossil fuels by imposing a tax. Or, we can simply regulate our use of fossil fuels, and prohibit the combustion of fossil fuels if there is any other energy source available. In other words, we can decide what we ought to do, and then take collective action to make sure we actually do it. 

What we need to do is to leave the oil in the ground.

What we need to do is to build more non-hydrocarbon based energy systems.

Don't get confused. Don't let low fuel prices muddy your thinking. 

We need to STOP burning hydrocarbon fuels. Period.

That's possible. 

That's pragmatic!

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