The non-climate reason to dump fossil fuels

We need to get off oil (and other fossil fuels), and not just because of the environmental damage of burning them. The fact is that, sooner than we would like to admit, energy derived from fossil fuels will become prohibitively expensive, and if at that time we are still depended on fossil fuel our economy/society will be turned on its head.

The corporatist wing of the Republican party has a simple, compelling populist message: capping emissions will hurt American families. It will raise the price of energy — gasoline, heating oil, electricity — at a time when voters can least afford it. It will send jobs overseas and cripple the economy…

The fact is, cost is the Achilles heel of climate action. Always has been. It’s time to stop dancing and equivocating around it. Advocates need to go on offense on the cost issue.

The counter-message should be equally simple: cutting emissions will rescue American [and Canadian] families. Right now our economy is lashed to a sinking ship, the USS Fossil. The price of fossil fuels is rising (yes, that includes coal). For reasons that are structural and unlikely to change, gasoline, heating oil, and coal electricity are going to get more and more expensive for the foreseeable future. Worse, prices are going to be volatile and unpredictable.

Unless we want to go down with the ship, we need to start building an ark. By freeing us from fossil fuels, climate legislation is designed to avoid a future of high and volatile prices. It’s designed to make sure we have a shot at building the best lifeboat (several other countries have a head start).

That’s the simple message: fossil fuels and their patrons are a threat to American families. They want to keep us on the ship. It may be going down, but they’re making money hand over fist. They want to paralyze Americans with fear of the new and doubt about their ability to innovate and adapt.

It’s the fossil lobby vs. American families. A future of rising prices and sordid geopolitical entanglements vs. a future of stable energy sources, vibrant domestic industries, and healthy American people. Timid, decadent Late Empire vs. a nation renewed.

Had we listened to forward thinking politicians in the 1980s, or scientists in the 1970s the current dramatic increase in oil prices would not have impacted the budgets of American and Canadian families. The sooner we dump fossil fuels, the sooner we can be freed from their ever increasing prices.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has more, noting that high gas prices evaporate wealth, and are a double whammy to the US economy.

The loss of wealth could be a double whammy for the U.S. economy. In the short run, it depresses demand as homeowners save more and spend less, and companies fire workers. Longer run, it curbs productivity growth, as firms shift their focus from increasing worker efficiency to reducing energy costs.

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  1. That is precisely the message that economists, and environmentalists need to make sure everyone hears and agrees with. It’s why I get offended by people who buy SUVs just because, or turn on their lights during Earth Hour, or want to increase production of the oil sands. It’s as if I’m in a boat bailing to the best of my ability, and someone brings a new dripping pail of water on board. They’d get a dirty look if they did that, too.

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