During the past number of weeks I have written articles based on” mixed messages” regarding the energy sector and somewhat related topics. On occasion I have commented on the apparent divide of Pennsylvanians regarding energy, COVID-19, demographics and geography. Stark contrasts between groups persist, divergent opinions become almost irreversible dogmatic viewpoints.
As expressed before some of the older generation contend that too many of the younger generation deploring fossil fuels are misguided and lack a mature understanding of how the world works. Their almost frantic cry for renewables and immediate replacement of carbon based fuels to save the planet is dismissed as overreaction and unrealistic. However though the sides may disagree that human activity and the use of fossil fuels is causing measurable changes in the world climate, it is agreed by scientists on all sides the ice is melting. Pre-pandemic one could book passage through the Arctic Circle and it not be an icebreaker.
But what if there is true basis for their concern, and our current reliance on fossil fuels exacerbates the alterations to global climate, does the philosophical argument advanced by the 17th century French mathematician Blaise Pascal have merit. To paraphrase one can believe that something is true and act accordingly or one can chose not to. If one believes that global warming is a reality and then proceeds to advocate: conserving energy and reducing pollution from carbon fuels, supporting electrification of vehicles were prudent, reducing material and food waste, seeking renewable energy solutions, acting and thinking forward to preserve and nurture for future generations, could all be laudable pursuits?
Are these unattainable platitudes, or are such goals, part of an evolutionary path of vision for building a better world based on sharing.
Or even if human activity was proven to not to significantly contribute to the warming trend we are in, would it not still be a good thing, to collectively conserve energy and seek to develop long term sustainable practices for the global community. Why as good stewards should we accept lower fuel efficiency in our vehicles, waste food, support fossil fuel exploration and production without sufficient qualifying limitations? How prudent is it to ignore the possibility that solar, wind, hydro power can be developed to balance our use of fossil fuels and accelerate their de-emphasis. COVID-19 showed clearly how much smog and air pollution degrades world’s urban air and clouds our vision. It is not just cities in China, and India but the air improved greatly in Paris, Los Angeles, Houston and Pittsburgh. Should we not be joining the younger generation as we age to guarantee a better world for all the grandchildren? Why the fixation on the status quo as right and proper, that profit is the primary motivation for progress.
Why is acceptable that corporations can compromise our environment with what are called competitive practices and ignore long term true costs. The corporate complaint is it will cost more, it threatens profit, and value to the shareholder, it will raise price. So if energy cost more when all the external costs (remember this term from articles past) are added, it does not mean we will have no progress, rather we will be compelled to use less and demand efficiencies of ourselves, of corporations and of government.
Members of the younger generation are calling into question the principle that profit is to be the prime motivation of the future economy. Ideally they seek a world based more on sharing.
There are multiple examples of how the reliance and pursuit of fossil fuels true costs and benefits have been skewed by an attitude of scarcity and greed. At the same time it is clear that the unparalleled economic growth has been propelled by fossil fuel exploration and production worldwide. Perhaps this is the appropriate time to question this progress and to discuss new future pathways. It is my intent to continue next week to illustrate some of the contradictions of the energy new normal, highlighting the formidable challenges and amplifying various opportunities that are emerging in the energy world. How we provide and manage our energy needs will be part of the national political debate in the coming months. This could be a time of engagement for more polite discourse between us all, to better understand the views of others while maintaining more intentional social manners and yes distancing. Paschal also wrote;” We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart”. May our sharing be of sound mind and heartfelt.
To be continued!