Bitter Fruit

I am frankly one of those who has celebrated higher oil prices, getting a quiet smile as I see the sign at the corner gas station hit $3 a gallon. Perhaps I wasn’t thinking this through, as Keith Johnson suggests:

What’s most striking is the bitter irony. Many proponents of alternative energy have long cheered for high oil prices. The more expensive oil is, the theory goes, the more incentive there is to move to other energy sources. The Anything But Oil mantra assumed the Anything has got to be cleaner than burning hydrocarbons.

And what happened? High oil prices made hard-to-recover fossil fuels—not just cleaner alternatives—an economic possibility. And the hard-to-recover fossil fuels are even dirtier than Middle East sweet crude.


  1. …but, but after that, right? After all the more crude sources are gone alternatives will be okay, right? You know, things will just get worse before they get better.

  2. The problem, of course, is that Exxon, Shell, and others are making record profits. If the higher prices had been achieved through taxation, then the money could be put to good use AND it would not promote reckless extraction.

    But the political feasibility of that is nil.

  3. Joseph,
    These companies are making record profits, in dollars, because they are big. Most other companies are making larger profits in percentage of income.

    Should all companies that are big be broken into smaller companies?

  4. The problem with high energy prices is that it penalizes the poor, particularly with the nation’s reluctance to subsidize public transportation (I’ll give Richardson a bone for his push of the Railrunner).

    What eventually is going to happen is people who can’t afford the caviar prices of conventional energy will resort to burning just about any old thing that will burn. Think of garbage in fireplaces (my neighbor is already doing that–the smell of burning cellophane is particularly pleasant), tire bonfires in front yards and abandoned lots, people scurrying around “collecting” any old tree or piece of wood that isn’t tied down for combustion in wood-burning stoves or 55-gallon drums.

    Think of a planet where every bit of combustible material is scavenged and set aflame until the sun is just a dim orange ball in the sky illuminating ravaged brown forests that like a scene from World-War-I Europe, and pretty soon you’ll have an idea of the scene outside in about 2015 or so. Thanks goodness those of us who can still afford it will have television to broadcast pretty nostalgic pictures of an Earth that was once green and populated by furry animals instead of savage tribes of “Fire Gatherers.”

    Recently some hopeful young twenty something with a whole gaggle of kids told me that she’s not worrying about all of this because “enough people are working on the problem.” That means she doesn’t have to do anything because some invisible guild of problem-solvers is. Oh, sweet fantasy!

    Keep thinking that way, folks, and start thinking “layering” to get through the long, cold, smokey winter nights ahead.

    Sorry for the cynicism, John.

Comments are closed.