Why Is the Energy Debate So Contentious?

Feb 19, 2010

How do we balance the short-term interests at stake in the energy debate with our long-term needs? This short video on ethics asks: Why are energy and climate choices painted as opposites?

Why are energy and climate choices painted as opposites: "Drill, baby, drill," or, "The sky is falling"?

Capital is invested in fossil fuel technologies. Profits are likely for leaders in green technologies. Individual, corporate, and national interests are at risk.

First, carbon resources will always be needed and used. Plastics won't become obsolete. Renewable energy can be too expensive, too unreliable. Look at Haiti after the earthquake. Are oil, gas, and coal supplies finite? Of course, even with new extraction technologies.

Thinking of our grandchildren, perhaps extending the life of carbon resources is reasonable. One way is to drill, baby drill and minimize the adverse effects.

Second, judging climate change means calculating probable risk not scientific proof. We spend billions and suffer dramatic inconvenience to prevent one airplane bombing. What should we invest against the dramatic risks of possible climate change? The sky doesn't have to fall, just sag.

Long-term, all the carbon resources we can find and all the renewable energy we can generate are needed. The world's population swells. We want to see infant mortality fall, people live longer, the third world develop and become our customers.

What should we do? Markets may sort out winners and losers, but they emphasize short-term interests. Governments can force markets to consider long-term public good, but they aren't omniscient and are inefficient.

What do you think? How do we take a long-term view? Who looks after our grand-children?

By William Vocke

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