Our fossil-fuelled ignorance

You might have read my post a few weeks back, about newspaper claims that Sweden will soon be going fossil fuel free. We should all of course be jumping around celebrating a victory against all odds. But only if we’re naive enough to buy into the collective amnesia. Just because a country is aiming to generate its electricity free from fossil fuels (not technically true, but let’s run with it for a second, because even if it were true it still isn’t the emphatic victory we’re looking for) doesn’t mean it’s going ‘fossil fuel free’ as the headlines proclaimed.

This isn’t a small point. Electricity generation is just one small fraction of the total usage of fossil fuels we currently gorge on. Transportation, agriculture and manufacturing are just three other areas that use vast amounts of fossil fuel. Fossil fuels that are rapidly depleting, never mind contributing significantly to anthropogenic climate change.

Yet once again this week I read another eager journalist discussing how technology is once again coming to save us. And don’t worry chaps, none of us have to worry about doing anything ourselves. Just carry on mindlessly consuming. Do your bit for your country and all that. I mean, how else are we going to get ourselves out of this economic mess other than to consume, consume, and bloody well consume some more? I digress…

Is it too much to ask that instead of trying to continue our unsustainable, destructive use of energy that we actually discuss energy conservation? And is it too much to ask that we understand our full usage of fossil fuels extends beyond electricity generation.

The article states with its final emphatic paragraph, “Technology takes no prisoners. Nor does politics. World leaders have repeatedly stated that they would defend the line of a ‘two degree planet’, and now they are taking the concrete steps to do so. Fossil investors have been warned.”

Where do I even start? This rhetoric is straight out of the ministry of propaganda. We are nowhere near averting a ‘2 degree planet’ and we are a long way from taking the concrete steps necessary. Does the journalist even know what he’s writing about? And where did he find such platitudes such as politics and technology taking no prisoners. I’m almost speechless, and just want to put my head in my hands. Where does one start, when trying to respond to such crass naivety?

World leaders indeed have repeatedly said that they would take the necessary steps. But as we all know with the planned tax credit cuts in the UK, what a politician says, and what a politician does, are usually two diametrically opposed actions. So yes repeatedly they have said they will yet still no real action gets taken – instead the situation gets worse.

There are many flaws in this article, like where are countries going to get the $90 trillion from to fund this ‘energy revolution’ it discusses? In case the author’s missed it, most country’s economies are in dire straits.

It also overstates the importance of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which whilst it will become an important technology, still will only be a small part of the picture. Further, we’re still waiting for it to be rolled out, and the clock is ticking steadily.

Once again we understate how difficult it will be remove ourselves from fossil fuel, and avert dangerous climate change, without addressing the main underlying problem that our economic system is inextricably linked to fossil fuels. We can either have economic growth or a liveable environment, we can’t have both, and the sooner we recognise that the better. People need hope, and need something to believe in, but false hope, and Disney-like fairy tales aren’t what we need. We need something we can believe in that will actually make a difference. We need to be told the truth.

The future’s bleak, but there’s much we can all do to make it less bleak, and even in bleak times, humans can find much to be cheerful about, such is our resilient nature.

But it seems our current propensity to buy into grandiose self-delusions about the power of human ingenuity will once again prove to be our achilles’ heel. We watch so many stories about superheroes that we actually believe that one will come flying past our window any moment now to save us all.

So when politicians tell us that they will ‘defend the two degree planet’ we will of course believe them. Because to not believe them would be to burst our bubble of delusion and to leave us with the sober reality of having to do something about it.

So yes, let’s all continue with business as usual. Let’s all buy into the fantasy that “The old energy order is living on borrowed time.” And that we’re on the cusp of an energy revolution.

No harm ever came from believing in fantasies, did it?


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