We’ve got to do something, someday
by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on October 16, 2015 - 7:11am
“The goal is to continue the energy-fueled way of life that people enjoy but through expanded use of renewable sources. It can be done.” Lewis Diuguid, Kansas City Star
This comment sums up a many of the reactions we received from people during the Fossil Fuel Free Week. Frankly this isn’t surprising, but at the same time these types of comments are quite revealing.
The underlying assumption is doing away with fossil fuels simply means converting our energy supply to renewable sources. This shows a common misunderstanding of the variety of ways fossil fuels are used. Oil and natural gas are sources of energy that are scalable and storable, unlike renewables, and are raw materials that go into products we use every day.
While solar and wind sound promising, they don’t substitute electricity generated from natural gas and coal in a meaningful way, and they don’t provide transportation and home heating. Renewables are intermittent by nature. They’re unable to produce energy during large gaps of time when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, and have to be backed up by natural gas and coal. For this same reason, it’s not surprising that bright minds like Bill Gates acknowledge that solar power is not a viable alternative. In contrast, fossil fuels provide reliable energy no matter the time of day or season of the year.
Commenters were also simply forgetting that oil and natural gas are key inputs to plastic, rubber and other synthetic components found in countless consumer goods. As our campaign pointed out, avoiding fossil fuels isn’t as simple as driving electric cars or biking to work. Tires, seats, cables and safety equipment that make transportation possible–by car or bike–all incorporate oil and natural gas. Technology that makes life more convenient and connected is derived from oil and natural gas, from smartphones, computers, and GPS, to fitness tracking devices, and cloud-based services. Obviously, renewables don’t provide a solution for any of these products.
Another type of comment was from those who, reacting to how we pointed out the impossibility of the challenge, argued that nobody is saying we should end fossil fuel use right away. Yet a quick Google search of “fossil fuel protests” or “divestment” returns countless images of protests and social media campaigns with activists saying “Keep It In The Ground” and “End Fossil Fuels Now.”
When we pointed to those and challenged them, environmentalists backpedalled and tried to downplay their continual advocacy for an end to fossil fuels. They tried to pretend that they’re only advocating for a transition from fossil fuels towards a more modern technology.
Take these comments from Yale Project on Climate Change Communications Director Anthony Leiserowitz:
“I don’t know anyone who argues we should stop using all fossil fuels this very instant. Most people understand this is about a transition from the 19th and 20th century fossil-fuel-based energy system to the clean energy system of the 21st century. That won’t happen overnight, but it also can’t wait a hundred years.”
Or this post on Twitter:
The bottom line is that environmentalists who rally, march, and Tweet about the purported dangers of fossil fuels, when called on the carpet, really have no viable alternative or a real pathway to get there.
What we got instead were vague notions of using less fossil fuels for an indefinite amount of time while supposed substitutes are developed.
We in the oil and natural gas industry prefer to take a different approach. Provide people with abundant, affordable, reliable energy that makes them happier, healthier and safer now and into the future. We’ll continue to highlight the meaningful and vast benefits of fossil fuels. They remain the most efficient, cost effective resource to power and move our modern society. That’s a message we’re happy to promote.