Alaska Governor Palin has announced her resignation in a surprise move which leaves many questions. During the announcement statement she stated an objective to continue pursuing her objectives which includes “Energy Independence”. The phrase obviously hearkens back to certain slogans of last years Presidential election race and since she didn’t give details concerning her agenda, we’re left to assume the “Energy Independence” part of her agenda is to expand drilling for and use of fossil oil. Many aspects of the “Drill Baby Drill” agenda are irrational and foolish to pursue.
Fossil oil fuels have provided tremendous benefits to all of us, to be sure. But it also causes ecological, environmental, health and political harms.
Oil is primarily used for transportation (link below), meaning that an agenda of continued fossil oil usage means keeping transportation in a status quo of fossil oil based fuels. Fossil oil based fuels harm our health (link below), harm our environment (link below), and the exhaust is a major constituent in greenhouse gasses (link below). Fossil oil based fuels overwhelmingly come from foreign countries causing economic harm to the U.S. (link below), and leaves the U.S. subject to influence by those foreign powers.
Since fossil oil is primarily used for transportation a shift to other forms of transportation would resolve the problems inherent with fossil oil fuels.
Perhaps the biggest problem stemming from fossil oil dependence comes when fossil oil production begins to decline. It’s been observed in oil field’s all over the world that production reaches a peak point where the field cannot increase its production of oil, and once past that peak oil production begins a decline. Average this phenomenon over the whole world and there will be a worldwide peak of oil production and a following decline of worldwide oil production. The decline happens regardless of how much is invested in new technologies and oil production infrastructure. “Drill Baby Drill” is a catchy slogan but the reality is bleak as it is costly in time and money to develop new oil fields, and the remaining oil supplies are difficult and expensive to extract.
Ignoring the phenomena of declining oil production is akin to being on the Titanic and ignoring the water rising about you. If one ignores a threat they’re highly unlikely to take steps to avoid that threat. Ignoring the looming decline of oil production means delaying development and deployment of technologies to avoid that threat leaving us unprepared to adjust to declining oil production.
There are plenty of reasons to end the use of fossil oil based fuels, yet Gov. Palin and her ilk continue to push for maintaining the use of fossil oil based fuels. The reason why isn’t entirely clear in her case. But at the macro scale there business incentives to maintain fossil oil usage. It’s assumed there were 2 trillion barrels of fossil oil available on this planet, and records show we have used 1 trillion of those barrels. That means there is 1 trillion barrels worth of business for oil companies to perform (at $100/barrel or more), giving strong economic incentives for oil companies to ensure that economic activity will happen.
Normal business practice says the fiduciary duty of an oil company to shareholders is to exploit the potential of $100 trillion of business activity. But this is a business activity that’s causing us harm and creating a risk to society’s stability as oil production begin its decline. Pursuing a business as usual strategy seems doom us all to threats from global warming or declining oil production or both. Can we afford business as usual?
“The greatness of America lies in her ability to repair her faults.” – Alexis de Toqueville
EIA: U.S. Consumption by Sector
EPA: Transportation and Air Quality
EPA: Transportation and Climate
Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants
The rise of the new energy world order
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