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A Hole In The Ocean: The Oxymoronic Search for An Energy Solution

It is oxymoronic to  combine the words "energy" and "profitable."  It's no less asinine than claiming to save money by "buying" things you neither want nor need simply because they are 'on sale'.

The thinking gets worse when people link descriptors like "carbon based fuels" and "profitability." Such a phrase is a complete contradiction in terms. Such fuzzy thinking leads us to make bad choices like committing ourselves to fossil fuels leading us to even more moronic conclusions such as making "profit" from by burning of fossil fuels.

The indispensable word for making good sense is, "use." What is it used for? To what end? To what purpose?  Or asked another way, what is the objective of its use? When we say the objective of burning fossil fuels is the generation of energy that makes a certain amount of sense -but the same thing can be said of anything we can burn. When we say the objective of using fossil fuels is to make profit, however, then we have plunged down the rabbit hole. 

"Energy" is essential and all around us. Its potential can be released from any molecular structure. It's what holds all other things together (or breaks them apart). That we choose to release the energy from carbon molecules has nothing to do with energy. It's an economic choice.

Mostly, we don't choose to release the energy we need as nutrition for our bodies, by eating sand, a silicon-based structure that just doesn't work well as 'food' for humans. Sure, there's lots of sand –in absolute abundance. Still, very few of us choose to eat it intentionally. Not even the inhabitants of the desert choose to eat sand, though they have more of it than they know what to do with. Instead, they tend to drill for oil to get to sell to others in exchange for money so they can buy food. Ironically, we might be better off if we gave our desert inhabitants all the food they could want, for free, if they promised to stop sending us oil. The desert inhabitants would be better off. They'd have plenty of food, and with wind and solar power, they'd have all the energy they needed.

Such an arrangement would work well for inhabitants of the world with few oil reserves too. The energy inhabitants of the desert neededcould reasonably be produced by solar and wind, of which they have a good deal.

 

Our consumption of fossil fuels is not dictated by anything other than our economic choices. Is it really cheaper to deliver energy to water pumps and irrigation systems in the desert by delivering the electricity over a wired grid, that needs to start it journey hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away in plants fueled by oil that is drilled up from beneath the sand, trucked over highways, or pumped through pipelines to refineries hundreds or thousands of miles away?  Doesn't that seem a little crazy?

 

Why don't we start by asking why we need the energy we need in the places where we use it? Maybe we can drive enough unnecessary costs out of our elaborate, costly, wasteful, and antique infrastructure to offset the cost of our upfront investment in greater efficiency and a more durable and resilient ecosystem.

 

Perhaps the scarcest resource is the intelligence needed to see that we are trying to make economic decisions on a scale that is irrelevant to the planet or the life upon it. Why do we judge our success as a species on the intermittent and momentary fluctuations of value systems we made up out of the whole cloth? We don't have a energy problem, we have a society-wide psychological problem. –dlh 

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