Planet Gore

‘No Flying Chariots on the Horizon’

A good letter to the editor of the Financial Times by AEI’s Kenneth P. Green:

Sir, Edward Luce’s call (June 1) for Barack Obama to exploit the BP oil well disaster for political gain is shameful.

Mr. Luce wants President Obama to exploit the suffering and ecological misery we face to “move the US towards a future in which oil is thing of the past”. That future will happen all by itself in a few hundred years, but the idea of it happening sooner is an environmentalist red herring because there is no effective, affordable replacement for oil on the technological horizon. What Mr Luce is really calling for is expansion of already failed boondoggles. Alternative fuels such as corn ethanol have proved to be economically ruinous, environmentally worse than petrol, and they raise food prices. Biodiesel production has led to the razing of vast swaths of rainforest. People have been pouring tax dollars into cellulosic ethanol research for decades, with nothing to show for it. Vehicle electrification is proving horrifically expensive.

The reality is that the world’s transportation system will not be replaced by flying chariots powered by rainbows any time soon: it will remain powered by petroleum for many decades to come. And even if we didn’t use or drill for oil, others will, and oil spills will happen. Studying the spill, learning from the mistakes that were made, and learning how to prevent, contain and remediate future spills should be the order of the day, not cynically using images of oiled seabirds to leverage foolish policies into place based on simplistic and fallacious thinking.

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