Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Earth as garbage can

“For decades, consumption rose, production fell and imports increased, and now every one of those trends is going the other way,” according to Council on Foreign Relations Energy and Environmental Senior Fellow Michael A. Levi.

That’s good news. Production of American coal and oil is rising fast, which means there’s no need to make lifestyle changes unless we choose to. We can keep using energy the way we have been. That is, as long as we are willing to continue to use the planet as our garbage can.

Republicans argue for “drill baby drill” to expand production of fossil fuels while Democrats speak of developing new sources of wind and solar energy. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are talking about the hidden costs of energy production, those not reflected in the price of gasoline and electricity

Estimates from the National Research Council are that Americans suffer $120 billion in health damages from air pollution alone. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are talking about the black mountains of coal sludge or the lakes of toxic water being left behind by energy-extraction techniques that don’t even include controversial fracking for extraction of natural gas.

The simplest and most legitimate alternative to more, more, and more in the energy arena is simply to reduce demand.

Serious conservation efforts would require changes in how we think about the energy we use and, eventually, in how we live. Such change isn’t easy, but an energy future based on conservative use will gives us not only improved national security but a planet worth living securely on.


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