In Brazil and Malaysia, biofuels are more economically viable (thanks in part to really cheap labor), but at the insane price of losing rainforest while failing to reduce the CO2 emissions that allegedly justify ethanol in the first place. According to Ridley, the Nature Conservancy's Joseph Fargione estimates rainforest clear-cutting for biofuels releases 17 to 420 times more CO2 than it offsets by displacing petroleum or coal.
As for wind and solar, even if such technologies were wildly more successful than they have been, so what? You could quintuple and then quintuple again the output of wind and solar and it wouldn't reduce our dependence on oil. Why? Because we use oil for transportation, not for electricity. We would offset coal, but again at an enormous price. If we tried to meet the average amount of energy typically used in America, we would need wind farms the size of Kazakhstan or solar panels the size of Spain.
If you remove the argument over climate change from the equation (as even European governments are starting to do), one thing becomes incandescently clear: Fossil fuels have been one of the great boons both to humanity and the environment, allowing forests to regrow (now that we don't use wood for heating fuel or grow fuel for horses anymore) and liberating billions from backbreaking toil. The great and permanent shortage is usable surface land and fresh water. The more land we use to produce energy, the less we have for vulnerable species, watersheds, agriculture, recreation, etc.
"If you like wilderness, as I do," Ridley writes, "the last thing you want is to go back to the medieval habit of using the landscape surrounding us to make power."
The calamity in the gulf is heartrending and tragic. A thorough review of government oversight and industry safety procedures is more than warranted. But as counterintuitive as it may be to say so, oil is a green fuel, while "green" fuels aren't. And this spill doesn't change that fact.
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