Sunday, February 18, 2007

Future Be Damned, Oil Consumption Rises

If the master forecasters behind the largest energy firms in the U.S. have their projections right, consumption of fossil fuels--the major cause of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere--isn't going to be cut back any time soon. In fact, it's going to be increased. The Department of Energy predicts that the combined consumption of oil, coal, and gas will rise 35 percent by 2030.

In this article posted to, Michael Klare showcases the trends taking place:

Because Americans show no inclination to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels -- but rather are using more and more of them all the time -- one can foresee no future reduction in U.S. emissions of GHGs. According to the DoE, the United States is projected to consume 35 percent more oil, coal, and gas combined in 2030 than in 2004; not surprisingly, the nation's emissions of carbon dioxide are expected to rise by approximately the same percentage over this period. If these projections prove accurate, total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 will reach a staggering 8.1 billion metric tons, of which 42 percent will be generated through the consumption of oil (most of it in automobiles, vans, trucks, and buses), 40 percent by the burning of coal (principally to produce electricity), and the remainder by the combustion of natural gas (mainly for home heating and electricity generation). No other activity in the United States will come even close in terms of generating GHG emissions.

The rock-headed stubbornness of our business and political leadership in the U.S. defies belief. Faced with a potential planetary catastrophe of monumental proportions, many continue yammering about short-term economic concerns of the energy market. It's a bit like pontificating on beachfront property values while a gargantuan tsunami is minutes away from demolishing every building on the beach.

A quote from the article nicely sums up this attitude:
Typical of this approach is a talk given by Rex W. Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, at a conference organized by Cambridge Energy Research Associates on February 13. As head of the world's largest publicly traded energy firm, Tillerson receives special attention when he talks. That his predecessor Lee Raymond often disparaged the science of global warming lent his comments particular significance. Yes, Tillerson admitted, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were increasing, and this contributed to the planet's gradual warming. But then, in language characteristic of the industry, he added, "The scale advantages of oil and natural gas across a broad array applications provide economic value unmatched by any alternative." It would therefore be a terrible mistake, he added, to rush into the development of energy alternatives when the consequences of global warming are still not fully understood.

The logic of this mode of thinking is inescapable. The continued production of fossil fuels to sustain our existing economic system is too important to allow the health of the planet to stand in its way. Buy into this mode of thought, and you can say goodbye to any hope of slowing -- let alone reversing -- the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Dramatic action on our energy consumption is needed--not tepid half measures--if we want to maintain a habitable world.