Tomorrow ~ Energy

power lines

By Paul Quigg, columnist

Energy is the lifeblood of our modern civilization. Energy drives everything everyone does, every day. Nothing is exempt from the influence of energy.

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the incredible explosion of energy production utilizing fossil fuels combined with the explosion of knowledge during the Enlightenment created wealth and prosperity far beyond anyone’s imagination. This prosperity continues today and is lifting hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest into the middle class.

Because of energy’s dominance in our lives, every interest and cause wants a piece of the action. The global economics of energy policy is one piece of the grand puzzle, global politics another piece, global technology another, and on and on. Because of this incredible complexity, every discussion of energy policy suffers from the omission of some vital piece of the puzzle. This makes any prediction of future trends close to impossible.

Much of the activist’s thinking has nothing to do with energy. They think we have too much stuff and that it is too heavily concentrated among the wealthy. They have a valid argument, but it has little to do with energy. They concentrate on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but they are slow in producing renewable fuels to replace the reduced energy. Lots of talk, but very little action. They see nothing but catastrophe ahead, every storm, every tornado, and every hurricane is evidence of future trouble. If these events do not occur there is no mention of them. The media is only interested in bad news and the activists are happy to let them get away with it. 

Global warming is coming, and the relentless rise in CO2 concentrations shows us that we are making very little progress in slowing it down. The rhetoric concerning the results of this warming is all over the place with little thought or valid reasoning. Fear of future events is ever-present and activists take full advantage of this to predict the most extreme outcomes. 

The future is unknowable and future technological breakthroughs could turn everything around. 

Future world events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and global inflation will have major effects on future warming efforts. It’s a complicated world that seems to be getting more complicated every day. Predicting events 40-50-75 years in the future is a fool’s game. 

Mr. Quigg, a University of Virginia graduate and resident of Luray, has practiced architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1962. As a lifelong environmentalist, in the 70’s he was appalled at the polluted air and water and has dedicated much of his time since in studying and commenting on the environment. He has been published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. 

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3 Comments

  1. “This prosperity continues today and is lifting hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest into the middle class.”
    Paul, that’s a goal we all should share, and how to make it happen without wrecking the planet is the dilemma we face. If the path to prosperity would be blocked by ending reliance on fossil fuels, we’d have to turn to massive wealth redistribution, because there isn’t a way forward simply by burning more and more fuels. We know, from a mountain of evidence gathered over the last 50 years, that there will be severe negative consequences, and what does it matter that no one can predict whether they’re going to arrive in 20 years or 50 years?

    Is there something else, by way of a technical fix, that we can do to escape the gloomy scenario? Of course–we can geoengineer the planet. We can mitigate the effects of carbon through various, though unproven, ways, such as brightening marine clouds and seeding the upper atmosphere with sulfur dioxide crystals. Both of these technologies would reflect more sunlight away from the earth’s surface. Most of the public, I think it’s fair to say, would reject such plans if they knew about them. Yet geoengineering might very soon be the only viable alternative.

    It doesn’t make sense to simply hope that a different unforeseen, nearly miraculous solution pops up. Bearing down hard on the problem with the tools we possess is the imperative. (But I’m not in favor of geoengineering.)

  2. “Much of the activist’s thinking has nothing to do with energy. They think we have too much stuff and that it is too heavily concentrated among the wealthy. They have a valid argument, but it has little to do with energy. They concentrate on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but they are slow in producing renewable fuels to replace the reduced energy. Lots of talk, but very little action.” So very well written and dead on.

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