Hey, Republicans, even if global warming were a hoax (it’s not), don’t you think we could live without carbon fuels?
It seems like another week, another conservative exercise in histrionics about the hoax of global warming. To hear conservatives talk about The Green New Deal, they say that it’s a plot to allow the government to take over the entire energy sector of the economy. They will even tell us that CO2 is not a poisonous gas, that it’s great for plants and that we were headed for another little ice age, anyway.
So, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus on Global Warming, let’s assume for the moment that the whole thing is a hoax. We will take their arguments as granted and consider other reasons why we need to doff our addiction to coal, oil, and natural gas.
The first reason to consider eliminating carbon-based fuels is pollution on a massive scale. The waste from the extraction, transportation, and burning of these fuels is enormous. We have seen oil spills on an enormous scale. There are gas well fires that have been burning for decades because no one knows how to put them out. that no one knows how to put out. There are still coal mine fires that no one knows how to put out, too. All of that is uncontrolled pollution.
In the history of the 20th and 21st centuries, we have seen numerous oil spills in pipelines and tanker trucks. Who could forget Deepwater Horizon? We have seen numerous train wrecks from the transportation of natural gas.
We’re also piling up mountain ranges of coal ash, the residue left after burning coal. Anyway, it has to go somewhere and we don’t really have a place to put it. And don’t forget about the trace amounts of uranium in coal ash and the soot that flows out of power plants.
Diesel fuel has sulfur in it that’s why diesel exhaust stinks, and that means sulfur dioxide. Gasoline has MTBE, which has been found to accumulate in water supplies. Gasoline also has ethanol in it, thanks to intense lobbying by the agriculture industry. One of the by-products of ethanol combustion in vehicles is ozone, and if some special interests have their way, the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline will hit 30%.
Ozone is toxic and exacerbates asthma and other respiratory conditions, yet few gasoline advocates are willing to discuss the health impacts of the fuel additives in the fuels we use to power our cars. According to Mark Shwartz of the Stanford News, pure gasoline creates two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, and E85 increases two others — formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Fewer still are willing to discuss the environmental cleanup costs associated with those fuels. I guess that explains the way my car smells when I first start it in the morning. Nothing like the smell of unburned gasoline in the morning, right?
Natural gas is supposed to be a clean burning fuel, and it probably is. And when they say “clean”, they mean that it produces one half of the CO2 as coal when it’s burned. But we’re burning so much of it, that natural gas still remains a large contributor to greenhouse gases that we are already putting into the atmosphere. Oh, wait. I have to set aside the global warming part here and say that CO2 is just poisonous.
Electricity is agnostic about energy sources. Any source of power can be used to generate electricity. That means we can use solar power, hydropower, wind power, geothermal power, even human-powered bicycles, to generate electricity, and yes, natural gas and coal.
There is something else about eliminating the use of all fossil fuels. There are no fumes to capture. Arnold Schwarzenegger once famously asked his Republican colleagues to choose between a room with a gasoline powered car and an electric car. For obvious reasons, he chose an electric car.
Yes, it does take energy to make batteries and other means of energy storage, but they are all far cleaner than anything we’re doing with carbon-based fuels. We can manage the life cycle of the parts used in electric powered vehicles. We can manage the waste from solar power, wind power and all the other power sources that are not based on carbon fuels because their output is not gas. We can capture the waste stream with electricity and recycle it. We have to breathe the waste stream with all carbon fuel energy sources. All of it. There are no exceptions.
So, even if you believe that the idea that humans are causing global warming is just a hoax, you still have to ask yourself: are you being a good steward of the earth with coal, oil, and gas? Because that is what it comes down to. Because at least with renewable energy we will still have a place to live.