Eliminating "Fossil Fuels" Is Not A Problem
Responding to the Washington Times editorial, "Eliminating Fossil Fuels Would Risk A Descent Into Darkness"
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
The Washington Times published this editorial a couple of days ago, on June 10th, in an obvious attempt to ridicule the green new deals being proposed by certain politicians who are seeking to gain some kind of a foothold in the minds of the voting public. While I share the opinion that these green new deal proposals are lunacy, I also believe that reactions such as this one from the Washington Times are similarly ill conceived and senseless.
I'll start with the elephant in the room: the term "fossil fuels." Fossil fuels is a misnomer. Coal and petroleum oil based fuels are not derived from decayed organic matter; they are not fossil fuels. They are abiotic fuels...they are derived from minerals. If you can get the terminology wrong right in the headline then the overall editorial can easily get everything else wrong. At the least, the author(s) of the WT editorial should have put the term "fossil fuel" in quotes like I just did, or he/she/they could have written: "so-called fossil fuels."
Much of the of the story relies on the same mistaken approach claimed by Alex Epstein and Kathleen Hartnett White, two writers who authored parallel books in 2014 that were independent of each other. Their books centered on the theory that there is a moral case to be made for (so-called) fossil fuels. Well, there isn't. Any debt of gratitude that Epstein and White think is owed to coal, gasoline, diesel fuel, and natural gas is really owed to the inventors of the machines that have made our lives better. These devices were all originally invented using fuels other than abiotic fuels. I explained all this in an essay I wrote in 2018 titled " The Immorality of Arguing That There's a Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.". Inevitably, Epstein and White must have agreed with my analysis because despite my alerting them to my position and inviting them to debate me on the subject, they both remain silent (Alex Epstein publicly stated that he is willing to debate anyone at anytime, and we did have some correspondence about doing so, but he found some excuse to avoid a confrontation of any kind with me).
The morality issue aside, my disagreement with this Washington Times editorial really takes off at this point.
Internal combustion engines began life using alcohol fuel (in spark ignited engines), and peanut oil was used by Rudolph Diesel to fuel the eponymous diesel (compression ignited) engine. Therefore, alcohols (be they ethanol, methanol, butanol, etc.) could have, and would have, been the primary liquid fuels - great bio-diesel fuel can be produced from alcohols. The gaseous versions of these fuels would have been the primary gas fuels.
Some will try to argue that our farmers couldn't grow enough crops to have substituted the abiotic fuels with alcohol fuels; and if their argument was based solely on corn or sugar cane they might have a good argument (not a winning argument, mind you, but a good argument). However, farmers are incredible hard working people, and they have achieved crop yields in the last few years that have eclipsed all expectations. What's more, corn and sugar cane are far from being the only, or the best, raw materials to create alcohol-based fuels.
For example, if we want to take a real look at "renewable" raw materials (or maybe the word "replaceable" is a better word), there is almost nothing more constant than human and animal excrement. It's available everywhere, day in - day out, and in summer or winter, cloudy or sunny. Contrary to common thought, there aren't just two things in life that can't be avoided (death and taxes), there are three things: death, taxes, and bowel movements. Be they able-bodied or handicapped, every man, woman, child, pet, beast of burden, and all wildlife would be contributing partners in the venture. This is a compulsory national service that everybody will enthusiastically support. I even have a slogan ready to go: " Your doody, is your duty!"
The best part is that collecting the raw material doesn't require drilling thousands of feet into the ground, and there's no fracking necessary. Also, no wars have to be fought over it. Rich countries, poor countries, land-locked countries, island countries, and desert countries are all blessed with this most-natural of all renewable resources.
On top of excrement, there's algae - which is another constant, natural, and renewable resource. Just as it's impossible to stop the production of feces, it's impossible to stop algae. So, no matter what type of fuel is needed, for any and all uses, we have access to all the raw base materials we need within arms reach (pun intended).
Of course there's another great source of energy to create electricity, and that's nuclear energy. Sure, some people are freaked out by nuclear power, but the fact remains that despite the couple of accidents that have occurred over the last 50-60 years, nuclear power has proven to be very safe. If the history of safety doesn't calm a person down, that's okay because uranium and plutonium isn't necessary to create nuclear power: thorium can be used instead. While we don't have the operational experience with thorium that we have with uranium and plutonium, it's just a matter of getting that experience - remember, once upon a time, a rather short time ago, we didn't have operational experience with using uranium and plutonium to create energy. I think most people have never heard of thorium, but information about it is also just an arms reach away - right there on the Internet.
The bottom line is that we can do away with the deadly and filthy abiotic fuels that have plagued our world for 150 years and more. We can do it cost effectively and without sacrificing our way of life. We can have our cake and eat it, too.