Sunday, May 6, 2007

Crude Thinking - May 5, 2007

Oil dominates the headlines. Of all the energy sources we use in our world, oil is the most visible. It has been clearly linked to geopolitical struggles, questions over its continuing supply, and global warming. These are real problems and they deserve our attention.

However, focusing on oil to the exclusion of other energy sources is crude thinking. It blinds us to the full range of issues we must address as a society. Oil represents only about 40% of total world-wide energy use, meaning that to have a comprehensive view we must account for the other 60%.

Where does this other 60% come from? A mix of coal, natural gas, hydroelectricity, and a few renewable sources. Each of these energy sources comes with its own set of political, environmental, and social consequences. For example, coal has the highest carbon dioxide emissions of any fossil fuel, the use of natural gas has helped lower emissions but its supplies are dwindling, and hydroelectric dams disrupt ecological habitats.

Yes, oil is important. But it is not so important that we should blind ourselves to the pressing issues associated with other energy sources.

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