Those of us who have been beating the drum relentlessly about alternative energy wonder if there’s any likelihood that Americans will finally wake up and realize that we simply must tear ourselves away from fossil fuels — which are, after all, finite. We can, however, take some hope from a recent article about the rising costs of oil that makes the following point almost in passing:
With oil potentially getting that [expensive], we need to seriously consider the potential of seeing another energy source replace oil demand. In the past 23 years, gasoline prices and the price for a barrel of West Texas intermediate [oil] in the U.S. have traded at a multiple of roughly 33.1. Based on the OECD’s projections, this could mean that gasoline in the U.S. would cost somewhere in the range of $6.05 to $10.85. With current prices already causing a consideration of alternative fuels, $10 a gallon certainly would tip the scales in the favor of alternative sources.
What this means is that the factor which might finally wake people up to the folly of depending so much on oil at the risk of catastrophic damage to the environment is not the damage to the environment, per se. It’s the damage to the pocketbook. Americans are apparently willing to have their children breathe dirty air and choke on toxic water resulting from techniques such as fracking to get at the oil and gas and burning such make-believe substances as “clean coal.” But they won’t stand for increasing prices at the gas pump. The major impetus for the development of alternative fuels in the end will almost assuredly be anger at rising oil and gas prices. These rising prices will lead Americans finally to electric or hybrid cars that burn less fuel and might even propel these folks to solar and wind energy in their homes when the price of heating and cooling fuels goes through the roof.
While one would like to think that people will do the right thing for the right reasons, in the end what matters is that they do the right thing — even for the wrong reasons. But given a self-absorbed population that refuses to modify its “life-style” in order to conserve precious resources and protect the earth one can find solace in the fact that at some point, before much longer, people will demand alternative fuels simply because they can’t afford to put gasoline in their cars or pay their heating bills. And I predict that at that point Big Oil and Coal companies will invest heavily in clean energy and claim it was what they wanted all along!