Holman Jenkins, indispensable as ever, in Keystone is a Fake Green Victory. “President Obama waited seven years to kill the pipeline, then did so when he no longer had to face voters and when gasoline prices are near an all-time low in real terms. If abundant fossil fuels is what it takes to afford Mr. McKibben such victories, well, you can see the paradox.”
Guess what? Environmentalists are also suspected of wanting higher gas prices. Maybe this is why setting themselves up as the enemy of oil companies hasn’t gelled into public support for their energy policies.
The obstacle isn’t Exxon, or even the uncertainties of climate science, which are interesting only to a handful of reporters who actually take climate science (as opposed to climate religion) seriously. Standing in the way has always and only been the politics of energy prices. Even Mr. Obama has shown no interest in risking his political career over climate, explaining, “Gas prices are one of those things that really bug people. . . . The gas tax hasn’t been increased in 20 years. There is a reason for that.”
Or consider America’s absurd, convoluted policy of regulating vehicle fuel mileage, which exists as a continuing, 40-year testament to the impossibility of enacting higher gas prices…
He also shares this eye-popping statistic: “for every additional unit of solar the world consumed in 2014, it consumed 325 additional units of fossil energy.”
Making fossil fuels the villain is silly anyway. We need fossil fuels until and unless we find a technological substitute. … This is not a counsel of despair for climate worriers, but a counsel to grow up. Given the rate of technological change, who really wants to bet that they know what systems of energy storage and distribution earthlings will be using 50 years on?
But likely the revolution won’t be happening in the U.S., as Microsoft founder Bill Gatesimplicitly testified when he brought his supersafe traveling wave reactor prototype to China because America wasn’t interested. China needs such technology because it likes to breathe, never mind any concerns about global warming.
The carbon dioxide problem, if carbon dioxide is a problem, isn’t going to be solved by banning fossil fuels or begging them to stay in the ground. The problem will be solved by coming up with alternative energy technology that improves on fossil fuels in a sizable share of applications not only for environmental reasons, but for cost and utility reasons.
If this happens or it doesn’t, Mr. McKibben’s moaning and histrionics will be seen in retrospect to have been magisterially irrelevant. Like lab rodents learning to push a lever for a cocaine injection, today’s climate activists operate on a very low kind of learning. They’ve learned how to attract attention and dramatize themselves but not how to enact policies that might actually be useful in the long run.