The environmentalists keep insisting that we must curb our ever-growing demand for more energy. The problem is, in the world in which we live, all forms of progress are dependent on energy. The rate of industrial and technological progress has increased exponentially over the last century. So has the demand for energy. It’s not a coincidence.
We could reduce our energy demands by renouncing progress and going back to doing things the way people did them in the “good old days.” We could give up cars and airplanes and electricity, central heat and air conditioning, computers, etc., slowing any future progress to a the same plodding pace it was a century ago. But in what way would that be a good thing? — Except in that we would use less energy. But is using less energy really intrinsically good? And is it so good that it’s worth giving up all kinds of benefits man has striven to achieve over the last couple of centuries?
Of course, that isn’t what the environmentalists have in mind. They don’t want to completely curtail the use of energy. They just want to control it to make sure it’s only used in acceptable ways for acceptable purposes. The question is, who defines what’s acceptable? — The answer is them, of course.
On a personal level, they want people to use less electricity, less gasoline, less toilet paper, etc. And it’s true that some people do waste a lot of energy. Personally, I abhor waste. I admire efficiency. I would love to see more efficient forms of energy, and I certainly would love to see less gratuitous waste. However, different people define waste differently.
I enjoy driving. I do it for pleasure. If I were confined to my home, or wherever I could propel myself by foot or by bicycle, I wouldn’t be a very happy camper. Sure, I could sit at my desk all day and cruise the Internet, but that uses energy, too. Is there anything truly wrong with driving out into the country, up in the mountains, to enjoy the natural beauty? It isn’t necessary to my survival. So here I am, wasting a limited natural resource for my own selfish gratification. But, somehow, it doesn’t seem to me like an intrinsic evil. I realize I could significantly reduce my carbon footprint by never leaving my house. I could reduce it even more by never getting out of bed. I could reduce it even more by dying. But what exactly is the point?
There’s a lot of research going on in the field of alternative energy. By the time fossil fuels actually do start to run out, I expect at least some of these “new” forms of energy will be viable. Today, they’re even more expensive than fossil fuels. That’s why so few people use them. If they were less expensive, and more practical to use, everybody would be using them already. But there’s still a ways to go before they’re competitive in the marketplace. I’m all for alternative energy. The sooner it becomes viable, the better. But, in the meantime, I’m not going to stop living my life to save the dead dinosaurs for future generations.