What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

The hidden costs of burning fossil fuels

Figures from 2005 (from a report to Congress from US National Research council);

$120 billion from power generation, $62 billion of which is from burning coal and $56 billion of which from oil related to motor vehicle use.

The NRC report left out 3 big items in their research; Climate Change, Ecosystem Destruction, and National Security. Here's what the report over at Care2Causes has to say about those.

"Ecosystem destruction

Fossil fuel extraction is hugely polluting. Whether we are talking about blowing the tops off mountains to expose coal seams or drilling for oil, the process releases all sorts of pollutants into the surrounding environment. In spite of claims by drilling companies that they are a new generation of responsible extractors, there are still regular accidents, spills, and ridiculous practices like dumping mining debris into stream beds.

National security

Proceeds from oil is funding unstable nations, dictators, and terrorists all over the world. It would be extremely hard for the NRC to parse out exactly what percentage of U.S. military involvement or domestic security costs are related to oil, but it is related.

Climate change

Costs associated with climate change have the potential to dwarf all others.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,

Four global warming impacts alone -- hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs -- will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. GDP, or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today's dollars) by 2100.

Now what?

We could, and no doubt the fossil fuel industry will, pick apart the NRC analysis all day, but they make a big important point with this figure: Our energy production costs far more than the figure on the utility bill and those costs must be considered.

Last March, President Obama called on Congress to pass a bill that "makes clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy." Renewable energy is at an economic disadvantage because fossil fuel energies have received generous direct government subsidies and been allowed to foist their real costs on the greater society for a hundred years. Senators Kerry and Boxer recently introduced a bill that should start to shift us away from dirty fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. If you have already signed the petition supporting the bill, please tell your friends to do the same."

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