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Our Addiction to Fossil Fuel is Taking us on the Road to Nowhere


Our Addiction to Fossil Fuel is Taking us on the Road to Nowhere

Kumi Naidoo

On Saturday I joined a panel at the Munich Security Conference in Germany and talked about global security and energy security. You might be surprised to see Greenpeace at a security conference. The room was full of members of the "strategic community", people who are not the crowd we normally engage with; they are the crowd we have historically challenged with our peace campaigns. However, I appreciated having the opportunity to be a dissenting voice and to talk about what I consider is the path towards true energy security.


“Now I used to think that I was cool running around on fossil fuel,
Until I saw what I was doing was driving down the road to ruin.”
-James Taylor, Damn this Traffic Jam (JT, 1977)

Carter was in office. Gee, what happened? Oh, yeah, I remember. No matter how frustrated we may be with our politics, our votes do matter, folks.


Carter was also the President who oversaw the creation of the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, a joint government-industry initiative to produce 2,000,000 barrels per day of liquid fuel from oil shale, coal liquifaction, and coal gasification. Carter very much wanted to develop an Alberta Tar Sands-like industry in northwest Colorado and eastern Utah, devastating the air, water, and environment. He’s no environmental hero to me, sorry.


It will take much money to make transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy because we will have to buy cooperation of our too big to fail fossil fuel firms by buying fossil fuel reserves as mineral rights over same time it would take to consume fossil fuel with business as usual and then continue buying off fossil fuel industry at same amount of money as a percent of GDP every year forever–paying Dane geld–but those too big to fail fossil fuel firms OWN our government. Historically, 50% of retail cost of electricity is for transmission and distribution, 25% is for fossil fuel, 20% is for interest and depreciation, and 5% is for maintenance and operation. We should buy parts for a national smart electric grid including lots of energy storage, wind turbines, solar power systems both thermal and PV, and above ground parts for geothermal systems from our military industrial complex to keep them busy making something more constructive than weapons. It would be nice if federal government could sell this stuff to utilities with 30-year mortgage direct loans, but our too big to fail banks will likely insist on lending money to utilities at higher interest rates but with federal guarantees.


Humans who are part of industrial civilization are entrenched in a psychology of seeing the problem and solution to life as wholly extrinsic while it is at root an intrinsic problem and solution. Our addiction to how we perceive our reality must be addressed before we can address why we cannot change the behavior that is caused by those perceptions. Unfortunately I do not see how we can do this because the nature of this entrenched psychological addiction to perceiving reality through an extrinsic filter (internal denial) is so pervasive and perhaps up to 99 percent of people who are members of industrial civilization think the problem is outside of them and never look within.

It seems we will be our own self-fulfilling prophesy on this measure. This consequence well on its way and according to some it is too late to stop the extrinsic consequence of denying our intrinsic addictions.

If we want to change the ultimate effect of how we act (destroying life) we must first change how we think.( I am not destroying life). Wouldn’t it be great to be sustaining life through our ultimate collective actions and to be able to think I am sustaining life.

Their are many living examples of such sustainable actions driven by healthy intrinsic psychology, but these examples are lived amongst those who are not allowed (denial) to have a voice among the leaders of industrial civilization. How fatally ironic.


Yes, Egosophia… I agree… it is a matter of how one is perceiving his/her world… this is really a situation that I think is almost out of reach of we humans to fix… what ever we try… will be something that those AT THE TOP ARE WILLING TO TRY… if it m akes money, keeps them comfortable…keeps them in positions of extreme power…one thing that really confuses me… is the contradictions, I guess you could say, about switching to renewables… on one hand I can see the possibilities … on the other… I do not… because, they are a part of the fossil fuel economy… even with some saying that they can be built with renewable energy… and some saying that the mining can be done with renewable energy… I find that the time it would take and the ability for us to scale up with that whole infrastructure… is impossible… especially with the head winds( hurricane) that we face…
… and when a person is arguing the negatives of renewables… those reading always take it that the person is trying to say we should stay on fossil fuels… well, no they are not… there is the possibility that we would just return to the energy systems we had before fossil fuels… NOW IS THAT A PRETTY PICUTURE?.. .no… but, if we did that… wouldn’t that truly solve the climate problem?.. Except for the nuclear power plants… we have to scale them down… take them off gird… cool them… and that has to be fossil fuel… so, some has to be saved out for that process…or we are fried…


Why do we have to buy fossil fuel rights?.. I do not understand how or why we should give them money?.. I do not care if they loose this money… I do not care if it messes up the economy?.. you mean that governments around the world… would have to do this?.. or in other words, people with their tax money?.. I would not CONTINUE TO ALLOW… MY MONEY TO GO TO SOME FIRM, SO THAT THEY DO NOT LOOSE ON THIS DEAL… I AM P.O. THAT THEY GET MY MONEY NOW… Sorry, I’m not capitalizing to yell at you, just the system that got us here… I’m trying to understand where you are coming from with that phrase… about buying fosssil fuels reserves as mineral rights over same time it would take to consume fossil fuels with business as usual" …etc…


Yeah, to succeed we have to start living life so simply and so gently. Also we have to cull all behavior that is a part of the problem rather than everything. There is just so much wasteful behavior. So much waste. It boggles the mind. So little chance left now, as you note and same old, same old is the norm. I think we might seriously heed James Lovelock who said almost ten years ago. “We will burn”…“We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization.” That may be the best option we will soon have, if not now. Yet, we go on, business as usual. Very horrifying to contemplate.


He was trying to balance energy independence (I remember gas lines) using continental fossil resources, conservation, and nuclear energy (before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl). He was also charged with trying to keep the peace in the cold war. All tricky things to balance. He was definitely the most environmentally progressive president in recent history, but the tradeoffs were a bitch and have only gotten worse because he was successfully ridiculed for wearing a sweater in the WH along with putting solar panels on the roof.


Carter was the most environmentally progressive President??

That’s not saying much, really.


As usual with these groups as pointed out by Naomi Klein despite Greenpeace’s excellent and courageous work stopping French nuclear testing, helping save the whales etc they have a peculiar myopia when it comes to Auto Addiction and the costs of endless Wars.
If we are talking about “SECURITY” then the number one priority has to be to stop wasting trillions of dollars on endless Wars. The next priority is moving from Auto Addiction in any form to Green Transit. In the Roadmap Greenpeace says this "In the transport sector, energy demand decreases due to a change
in driving patterns and a rapid uptake of efficient combustion
vehicles and increasing use of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles
after 2025.The use of biofuels for private vehicles follows the
latest scientific reports that indicate that biofuels might have
higher a greenhouse emission footprint than fossil fuels. "

While we have the usual handwavintg to “a change in driving patterns” the whole emphasis is on electric cars NOT Green public transit which uses 10x less greenspace and land, has almost zero deaths, does not require the huge infrastructure of traffic cops, courts, insurance, Emergency rooms, ambulances etc. Europe already uses 2 1/2 less energy per capita on transportation because they do have a viable Rail system. But this could be expanded further to end Auto Addiction and Auto usage even more and save greenhouse emissions and energy usage very quickly. The best example of this is WW II when the US elite decided to cut Auto Addiction with its huge waste of resources to instead run public transit, In just 3 years from 1942-45 the US increased intercity rail ridership by 4 times, intercity bus ridership by 4 times and local streetcars and other transit by 4 times. This saved huge amounts of oil, rubber, glass and the vast panoply of resources wasted in private automobiles. Outside of ending the WARS which MUST be first on any agenda, Green Transit is the fastest way to cut oil usage and greenhouse emissions even for Europe which is already much better at this than the US.
Right now Europeans per capita have 5,000 miles driven per year versus 15,000 miles in the US. This could be reduced even further.


Those too big to fail fossil fuel firms OWN our government. We have to bribe those too big to fail fossil fuel firms with even more money every year than they are making now to get them to cooperate at all in replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy. I can’t blame you for hating them–but they very much do have the 99% over a barrel.


The terms ‘renewable’ and ‘clean’ energy are in common usage but they contribute to misunderstanding as regards what can realistically be done about coping with what is happening in the operation of civilization. Technological systems made of materials supply the energy (primarily electrical or heat energy obtained from fuels) as they irrevocably age. Wind farms and solar systems use energy income as opposed to the stored energy in fossil fuels but these systems are made of irreplaceable materials and they age so they are not renewable. ‘clean’ energy is not so much of a misnomer as those systems there is very little greenhouse emissions associated with their operation and maintenance although that is not so with their manufacture. Leaving aside the misleading terminology, wind farms and solar systems can make a worthwhile contribution to the energy supply issue for a short while only. It is not a sustainable process.


Fight back.
Use less.

In Spain, my parents made a shopping list, and went once a week. If something ran out it stayed out for a week. This was a huge adjustment for people who grew up in the American car culture.

I followed their lead and made a pantry out of one of my closets. Have learned not to drive to the store for that one thing. Its a start. I also turned an abandoned baby stroller into an off road shpping cart. It goes from house to store and back and helps me haul 18 gallons of food up a huge hill I always USED to drive up. The safety brake lets me pause when i get pooped too.