For over a hundred years, we have been generating electricity and moving vehicles by burning fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are the remains of dead plants and animalsexposed to intense heat and pressure inside the Earth over millions of years. Like fossils, they have to be dug or sucked out of the ground. When we use them, they’re gone. They don’t replenish. They’re not renewable.
Coal, oil, and gas are the fossil fuels producing the majority of the world’s human-generated greenhouse gases with coal — any kind of coal — emitting the most carbon dioxide per unit of energy.
New methods, designed to reach new sources, have caused recent, bitter controversy. Oil companies want to drill in the Arctic because oil elsewhere is being used up but some scientists say there are too many unanswered questions about what happens when oil spills into the valuable Arctic ecosystem.
But people who benefit from the money fossil fuels generate fight tirelessly to preserve every cent, often even at the expense of the health and well-being of people. Exxon Mobil alone made over $40 billion in 2010, and was among the top three highest contributorsto oil and gas industry lobbying from 2003-2011 while contributing more than any other company from 2006-2009.
Overall, the oil and gas industry spent $148 million in 2011 to support fossil fuel legislation and to ensure that legislation designed to fight climate change stalled or failed. From 2005 to 2008, Koch Industries, one of the largest fossil fuel conglomerates in the world, paid $37 million to groups that deny climate change.
Front groups, think thanks, and non-profits like the Cato Institute and the Americans for Prosperity were founded and are funded by the Koch Brothers to spread doubt and denial about climate change in direct opposition to innovation and progress toward a clean energy future.
Meanwhile, in Germany, clean energy is a growing industry. Feed-in tariffs are the primary stimulus promoting unprecedented solar installation and wind development. Feed-in tariffs are guaranteed fair market prices for the energy that will be generated.
In China, the government proactively makes clean energya significant part of its energy future through policy and government spending. China spent more than any other country on renewable power — $52 billion — in 2011, which supports the country’s plan to achieve 20 percent total power from renewable energy by 2020.
3 things you can do to burn less fossil fuel:
1. Conserve fuel and electricity at work and at home.
2. Support clean energy businesses.
3. Get involved in local and regional clean energy initiatives.
Other great ways you can make a difference.
LINKS & VIDEOS
Gas Overview – Environmental Protection Agency
What is Your Fuel Mix? EPA Tool
Coal Overview – EPA
Petroleum Overview – EPA
Fossil Fuel Emissions – US Department of Energy
Climate Change Resources – New England Aquarium
New York State Plans Health Review as it Weighs Gas Drilling, New York Times
The Billionaire Koch Brothers War on Obama, New Yorker
Kick It, Kick the Habit
Sick of our fossil fuel addiction? Kick It is funny, irreverent – but hard-hitting and informative.
Fossil fuels have powered human growth and ingenuity for centuries. Now that we’re reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies, we’re in for an exciting ride. While there’s a real risk that we’ll fall off a cliff, there’s still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future.