Everybody knows, or once knew, about the poor little rich kid whose family’s affluence spoiled them despite their parents’ best efforts. But what about an entire society? It’s a question Jude Clemente raises in Forbes about “The Overprivileged West’s Delusion Of ‘Transitioning Away From Oil’”. Are we so spoiled by the affluence capitalism has bestowed on us, including by its spectacular development of hydrocarbon energy, that we’ve forgotten where wealth comes from and think we can trash our inheritance and the trust fund money will just keep flowing in? Sure seems that way.
As Clemente observes, “Oil is the transportation fuel that powers a global auto fleet of over 1.4 billion, as compared to a tiny electric car fleet of less than 20 million.” Yet what proportion of citizens of any Western country, or indeed of their politicians, has done the math on the sort of transmission grid that would be needed to charge 57 times as many EVs as are currently out there, let alone generating system? Heck. There’s always electricity in the wire and gas at the pump. How could there not be when we’re us?
Here’s a way, he explains:
“The mindless goal to ‘not invest in oil’ inevitably means higher costs for everything and rampant inflation because oil is ingrained in about every single thing that we do or consume.”
And certainly people are finding it hard to make ends meet as the early stages of the supposed energy transition mysteriously correlated with hard times and high inflation. Yet 42% of Canadians say they’d like to live under socialism provided their taxes don’t go up. (Just as I’d like to eat everything at the buffet provided my weight doesn’t go up.)
“Physics (e.g., gasoline has 100 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery) and higher than rosily modeled costs will eventually force our emerging European-like climate-energy goals to be pulled back here in the U.S. (e.g., only EV sales in California after 2035).”
Some people have been making such calculations relentlessly, including the Manhattan Contrarian (who also just skewered the central planning fallacies behind the EV push). But a lot of others have been ignoring them, possibly because they’re no better at science than they are at reality generally.
Speaking of science, one of Clemente’s most unkind remarks is that:
“The push for renewables such as wind and solar to displace oil prove an energy ignorance that can only come from a country where one in four adults think the Sun orbits the Earth.”
It is unkind first because when people are polled on that kind of question you cannot be sure many of the responses are not sarcastic. (It was in fact a 2012 survey of 2,200 people; in 2015 a poll found similar numbers in Spain, down from 40% nine years earlier, and Newsweek reports that in 2022 35% of Russians said the same thing and 4% claimed not to know, though again respondents may just have been messing with the pollster.) And second because if it were so, it would be an “only in America” story and in fact this energy policy disaster is happening throughout the West.
As indeed he notes:
“Just ask the dangerously unrealistic Europeans how their ‘dual panacea’ has worked out under Putin’s thumb: “Germany goes back to burning coal as its energy crisis deepens.’”
Way back when, there was concern that successful civilizations created luxury, luxury made citizens soft and soft citizens brought down civilizations. But of course it could never happen to us because, well, um, there’s just always been lots of stuff so there always will be.