On the Fossil Fuels Dilemma

coal

 

Over the past few weeks I personally have been overloaded with information and opinions on global warming and climate change. Whether it be in my Intro to environmental science class where we brake down the different types of greenhouse gasses and what they do to our atmosphere. Or in my Communicating Health, Science and the Environment class that I share with you all. Or on social media with how “Trump’s cabinet picks will singlehandedly increase global warming tenfold and kill us all in the next four years”. I’m kidding on that last topic but some of these headlines that I see on Facebook and Twitter are often grossly hyperbolic. While being bombarded with messages about the environmental effects of climate change and the 101 reasons that it is bad and needs to be stopped, I have yet to read an article that gives a reasonable solution to all of the negatives that come with moving away from fossil fuels instead of the overarching theme that all fossil fuels are bad and we need to get rid of them.

My biggest concern with moving away from fossil fuels is the loss of jobs in that industry. Of the fortune 500 top ten companies fossil fuel companies make up half of that list. Hundreds of thousands of Americans rely on Fossil fuel companies to provide a paycheck for them working in all of the different aspects that come with coal, natural gas and oil. Over the summer I had the opportunity to visit rural parts of West Virginia and Kentucky that have seen better days in the past. These towns have relied on coal for decades if not centuries for jobs and economic growth. Though my view of the state of those places may have been skewed due to mass flooding the week before, the towns and cities that I visited and drove through reminded me of some of the towns that I have visited in Mexico, a third world country. Many of the houses were abandoned and boarded up while a lot of the towns have lost a lot of population over the years due to the decline in the use of coal mandated by the federal government. Even though coal accounts for the majority of electricity in the United States, the country is importing more coal from overseas than using its own supply of coal with more than two thirds coming from Colombia. It is sad to see that American men and women losing the jobs that generations of people worked in only for the US to import their coal from overseas.

The Coal and Fossil fuels dilemma is an interesting dichotomy between wanting a brighter more sustainable future compared to economic security and comfortable lives today. There is no one way to solve this issue but I believe that cutting off all fossil fuel usage and production is not the right solution until we have a better infrastructure in obtaining renewable resources. The fight against climate change isn’t going to be won overnight by trying to convince skeptics through debate and rhetoric but it will be won when the economic factors of sustainable energy surpasses those of fossil fuels.

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3 thoughts on “On the Fossil Fuels Dilemma

  1. Your point is an excellent one that few people bring up, switching over to sustainable resources is a change of life for my people that can only bring about hardship and change with the loss of a job. What I would love to see, and this is reliant on cooperative governments, is high incentives for people who have lost their jobs to invest in renewables, or are given jobs in it, being given free or low cost solar or wind to towns where money can be fed back into the grid for a personal profit and cut down on individual energy costs, In addition opening more plants for electric cars and other environmentally friendly options.

    ~Asha Brogan

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  2. Your main point is crucial to the climate debate. A lot of people may want to change their actions, but don’t know how. People can also feel overwhelmed with all of the bad news and don’t see any actions of theirs making any difference. I think one important thing to remember is that everyone has an impact, and therefore everyone can enact positive change. In this field, it is very easy to become depressed because you hear something new every day that is negative about the environment. This can range from another animal that has gone extinct, more natural disasters happening, or even new presidents getting elected that say climate change is a hoax.

    Just like in the past people made a living for themselves and were able to transition to fossil fuels (transition is the key word), and I think the mindset should be kept for the transition to renewable energy. Yes, there will always be people who are close to retirement and who can’t learn a new trade for the last few years of work, but if we are not going to make the change now, when? Why can’t we turn those dilapidated, deserted coal towns into renewable towns? If, like you said, we are importing our coal, why can’t we stop that and invest in renewable technology with the solar, wind, and geothermal energy all around us? I think the public gets too comfortable being comfortable with their lives, their jobs, and their future. Change is inevitable, and we can either evolve with it, or get left behind. I think it needs to be looked at realistically from the lens of sustainability.

    Annelise Wilimitis

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  3. Yeah, your point is very true and also a very good one. It is very hard to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle in general. We struggle to make the smallest changes in our lives in order to live more sustainably. And Asha has a very good point as well. Incentives are crucial to changing human habits, so putting them on a program or giving them opportunities to promote good environmental habits would be great for our society.

    Andrew Ebding

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