Improving Our Energy Future Will Require Positive Arguments

The most frustrating problem with the climate change debate could very well be that loudmouth extremists on both sides are dominating it, and they’re each trying to “win.” On the left side, we have people running around screaming “The sky is falling!” and declaring that our very existence depends on the immediate cessation of all fossil fuel use, and that failure to do so will result in the total annihilation of the human race, and most other species of animals and birds.

Apocalyptic proclamations always cause me to chuckle, no matter who they come from. And while they make me smile, such gloom-and-doom proclamations really don’t encourage voters to show up and support our side.

Of course, on the other side we have a moronic group who claim there’s absolutely no problem with spewing all sorts of crap into the air. Some even go so far as to claim that we have a God-given right to burn as much fossil fuel as we’d like. They claim no negative effects on the air and water, and that, since we still have blizzards and cold weather, the climate isn’t changing that much. Not that seeing the planet get warmer would be a bad thing, anyway. Longer summers and shorter winters are good, right?

Both extreme sides are counterproductive, to say the least. And the result of all of this “debate” is, we keep burning more and more fossil fuels. It’s also why oil companies get tax breaks, while green energy companies have to hold bake sales and sell stuff on eBay to raise the money they need.

This is why it’s so important for more sane people to chime in and take over this debate? Sane people always seem to be missing from the public debate. Why is that?

It’s not possible to claim the planet isn’t warming when you look at statistics going back a few hundred years. We keep warming. Most of the last 20 years have been among the warmest on record. Yes, I know, the “record” doesn’t go back all that far, but the climate is changing.

What we don’t know is why, what’s causing it, or whether this is a permanent change or part of a cycle. To claim definitively that the current warming trend is solely because of human activity is not just impossible to support, and it’s also completely irrelevant. We have to deal with things as they are and with what we know. The planet is warming, and may not stop warming during the next century or so, and we have to deal with the problems that with it.

We have to address climate change rationally, not by screaming about the end of the world. People will always embrace change when they;re advised of the benefits of working to change the energy culture. We have at least thirty years of catching up to do when it comes to transitioning away from fossil fuels, and it has to happen relatively quickly. Of course, “quickly” in this case means about 30-40 years, not five. And make no mistake; the impetus for the transition won’t be based on some tenuous prospect like the end of the world. I can guarantee that. If we really want to sell the policies and technologies that will eventually free us of fossil fuel dependence, we need to tout their benefits in a way that is not dependent on fossil fuels not being the main cause for climate change. Think about it; what happens if we suddenly have ten years of cooling temperatures? If people let their guard down, we could end up sending fossil fuel use right back up again.

Let’s be real; there are many rational reasons to wean ourselves from fossil fuels that have nothing to do with the end of the world. For instance, burning oil and most diesel fuels is dirty as hell. Wouldn’t it be nice to power-wash buildings once every 20 years, instead of once every two, because soot no longer builds up?

There are so many cleaner alternatives available now, there’s no reason to continue over-using this 19th Century technology. We know how to use the sun and the wind to generate electricity, and we know they’re cleaner, and have little or no negative environmental effects. Why is that not the main reason for the transition? Why does it have to be to stop the human race from dying off? The world is a better place because of motor vehicles and electricity; they’re not evil. We just need to figure out how to produce energy without all the noise and filth. Seriously, without even considering the doom we supposedly face, what’s the downside to transitioning to clean energy sources? Is cleaner air and water that hard to sell? Is cheaper energy really a difficult concept to get people to go along with? Is the prospect of putting solar panels on the roof and cutting their electric bill by 50 percent really impossible to get people excited about? Is the impending flooding of all land masses and the destruction of all humankind the only argument some can think of to use, to encourage support for the transition to clean energy?

We need to make a change. The era of the huge centralized power plant must necessarily be over. We need to set up solar and wind farms, and set it up so that tens of thousands of people set up their own smaller power plants or even produce their own power and sell the excess back to the grid. But the more we scream at people, declaring the end of the world, the less time we have to actually sell the changes that absolutely must be made. 

We must also invest in greater conservation. Replacing incandescent with compact fluorescent light bulbs is just theOf course, we can’t convince people of the need to conserve if we spend a lot of our time trying to scare people into believing we face the end of the world. Wouldn’t it be great to live better than we do now, while using a quarter of the energy, and a quarter of the energy bill? Is there really a contingent that would complain about their car getting 100 miles out of every $4 gallon of gasoline? Does anyone imagine that people would object to not having a brown cloud over their city, or that they would complain about being able to go to a beach without being covered in black gunk? For that matter, who would object to generating the power we need without fear of starting a war?

I don’t know why the climate is changing, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. The reasons why we have to stop using fossil fuels to the extent we do now are so many, there’s absolutely no reason we have to be Chicken Little over the issue to get people excited about changing our ways. Renewable energy sources are cheaper, cleaner, more natural, abundant, and they will make everything around us cleaner and fresher. Not only that, but producing the technology needed to build out the electric grid and produce clean energy will create a bounty of jobs, and economic benefit.

There is no downside to switching away from fossil fuels, and there are plenty of positives to such a move. So, why are we always talking about gloom and doom? Negativity doesn’t sell o anyone outside of the extreme right and extreme left. Positivity always sells to most people. And since our electoral system is democratic, “most people” is a good thing. .

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  1. PS: the discussion about the end of the cheap and easy access to fossil fuels is NOT about climate change either.

  2. Here smarten up a chump: a report by climate change experts.


    The gist: “do it now because it will be cheaper.”
    Note: the string of words “end of the world” does not appear in the report.

    1. Do you know what doesn’t appear in my piece? The term “scientists.” Because I wasn’t discussing climate change.

  3. If you want to be comprehended then write for comprehension.

    Half my post is about whether the climate change is human caused. We’d better assume and hope it is human caused. If it is “a cycle” then there is truly nothing to be done by us. If one can bother to peek at the evidence that it is human caused then we have hope (“positive,” no?) and then the issue can REALLY be “personal responsibility” to the future of the human race.

    You’ll convince no one among those who need to be convinced by saying: “The climate is changing but I don’t know why.” There is a denial industry that refuses to accept the basic premises of physics of increased atmospheric CO2 (while, apparently controlling congress) and they will certainly not concede a simple assertion that climate IS changing.

    The other half of my post is about dwindling fossil fuels an issue you did not consider in your effort to put “positivity” before reality. THE issue is whether we use the remaining fossil fuel to effect the transition to a different world:
    1) technologically: it takes energy to make renewable energy infrastructure
    2) economically: there will be no more idiocy of “always more consumption”

    Sorry, the situation is just not “positive” overall and you demean people by insisting that they can only act appropriately if the issues are sugar-coated.

    1. No one else has had a problem with comprehension, only you. And you continue to sound clueless. You’re not convincing me about anything. I know most of this. The people reading this blog know most of this.


      This article is about propagating messages that get us switched over to renewable energy sooner rather than later. That means propagating positive messages that offer solutions to the problem. Yet, for two comments now, you keep reiterating the problems. That’s not a winner, and it’s a goddamn waste of time. THIS is why most people hate progressives. We’re awesome at reiterating problems, but we suck at offering solutions. It DOESN’T MATTER why the climate’s changing. **DOESN’T MATTER!** It is changing, and it may or may not be permanent, and we have to deal with it either way. Meanwhile, as you waste all of your time trying to convince people of something you believe, but can’t possibly know, I’m recommending alternative approaches to the issue that can get it solved. Getting us off our oil addiction is the goal, not convincing everyone that humans are causing climate change.

      This is the same problem we had/have with Obamacare. Single payer is not a goal, nor is a public option. The goal is universal health care, and the ACA gets us closer to that than we’ve ever been. And all of the whining about single payer and public option and helping get Republicans elected is keeping us from the main goal.

      I’m not “demeaning people.” If anyone is, it’s you. How is it NOT “demeaning” for you to be insisting that climate change IS “human-caused,” when such a thing can’t be proven? More importantly, it doesn’t matter what caused it. If someone drops a bottle of motor oil on the floor, who’s more effective; the person who gets the stuff to clean it up, or the person who searches around for the person who spilled it, to make them clean it up? You’re the latter person. While my approach is far more effective.

      What you “sardonically” refer to as “sugar coating” issues, well… that’s called POLITICS. You find out what argument works with people and you offer it to them. And most voters are motivated by hope. They are DE-motivated by angst and fear, and yet you want to serve up all sorts of angst and tales of “personal responsibility.” Who really gives a shit WHY people advocate for a move to renewable energy, as long as they do? Why are you so intent on pushing this Chicken Little crap, when people are more likely to respond to economic concerns? Seriously, if someone puts solar panels on their roof, does it really matter if they did it to save money, or did it out of “personal responsibility”? If they switch to electric cars, does it really matter whether they did it so they’ll never have to pay $6 per gallon for gas or because they feel like healing the planet?

      More importantly, what if we suddenly have five or ten years that are closer to “normal.” If we use your tactics, there’s a good chance people will backtrack, and let down their guard, which means we fall further behind. If we use economic and aesthetic arguments to get them to switch, such a “normal” spell won’t matter.

      Seriously. Read for comprehension. You’re kind of looking like a fool here. In fact, you’re exactly the type of person who is making it MORE DIFFICULT to wean the country off oil.

  4. John,
    Talk about not reading for comprehension… You truly take the cake.

    I’m not talking about climate change here. I’m not a denier, deniers are idiots, and their arguments are asinine. I’m talking about how we sell new energy technology to the public. Progressives are stuck on Chicken Little, when the public wants positive memes, and they want solutions to problems.

    Yet, you want to label me a “denier sympathizer” and waste your time trying to convince people climate change is real, when most people already believe that, and are looking for solutions.

    Read the name of this blog, and this blog post, and do it for comprehension. It might serve as a clue. Fixing this problem is about offering up solutions, not constantly reiterating the problems. People know the problem. They want a solution. THAT is the point of the post.

    Now, re-read it, for comprehension this time.


  5. Please, two citations of (non tweet) comments, from publicly-known, NON mainstream media, rational persons claiming your bugaboo “the end of the world.”

    You seem to embrace, however subconsciously, the logically unsupportable (denialists’ favorite) notion that if there is an identifiable, non-human cause for a phenomenon there cannot also be another, simultaneous, independent human cause.

    The actual mass of increased atmospheric CO2, since the start of the industrial revolution can, by basic calculation, be shown to be roughly equivalent to the CO2 released by humans’ burning of fossil fuels. (e.g. start here:
    — and many other items at that site.)

    Indeed, ” … there are many rational reasons to wean ourselves from fossil fuels that have nothing to do with the end of the world.” The first, and major, reason, of course, is that the amount fossil fuels is finite. In the not too distant future the ENERGY needed to extract the next “barrel” of fuel will exceed the energy content of that barrel. (Consider, extremely deep water drilling, arctic drilling, tar sands/shale oil, fracking, etc. to be proof of this reality.) THAT will be “the end of the world” — as we have come to know it.

    You need to familiarize yourself to the physical-chemical fact of the exceptional energy density of the fossil fuels to which we have become accustomed/addicted. Yes, “There is no downside to switching away from fossil fuels” (certainly if you can see the effect of their ever increasing use.) That is, IF you can accept that it would be a VERY different life, whether we rationally choose it or the fossil fuels simply are no longer accessible. NOT “positive” or “negative” but merely different, profoundly different.

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