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Page added on January 10, 2018

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Keeping Fossil Fuels Underground Makes No Sense

General Ideas

What would happen if climateers succeed in their campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground?

The experience of Walt Disney World in Orlando more than 40 years ago provides some answers. In 1973, two years after it opened, plans to expand Disney World beyond the original theme park were jeopardized when war broke out in the Middle East. An oil embargo was placed on Western countries, and President Nixon introduced gasoline rationing and price controls that lasted for nearly a decade under three U.S. presidents: Nixon, Ford and Carter. For a resort that received the majority of its visitors by car, the price controls and rationing were nothing short of a disaster. Attendance at the Magic Kingdom crashed, and Disney’s share price fell by more than half.

It wasn’t just Disney World and Florida tourism that suffered from the spike in gasoline prices. Areas from Chicago to Houston to Los Angeles to Phoenix experienced a similar crash, with motorists lining up for hours to fill their cars with gasoline. Businesses and construction projects suffered, factories closed and several million Americans lost their jobs during the 1973-1975 recession that was largely the result of the shock of higher energy prices.

In time, the economy returned to normal. So, too, did energy markets when President Reagan finally abolished all price controls on oil and gas in 1981. And, eventually, thanks largely to the shale revolution, U.S. oil production in recent years has risen to near record levels, resulting in a sharp decline in oil imports (the lowest in nearly 50 years as a share of oil consumed) along with much cheaper gasoline.

For the average American, energy has never been more affordable. As a share of total consumer spending, Americans spent less than 4 percent on energy during each of the last two years, the lowest in history. Today the U.S. leads the world in oil and gas production, and we are more energy secure and competitive in international markets. None of this would have been possible without the Shale Revolution and the increase in energy production.

But these gains may be in peril. If those opposed to oil and gas drilling get their way, we could experience an upheaval in energy markets similar to what happened during the embargo of the 1970s.

While the arguments in favor of oil and natural gas are well-known, restricting their production in the United States would be tragic. In contrast to fossil fuels, solar and wind energy are carbon-free and their share of the nation’s energy will grow in the years ahead, but these renewables contribute only marginally to U.S. energy supplies. Combined, solar and wind, according to the Energy Information Administration, supply only a little more than 3 percent of the energy Americans use today. And EIA estimates that solar and wind power together will provide less than 10 percent of America’s energy in 2050. In contrast, oil and natural gas supply more than two-thirds of the nation’s energy and the EIA forecasts that share will continue through 2050 and beyond.

What’s conveniently ignored by many environmentalists is that natural gas is essential for the growth of solar and wind power, since it’s needed as a back-up fuel on days when the weather is not cooperating. A 1,000-megawatt gas plant releases less than half the amount of carbon dioxide as a coal plant of the same size. As a result of the continuing shift from coal to gas at power plants, U.S. carbon emissions from electricity production are now the lowest in nearly 30 years. Replacing additional coal plants will reduce emissions even more. The reality is that the U.S. is a world leader in the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions due to the increased use of natural gas.

The world needs more oil and gas, not less. Yet environmentalists want to shut down production. Despite the demand for energy, decades-old bans on oil and gas production are still in place in large parts of the American West and offshore. President Trump recently proposed opening up 90 percent of the oil and gas that lies beneath the Outer Continental Shelf, but the leasing of offshore tracts is many years away. Meanwhile, New York State and Maryland have clamped bans on hydraulic fracking for oil and gas, and the regional Delaware Valley Basin Commission is considering a plan to prohibit the use of fracking in the Marcellus shale that underlies part of Pennsylvania.

Today’s energy challenge for the U.S. is to remain competitive in global markets for oil and gas. “Keep-it-in-the-ground” environmentalists who want to halt U.S. production ignore the effects such a radical approach would have on the U.S. economy and environment. Even environmentalists should welcome the transition from coal to natural gas and reconsider their infatuation with renewables and efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground. U.S. energy policy should encourage investment in oil and gas, not because they already meet most of our energy needs but because they’re affordable and reliable and essential for stability in the century ahead. Keeping fossils fuels in the ground is a nonsensical idea that would amount to a self-imposed energy shock that would risk taking us back to the 1970s.

US News

16 Comments on "Keeping Fossil Fuels Underground Makes No Sense"

  1. Ghung on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 3:00 pm 

    Disney World? Really?

    What really happened was that Americans started getting used to the idea that they could go a lot farther on a gallon of gas.

  2. Sarah on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 3:45 pm 

    Anyone who uses the term “shale revolution” in a non-ironic way is clearly too invested in infinite growth on a finite world to be taken seriously. This is the kind of uninspired nonsense that got us into this mess in the first place. As to “leave it in the ground” unfortunately until the cost of extraction is higher than the profit of sale miners with kids to feed will go to work for capitalists burning with greed.

  3. MASTERMIND on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 4:21 pm 

    Contrary to much rhetoric around it, shale is not a recent discovery. Shale has a significant history, and one that clearly demonstrate the material realities on which it rests. Indeed, encouraging shale production was one response to the oil price shocks of the 1970s. Wanting to reduce American dependence on foreign oil, the Carter administration initiated a programme to develop ‘synfuels’ that focused first and foremost on shale.

    This shale project attracted significant investment from oil companies, and production began in the late 1970s in the Green River Formation, which straddles Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and contains the largest shale oil deposits in the world. But when the price of oil crashed in 1982 at a time of relatively high interest rates these projects were rendered unviable. (Hirsch et al. 2005) (Yergin 2012)

    -Thompson, Helen. Oil and the Western Economic Crisis

  4. Kevin Cobley on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 4:39 pm 

    Disney world is a stupid F***in idea, the sooner it closes the better.

  5. Duncan Idaho on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 4:59 pm 

    Disney world is a stupid F***in idea, the sooner it closes the better.

    Never did get the Disney thing–
    Lived in OC for quit while– never visited it.
    In the 60’s, used to take acid and go– but even that got boring .
    For the shallow at heart and experience, I guess.

  6. DerHundistlos on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 5:06 pm 

    The moment I read the source for the article, US News & World Report, I stopped reading. Predictable, planet-destroying garbage.

  7. Makati1 on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 6:38 pm 

    “Keeping Fossil Fuels Underground Makes No Sense”

    Obviously the author is an idiot and/or gets an oily payoff.

    You are correct DerHundistios.

  8. Sissyfuss on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 6:47 pm 

    Clearly US News has not noticed our predicament much like the majority of their readers. Give them time.

  9. JuanP on Wed, 10th Jan 2018 7:12 pm 

    There will be no drilling offshore in Florida. Lucky me! I was swimming on the beach a couple of days ago when I suddenly had a mental image of an oil rig right out there. My heart missed a couple of beats. Luckily, the governor got an exemption from Trump because of the value of tourism to the state’s economy. Read it earlier on RT. Maralago has been saved as has been my view and beach. There is already too much shit going on offshore here.

  10. Ginger on Thu, 11th Jan 2018 7:47 am 

    We ignore climate change at our peril. This is a delayed reaction which tells you the climate chg effects we see today–such 16 extreme weather events instead of the historical average of 5—are the result of PAST emissions. “Climate chg commitment” means we are COMMITTED to going through the effects of today’s emissions–we can only avoid the effects of further emissions. This author ignores the economic costs of climate chg–in the early 1980s, we spent ~$12B per yr on extreme weather in today’s $$. In the first half of this decade, we spent ~$48B per yr. The military referred to climate chg as a “threat multiplier” for terrorism, refugee crises “of unimaginable magnitude,” etc. Miami Beach is having to continual address flooding in their streets. How bad are we willing to tolerate? We should have weaned ourselves from oil in the 70s, but today we must.

  11. Dredd on Thu, 11th Jan 2018 9:24 am 

    Keeping Fossil Fuel [Owners] Underground Makes No Sense

    It has been a long time coming (When Accountability Is A Plague – 5).

  12. deadly on Thu, 11th Jan 2018 2:36 pm 

    It makes no sense to not burn oil until it is all gone. That is what is happening.

    And… It’s gone.

  13. Alice Friedemann on Thu, 11th Jan 2018 6:12 pm 

    Our society is completely and utterly dependent on oil for transportation and manufacturing. Sure, let’s stop drilling and start the dieoff ahead of schedule!

  14. Boat on Thu, 11th Jan 2018 6:42 pm 


    utterly dependant on ……coal, Nat gas, water, land, sun, air. Thank goodness we have brains to adjust to a only the poor die early. Don’t move to Asia or the Middle East……,No vacation to Sferica.

  15. Kenz300 on Sat, 13th Jan 2018 10:52 pm 

    Wind and solar are safer, cleaner and cheaper energy sources than fossil fuels.

    Two-thirds of world’s new energy capacity in 2016 was renewable: IEA

  16. Kenz300 on Sat, 13th Jan 2018 10:54 pm 

    Transportation is moving away from fossil fuels.

    China has mandated electric vehicles and the phase out of ICE vehicles. Other countries are also doing the same.

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