Sunday, January 27, 2008

The True Cost of [insert energy source here]

In class, we briefly discussed the difficulty in calculating the external cost of using petroleum as an energy source. As Dr. Webber said, it's impossible, for example, to seperate the defense related costs associated with securing Middle East oil from the defense costs associated with antiterrorism, protecting our allies in the region, etc.

In fact, the Middle East would not be much more than sparecely populated desert if not for the oil resource there, and neither the U.S. nor the European powers before us would have gotten involved there over a century ago. And, as controversial a statment as it may be, the fact remains that the rise of organized terrorism is a direct result of decades of our millitary and economic intervention in the region, from propping up corrupt and brutal dictatorial regimes in Saudia Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and elsewhere, to funding and training anti-soviet militias like the Taliban, to overthrowing the first democratically elected regime in the Middle East - that of Iran's Mossadeq - in 1952, and on, and on...

The point can thus reasonably be made that a portion of all of our security spending, from airport security to spying to all millitary spending, can be attributed to our consumption of Middle East oil, not just now, but for the last century. And, while it might seem like I'm stating the obvious, it amazes me how we go from not being able to calculate exaclty what that external cost is to talking about the market price of oil as if it is meaningful. As long as we continue to compare the price of oil with that of alternative fuels, or calculate the savings of a hybrid car based on the price paid at the pump, or any of the innumerable ways in which we calculate and compare fuel costs using obviously incorrect numbers - simply because we're not sure if the true cost is 2x or 10x the market price - we're continuing to prop-up a destructive, wasteful, and cost-ineffective energy paradigm that will continue to haunt our generation and those to come for decades.

Bon Apetite...

No comments: