Here’s one elementary aspect of climate change that shows how some imagined “solutions” are dead wrong. Running a diesel engine for an hour puts approximately the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, whether the fuel is made from oil or from plants. Running a gasoline engine for an hour puts about the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, no matter whether the fuel is 0% alcohol, 10% alcohol, or 85% alcohol. It’s the same story for airplane engines and ships and any other internal combustion engines.

Making transportation fuels from plant material puts – **MORE** – carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than making them from oil. (Making those fuels from tar sands or shale also puts – **MORE** – carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.) If we want to lessen the degree to which our economy creates global warming, then increasing our use of biofuels or “unconventional oil” for transportation is not going to help. Instead, we have to cut the rate at which transportation puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Better efficiency helps, but not much. Commercial transportation is already pushing practical limits to efficiency.

To see significant improvement, we have to move in the direction of using less energy, year over year, for the foreseeable future. We have to see real, ongoing and permanent reduction in passenger-miles and in freight miles. We have to see a great slowdown in the high-energy global economy, and we have to develop multiple low-energy local economies.

The industrial economy grew for centuries by substituting machine power for labor power, using ever more energy. Now we are running short of some sources of energy (peak oil) and we see the ongoing environmental degradation that comes with practically all sources of industrial energy.

Now we need to replace machine power with labor power; not by recreating a medieval society with peasants and lords, but by creating an intelligent and democratic society that shares the necessary work and eliminates waste – including the waste of planetary wars.

The good news is, this means jobs for everyone. The bad news is, this means everyone can expect to work, in a more physical sense than processing information on a computer. Or perhaps this is also good news, given that long hours of sitting is unhealthy, however appealing it may be to the lazy side of our personalities.

Art Myatt

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