It is now officially autumn. The nights have become darker, and the scenery has taken on a golden hue. Leaves are falling as fast as the outside temperature and people are looking forward to their favourite festivities like Halloween and Christmas. It is a lovely time of year, but the dramatic change of the season brings with it questions surrounding our world. The place we call home is in dire straits and has been for some time. It is not a surprise or a revelation – it is a century old truth that has been ignored for too long. If the world continues damaging the natural environment, then soon it will be too late to save our little piece of paradise.
The first problem facing humanity when it comes to climate change is knowledge. For a long time, the data and evidence went uncollected, unseen, or both. Now, the problem is a more complex one, as people fail to be won over by facts, data, and scientific conclusions. The methodology of “seeing is believing” has also failed in this endeavour, as onlookers attribute natural disasters and extreme weather events to other causes or simply ignore them altogether. The first step in tackling climate change is accepting that we know too little about it. Some people do not want to know, which is not as bad as it may sound. Blocking off information that you do not want to hear or that frightens you is a natural response in all of us. Like any problem though, it will not just go away if we put our fingers in our ears and act as if it does not affect us.
Once the hurdle of understanding climate change has been conquered, which is a mean feat, humanity must next grapple with the task of finding solutions. While the problems facing the world are all too apparent, the mechanisms and processes which must be put in place to halt them are often shrouded in ambiguity. Sure, we have a reliance on fossil fuels which, when burned, damage our atmosphere, but what else can we do? Well, that is a good question, what else can we do? For one, we could start making eco-friendliness more profitable.
It is no great secret that the process of locating, drilling, refining, and selling oil is highly lucrative. After all, there are roughly 1.4 billion cars in the world, most of which run on conventional fuel. There are also over 25,000 commercial aeroplanes, over 93,000 commercial sea vessels, and billions of people who rely on fossil fuels to function. It is an economic goldmine, hence the nickname “Black Gold”. The economic model is as old as the internal combustion engine itself, as the industrial revolution brought forth new technology which vastly increased human productivity and development. Alongside that innovation came wealth, particularly for those in control of oil. The question which must now be asked is: can we change the model to make carbon neutral fuel as profitable as fossil fuels?
The value in oil comes from demand. New inventions like engines brought about a demand for fuel, which at the time equated to a demand for oil. It was the new thing that everyone needed; a seemingly endless resource packed with energy. Those with foresight were able to capitalise on this demand. The most famous example is of course John Davison Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard Oil Company and widely considered the wealthiest American to have lived. Rockefeller was shrewd and had monopolised the US oil market by 1882. Monopolies are perilous for the consumer as without a competitor in sight the price of a monopoly good is uncapped and bound by little but the interaction of producer greed and the depth of consumer pockets. Before the world knew it, oil had become an exceedingly valuable good.
So, given that the value of oil comes from a demand for fuel, not exclusively fossil fuel, it should be possible to make carbon neutral solutions profitable too. Oil and coal will not last forever and even if they did, it would be unwise to continue damaging our natural environment by relying upon them. Seemingly, all the components of a lucrative and innovative eco-friendly fuel market are in place, and yet there is little being done to spur on initiatives which could yield “Green Gold”.
The reason for this latency when it comes to green fuel is a simple one to discover. It is always about money. Despite the future potential of carbon neutral fuel to be exceedingly profitable for producers and innovators alike, the financial incentives of oil continue to overshadow it. As oil becomes a scarcer and scarcer resource it also becomes more expensive. Unless the fuel market readjusts its priorities to incorporate the future, there will come a day when the last barrel of oil is the most expensive commodity on an Earth that has already succumbed to the effects of climate change. As long as the process of selling oil yields profit, it will continue.
Make no mistake, the reason that the world is burning is greed. The only way profiteers will help us put out the fire burning our world is if they can sell us a bottle of water.
Written by Isaac Knowles
Isaac Knowles is a columnist at DecipherGrey.