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War On Climate Change Over—And It Won

Friday, 19 Dec 2008 | 5:05 PM ET

Kiss the future goodbye! This week's 33% decline the price of oil is great news for minivan driving soccer moms and suburbanites of all races, colors and creeds. But it's terrible news for the fight against global warming. In fact, with crude at $33.87 a barrel, I think it's safe to say the war against climate change is over. Climate change won.

Environmental activists talk a good game, but the truth is, the only reason "green" anything became viable over the last couple of years was the high price of oil. We didn't all of a sudden become more altruistic and decide to save the world. Al Gore may have won an Oscar and an Nobel, but the real reason alternative energy gained steam was that old-fashioned energy got too expensive.

Cheap oil means that green energy projects, solar, wind, you name it, can't compete economically against fossil fuels. And while we may be burning less oil for now--crude is cheap due to weak demand--it's low price means we won't invest as much in the cleaner, greener alternatives we need to help stop global warming.

For a while there, it really looked like high oil prices would solve the problem of climate change. People were driving less and buying cars with better gas mileage, companies were investing in alternatives. Now the real incentive for all that environmentally friendly behavior is gone.

Maybe Barack Obama will throw a lot of money at green energy projects, maybe he'll subsidize the heck out of them. But he's going to need to spend a whole lot more on those projects than he would have if oil were still at even $50 a barrel.

I believe global warming is a serious problem. I don't know how bad it could make things, but the cheaper oil gets, the more I believe the most alarmist predictions about what could happen to our planet. And if anyone saw the movie Waterworld, that future is both horrendous and incredibly boring.

We need more than just investment in green infrastructure. We need a tax on gasoline, or better yet, a wholesale carbon tax, so that oil becomes expensive again. Only this time the excess profits will go to the government, the people, not the oil companies. That's the only way to deal with climate change, unless of course the economy recovers and the price of oil comes roaring back. But I just don't see that happening anytime soon. Do you?

    • Low Oil Prices Jeopardize Future Supply: Saudi Arabia

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