Sunday, November 28, 2004

Is Sustainability Important?

Many environmentalists talk about the importance of sustainability. There is an intuitive appeal to the idea of balancing the needs of today with the needs of future generations. We certainly do not want to compromise our children's future.

What rate of oil consumption, for example, is sustainable? People talk about the need to improve fuel efficiency, because oil is a finite resource. But any rate will eventually deplete a finite resource, so no rate is sustainable.

That's okay, though. As a former Saudi oil minister said, "The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil." We do not need to sustain any level of oil consumption indefinitely; we will move on to something else. Some scientists are eyeing the moon's supply of helium-3, potentially a much greater power source than fossil fuels.

This is not to say than any level of consumption is as good as any other; the oil has to last us until we can move to helium-3 or whatever else. Only continued technological progress can sustain us indefinitely. We should be careful not to block it in the name of sustainability.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I can see what you mean about deterents to finding alternate sources. It really kind of makes me mad that oil moguls are so flippant about resources but aren't and won't look to alternatives while they have a bird in the hand. I know that considering other sources while you have a money-maker in place already runs contrary to quick profit but how close to the edge do we have to get before we start to save ourselves?

Also, helium 3 just sounds kind of cool.


3:18 AM  

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