Frying Pan or Fire?

With oil hitting $100 a barrel, I think it's increasingly clear that totally irrespective of global warming the quest for alternatives to to the gasoline economy is going to be on in a big way. Absent some economic calamity in the developing world, demand -- and thus, prices -- seem destined to keep trending basically upwards. But while gasoline is hardly environmentally friendly, burning it's not the worst thing one can do for the planet either. The question is, will the replacement be a step forward or backwards? Andrew Dessler observes that "a shortage of oil or price spike is going to put a lot of pressure on politicians to take to relieve the pressure through policies that have disastrous consequences for the climate -- like liquefying coal."

I'm relatively optimistic, but it's a reminder that the rhetoric of "independence from foreign oil," though politically useful in some respects, in many ways fails to educate people on the crucial green issues at stake. Coal, unlike oil, is abundant right here in the USA. It's just toxic.

Photo by Flickr user dmuth used under a Creative Commons license

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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