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Jordan Cove Pipeline, Heroin, and Wonderful World
December 19, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Energy is like Heroin; better strategy needed

Thinking about how to preserve the world from near total ecological destruction, which is currently the most likely path it is on. The Mahon or Fall Earth First! Journal has an article that made me think: "Third Time's the Charm: the Fight Against Jordan Cove." Jordan cove is a gas pipeline project in Oregon.

I am against new gas and oil pipelines. I am against global warming. But I see opposition to individual pipelines as akin to the DEA stopping a particular heroin route. As long as there is demand for heroin, cocaine, marijuana or energy, some one will venture to supply it and profit by it.

Many of us in the environmental movement also target demand as well as supply. Much has been done through government agencies like the EPA. There have been some remarkable successes. People mostly have replaced incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents and then LED bulbs. While most people have not abandoned their love of large cars and trucks, at least those cars get better mileage than they did twenty years ago.

Yet global energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions keep going up. In the short run the culprit is people who have used little energy in the past embracing Western lifestyles. In India, African nations, and other developing countries people want what most Americans have had since around 1960: refrigerators, other electrical and electronic appliances, and reliable heating and air conditioning.

There are so many people becoming able to afford these things, and the energy to power them, that each year their demand creation outstrips savings from conservation and installation of renewable energy.

I do not see how we can convert American consumers to saints who do not use air conditioning, do not go shopping, do not take long hot showers when they have the time. Nor do I see why people in India or China or the Congo should be asked to suffer what Americans will not. If anything, I have more sympathy for air conditioner use in Kinshasa than in Cleveland.

The Jordan Cove Pipeline is for exporting natural gas. If people finally getting electricity cannot get natural gas, they will use coal. Coal causes more CO2 emissions and global warming than natural gas. I am still against the pipeline. This just shows how hard it is to prevent a substance from getting to a new addict, or over a billion new energy addicts coming on line around the world in the next decade.

The only winning strategy I see is the Wonderful World of One Billion. If the earth only had one billion people in it, between renewable energy and whatever might fill the gap if there is not enough of that, everyone can have air conditioners. No one needs to be poor.

The Wonderful World of One Billion has the advantage of being a relatively easy sell. No one really wants to be poor. No one really wants the world destroyed by warming. People like the idea of personal wealth and well being. While there are cultures that prize large families, they also prize other things, like better opportunities for the children they do have.

If the populations of India, the Congo, and other nations (including the wealthy nations) start shrinking in an orderly fashion, the need for new power plants, whether natural gas or coal fired, diminishes. Individual nations that are modernizing might see energy demand rise for another decade or so, but that would be compensated for by lower demand in industrialized countries. After one generation of mainly one-child families, most people in developing counties would have higher energy use per person, but overall use would continue to decline as the population declines.

The key is painting a positive picture of the end goal. In three generations the world can be on track to stabilize at around one billion people. Individual families will benefit earlier by being able to put more resources into their single children.

There will be opposition, certainly. Military men, politicians, and real estate sales people and investors generally feel threatened by shrinking populations.

There is a lot to be done, some of which is outlined in Getting to the Wonderful World of One Billion.

Protestors, keep on protesting. Stop that pipeline if you can. Electoral politics people, elect more enrivonmentalist politicians. And sure, keep those solar cell factories humming. But what we really need to succeed is more accessible birth control and government policies that nudge people towards having small families.

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