Why Governments like Fossil Fuels

There has been much discussion over the past fifty years about reducing the world dependence on fossil fuels, primarily oil and gas. Lots of reasons have been advanced as to why this is desirable, ranging from US balance of payments problems to global warming. In spite of this almost nothing has been done. In fact the rise of the Asian economies is driving the demand for oil to record levels.

Common sense would indicate that a serious effort to create new sources of energy would have worldwide positive effects. For example, the harnessing of Hydrogen or Helium fusion would provide limitless clean energy. So a large scale research program would pay dividends many times over. The funding for this, however, remains at an insignificant level.

Why is this?
Many of the oil producing countries in the world have little else to offer. They are poor in other natural resources and oil provides the only significant source of revenue. The obvious candidates are in the middle east and Africa. However, even the US government gets revenue from oil leases and fuel taxes.
The oil service companies are based in the developed countries and provide support to the third world oil producers thus creating a revenue stream for their parent countries. Clean, cheap energy would be locally produced and would alter the balance. Third world countries, having little to sell would become of little interest to the developed world and, being poor, would provide little in the way of markets for our products and services. Just look at how much attention is paid to those poor areas now.

So developed countries lose markets and oil producing countries lose revenue. Thus they all have a vested interest in the status quo. The environment and the consumers of energy have no pressure groups and thus don't influence policy.

Can we continue like this? Just remember the Aberfan Effect when the climate changes.

Moral:  follow the money.
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Copyright © 2004 Robert D Feinman
Feel free to use the ideas, but the words are mine.