Vital Nature: Coal or oil?

Coal or oil? Pick your poison. The U.S.’s dash for gas has inadvertently spurred a boom of coal consumption globally. I’m sure you’ve heard of hydraulic fracking, a process that is imposed upon the earth by a means of drilling and injecting fluid at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release otherwise trapped natural gas. It is currently the U.S.’s go-to source for natural fuel, and its spill into more than just local farms. The natural gas resources now proving to be readily available in the U.S. are driving coal prices far down in other parts of the world, notable Europe. According to Lord Smith, head of the Environmental Agency, 40 percent of the UK’s overall energy consumption is generated by burning coal.

That simply will not do. Well, actually it will. But what it does do is pollute. Smith states that Britain should cut back its use of coal “if we care about what we’re breathing.” Most of us know what coal is composed of carbon, and when combusted, produces carbon dioxide, which depletes the ozone layer which is responsible for protecting us for damaging UV-B rays and other high-energy rays. But what not everyone knows is that coal is not simply carbon. Another component of naturally occurring coal is sulfur, which when burnt forms sulfur oxide, which is a primary cause of acid rain.

But the problem here is not entirely coal, and not entirely fracking. It’s the reliance we have for those means of energy, transportation and quite frankly, livelihood. With such an exponentially rising problem in front of us, our entire planet is at stake. And after such a loaded statement, one might expect a loaded solution.

Ironically, without a tax, it seems as though the implementation of an alternative energy source as a replacement would only further catalyze the world’s consumption of coal. A tax would increase revenue that can (this is theoretical, I am not the government and cannot decide where tax dollars are donated) potentially fund renewable energy sources, experimentation and production.

Similar to the monoculture of food crops (in 2011, more than 32 percent of the world’s corn was produced by the U.S., 88 percent of U.S.-grown corn is genetically engineered), major fuel sources have been sold and weaseled into our lives as vital and necessary components. Alternative, renewable resources are viable options, but in general lack research and implementation funding. Perhaps a tax on non-renewable energy would end up doing the trick, but what would happen to the average person in the mean time?

Perhaps it’s time to sit back and sniff the roses. We live in a high-tech fast-paced world, and often feel we don’t even have time to bike to work or school. Or, perhaps it’s time to conduct research and compose solutions. All the while that is spent traveling here to there for mundane things is time that could be spent envisioning the future. I’m not suggesting we all drop everything and devote hours a day to these things, but leaving space in your day to think is something that everyone needs.