Perhaps the most obvious reason the is the huge amount of political clout commanded by the fossil fuel industry. It is in their best interest to keep America using fossil fuels so that they can continue to maximize their profits. Additionally, once a good alternative energy source is developed, these giants are likely to simply buy it and shift their moneymaking power to this new source. This means that large corporations have a lower incentive to invest in renewable energy than one may think.
Another problem with getting off of fossil fuels is that it means we will have to move to existing alternatives, many of which have huge space requirements. Powering Britain on wind energy, for example, would require a wind farm half the size of Britain. Breaking the addiction is possible, but it will require the sort of careful planning that can only come from a concerted effort with support from lawmakers, neither of which exist in force right now.
AJ is correct. There is a lot of political clout held by those in the oil business. Of interesting note is that some of the alternatives, such as ethanol, have been criticized because of the fact that items that could be used for food, such as corn, would instead be used for fuel. The best answer to this seems to be cellulosic ethanol, which may be made from food scraps and other items that would not necessarily take food off the table.
Another issue with completely eliminating fossil fuels, is that the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels is a large part of our current economy. We cannot give it up cold turkey because you would be looking at a significant hit to that job sector.
The idea is that we eventually want to move away from fossil fuels, but the process will be gradual, not immediate. We can still promote and research alternative fuel technologies but we should try to coordinate those efforts with what we already have (in this case, fossil fuels).
I would say that the fact that they are extremely cheap compared to alternatives is way more significant than any political clout. That’s changing in both directions – oil, at least, is becoming more expensive (coal and natural gas really are not), and some renewable energy sources are becoming less expensive.
Cost and price (which are not the same thing) drive economic reactions.
To take a (pessimistic) psychological view, people don’t like paying more or inconveniencing themselves. And right now, even with all the growing non fossil fuel options, they are still more expensive and not as “easy” as going to the gas station. People like technologies that make things easier and faster, not expensive but important in the long run.
I’ve linked an interesting article about people who say they support green energy, but don’t want to look at it or be inconvenienced by it.
I think we should all agree to be a little bit less comfortable for the betterment of the environment. Be a little bit cold in the winter, and a little warm in the summer, walk somewhere even though it takes longer, and etc.
In addition to cost and political motivations, I think another reason is that the infrastructure is for fossil-fuel consumption is, across the globe, firmly entrenched. Fossil fuels have had a very long head start over their environmentally-friendly alternatives, and as such, I think are at a strong disadvantage. For instance, when comparing the number of electric car charging stations with the number of gas stations, even in a more environmentally progressive state like California, the gas stations outnumber the charging stations by huge margins (see link below). I think over time, however, as the cost of alternatives decreases (and the cost of fossil fuels rises), the dominance of the latter will diminish.
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