Energy, Ecology, Economy

Energy, Ecology, Economy

Energy, Ecology, Economy

Energy, Ecology, Economy

Excerpt

America's frontier culture set a pattern for reckless resource exploitation, often heedless of conservation needs or adverse environmental effects. This study of the environmental impact of energy use in the United States seeks to identify and estimate the major external costs of producing, transporting, and converting fuel. Current and projected consumption patterns for coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, and electric power dramatize the need for a national energy policy. Such a policy should be embedded in a sound, coherent framework of relevant environmental concepts.

No such conceptual framework now exists. Nor does this book pretend altogether to supply the gap. But it does represent, I hope, a useful start.

It is to be emphasized and re-emphasized that my efforts have been mainly conceptual and theoretical, not empirical or statistical. The state of quantitative data in the energy-environment field is woeful at best. Nor do the rough-and-ready statistical exercises in the following pages appreciably advance our knowledge on the empirical side. Thus the comparative cost estimates of adverse environmental impacts from fuel use are illustrative only. They are not definitive. The numbers are incomplete. They support the conclusion reached by most scholars working in this area to date—that true cost estimation in such fields as air pollution is an uncertain enterprise at best, and perhaps should be abandoned until supported by an amply funded national effort.

Yet, even after allowing heroic discounts for statistical inadequacies, research suggests that the adverse environmental effects of growing levels of energy use cost society tens of billions of dollars yearly. This figure may be understated, since these effects cannot be fully appraised in dollar terms. Hence energy policy‐ . . .

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