AAPG Southwest Section

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Why we Shouldn't “Keep it in the Ground”

Abstract

The passionate, well-funded voices proclaiming that oil, natural gas, and coal should be “kept in the ground” do so, they say, for the welfare of the global climate and to protect the impoverished. A bit of digging, however, exposes those leading the anti–fossil fuel claims as a few activists with deeply-held anti-industrial, anti-capitalist, anti-growth beliefs. These impassioned people have had an impact that belies their actual number: they have persuaded certain university students, and by extension their academic administrators, to divest of fossil-energy company stocks; influenced some state regulators and policy makers to over-accelerate to renewable energies; polarized the public, largely along political lines; and, of course, sold a lot of books.

An objective look at the energy–environment–economy space reveals something quite different from what the ardent activists portray: Access to secure energy—available, affordable, reliable, and sustainable—underpins economies, lifts undeveloped and underdeveloped nations from poverty, and allows for investment in the environment, including the climate. Lack of access to secure energy does the opposite, allowing corrupt governments to flourish and impeding peace.