Top Ten Energy Myths

by Richard T. Stuebi

I get a kick out of trite little lists that I can quickly report on and provoke some thinking and conversation.

And so it is that I recently came across the “Top Ten Energy Myths”, as suggested by Thomas Tanton, a fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

As listed in the table of contents, the ten myths are:

  1. Most of our energy comes from oil.
  2. Most of our oil comes from the Middle East.
  3. We have no choice but to import vast quantities of oil.
  4. Offshore oil production imposes environmental risks.
  5. Reducing our peroleum (sic) use through alternative energies like solar and wind will increase U.S. energy security
  6. Energy companies will not invest in clean reliable energy.
  7. Renewable energies will soon replace most conventional energy sources.
  8. The U.S. consumes large amounts of energy and thus emits a disproportionate amount of the world’s greenhouse gases.
  9. Federal mandates for higher-mileage cars means less energy consumption
  10. Forcing drivers to use alternative fuels will help solve global warming.

As Tanton notes in the introduction, Mark Twain is attributed to have said that “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.”

And so it is: some facts are myths. But, then again, some facts are factual too, and some claimed facts are myths. For instance, at the conclusion of a brief commentary on these top ten myths in the February issue of Power, Tanton presents as “fact” that “increased oil production can have green results”, with the supporting claim that “new drilling technology, developed by private energy companies, has greatly reduced the risk of oil spills.”

Uhhhh…..

I guess the moral of the story here is that readers have to be pretty discerning when considering the writings of thought-shapers, to not accept commentary as absolute, definitive and permanently correct, but rather to look between the lines in identifying biases and competencies that underlie their arguments. And, if a writer is neither competent to discuss the topic, nor unconflicted in discussing the topic, readers are well-advised to not put a lot of trust in the writer’s opinions.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

5 replies
  1. Richard
    Richard says:

    You were dead wrong on myth #4. It was only a matter of time before the system for controlling and regulating drilling and safety bore the disaster we're in now in the Gulf. The environmental disaster, the economic hardship is unprecedented. We're in a terrible predicament…..and the toxic oil and disbursement chemicals continues to gush into the Gulf to God only knows where and when it will stop and furthermore to what far reaching consequences.

  2. Richard T. Stuebi
    Richard T. Stuebi says:

    @Richard: You obviously didn't read my blog post very carefully. The ten myths were not written by me, but rather by Thomas Tanton. And, in fact, I criticize Tanton for his so-called myth #4 at the end of my piece.

  3. Andrea Hemsted
    Andrea Hemsted says:

    @Richard T. Stuebi, Sorry, but I think you should have made a strong introduction saying that you criticize Tanton. Me too, I did not get where you personally stand when reading it until the end of the article. I simply read it because it was so completly ludicrous to list facts or rational causalities as myths.

  4. Tom Stacy
    Tom Stacy says:

    Steuebi reminds me of an arrogant movie critic because he does not feel compelled to offer any evidence to support his dislike for Mr. Tanton or his views. Steubi begins by telling us that his disconnected post is a story and that it has a moral.He then goes on to claim that Mr. Tanton is stating absolutes, and has some unnamed bias driven by an implied perverse competency. The odd term "thought shapers" is apparently meant to be disparaging, as if the hundreds of millions of dollars – mostly derived from taxpayers themselves, spent on marketing and lobbying to make it appear wind energy is clean and meaningful for America would fall under a different label.He then calls Mr. Tanton incompetent to discuss big picture energy matters, and as having a conflict of interest. Clearly Stuebi is stewing in his desire for Mr. Tanton to be incompetent, perversely biased and just plain wrong, but he offers nothing concrete to support his wishful wailing.I wonder, Mr. Steubi, if you might share with us some of the juice that makes your grapes so sour, so that we, too, can understand the basis of your claims.

  5. Richard T. Stuebi
    Richard T. Stuebi says:

    @Andrea: I'd to highlight two passages of my post. First, the introduction: "I get a kick out of trite little lists that I can quickly report on and provoke some thinking and conversation. And so it is that I recently came across the 'Top Ten Energy Myths', as suggested by Thomas Tanton."Second, "readers have to be pretty discerning when considering the writings of thought-shapers, to not accept commentary as absolute, definitive and permanently correct, but rather to look between the lines in identifying biases and competencies that underlie their arguments." One of the lessons of the Internet, for me, is that there's so much stuff out there that one must (1) read it quite carefully, and (2) consider who's writing it.

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