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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.