Would renewables still be a good idea if fossil fuels didn’t have negative environmental consequences?

Given the push toward renewable energy that is happening these days, it’s natural for folks to start to demonize fossil fuels like coal, gas, etc.  I think this is a shame.  Cheap energy is a really great thing — and fossil fuels are really good at providing this. I’ve posted before about how important energy usage is for the health and advancement of humankind.  So, we have to be careful that a push toward renewable energy sources does not come at the expense of the health and welfare of the population — where cheap fossil fuels can save lives, we should use them without guilt!  It’s disappointing when folks like Bill Gates take flack for decisions like this

But, at the same time, there are also clear reasons to prefer renewable energy to fossil fuels in the long run.  Typically, people jump to environmental concerns as the hammer to motivate this.  Environmental issues are certainly one strong motivating factor, but for this post, I want to try to make the argument a different way.

In particular, even if we completely ignore all the points about pollution and environmental side-effects (which, of course, we shouldn’t do as a society), I think the value of energy usage for society makes a clear argument for investing in the development of renewables and, eventually, converting as much as possible to renewable energy.

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