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Oil Exploration, the Amazon Rain Forest, and the Migration to Renewable Energy

Those of us who had hoped for deals that would leave some of the Earth’s fossil fuels safely in the planet’s crust are a little less confident in the success of such arrangements today than we were last week, before this story broke. Apparently, Ecuador has pulled the plug on a deal it had made to refrain from oil exploration in the Amazon rain forest in exchange for cash that was to have come from developed countries all over the world. The cash didn’t materialize, the deal is off, and the demise of the rain forest is in full swing.

That’s a disappointment. It looks increasingly as though the world’s pursuit of fossil energy will continue until it is no longer economically viable, i.e., until the price of alternatives, e.g., renewable energy and synthetic fuels, fall below the price of coal, oil, and natural gas. It appears unlikely that we’ll factor in the costs of the long-term environmental damage and the harm of our health, and we’ll go on exploiting fossil resources until the costs of extracting, transporting, refining, and distributing them (ignoring the cost of cleaning up after them) goes above the levelized cost of energy from clean sources of energy.

The good news is that we’ll eventually get there. The bad news is that we have no idea how much damage we will have done in the process.