Earth Day Debate & Debrief: Sustainability and Fossil Fuels- Two Perspectives

​Two energy instrustry veterans square off on fossil fuels and renewable energy


Editor’s note: Mark L Robinson, PhD, Executive Director, Americans for Fossil Fuels and Bill Roth, Economist and Founder of Earth 2017 share insights and perspectives. Mark gets the debate started:

The recent drop in oil and gasoline prices has once again raised the debate between fossil fuels and renewable energies including solar and wind energy, as to which forms are best suited to propel America’s future forward.

Will renewables someday replace conventional forms of energy like oil (and its many derivatives such as gasoline), natural gas, and coal as many have projected?  Or, are there ample supplies of fossil fuels remaining that will continue to provide the engine of economic growth?

The answers to these questions requires some analysis.

When oil and gasoline prices are low, as they have been recently, gasoline-powered cars remain attractive to consumers as many feel they have just been given a tax break. Sales of Ford’s 2015 F-150 truck have recently sky-rocketed due to low fuel prices as well as being more fuel efficient via an aluminum body.

By contrast, desire for, and sales of, electric and/or electric-gasoline hybrids appear to ebb and flow with the price of fuel.

Ever since John D. Rockefeller, Sr. founded the Standard Oil Company back in 1870, fossil fuels have been a major part of the U.S. economy providing huge benefits to society, including billions in tax revenue and making up a large portion of both individual and pension funds’ investment portfolios. And over the last 10 years hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ for both oil and natural gas has resulted in the creation of tens of thousands of good paying jobs with added economic benefits for state and local economies. But perhaps the most important benefit of fossil fuels has been that our human well-being and overall quality of life and standard of living has been getting better and better.

According to a recently issued publication BP Energy Outlook to 2035, fossil fuels are expected to provide the majority of the world’s energy needs, meeting two-thirds of the increase in energy demand out to 2035. However, the mix of fuels will likely shift with unconventional fossil fuels taking a larger share, along with natural gas, which is predicted to the fastest growing fossil fuel as well as being the cleanest, meeting as much of the increase in demand as coal and oil combined. Meanwhile, coal is now predicted to be the slowest growing fuel, as environmental policies around the world become more stringent.

How do these predictions impact the fossil fuel industry?

If we believe the description above, over the course of the next 30 to 50 years, fossil fuels will remain the dominant sources with renewables accounting for the fastest rising form of energy during the same timeframe.


Mark L Robinson, PhD, Executive Director, Americans for Fossil Fuels

Bill Roth, Economist and Founder of Earth 2017 weighs in on his sustainability perspectives 

The price of renewable energy is falling like a rock driven by global manufacturing economies of scale. Deustshe Bank projects the price of solar energy will be at grid price parity in all fifty states by 2016.  The “war on coal” is not a political issue. It is a disruptive technology mega-shift where coal-fired power plants are losing their price competitiveness to lower cost renewable energy solutions.

Read more of Bill’s position

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