The idea of an earthly Eden is one that is as old as recorded history. Privileged individuals over the past 100 years have lived lives that have had an Edenic air about them insomuch as they had want of nothing and were able to surround themselves with beauty and comfort. This simulacrum of Utopia that continues to expand its reach today among the privileged is built upon the foundation of the fossil fuel economy. We decided to bite into the “forbidden fruit” of seemingly inexpensive energy so that ten or twelve generations very lucky people could find some semblance of easy living.

Seemingly inexpensive. But how is it possible for human civilization to place a value on a material good that exists only once, the only use of which is to be combusted, and then is gone forever (leaving behind only a wake of environmental destruction)? If we keep our current pace of consumption, it will be gone forever by the end of the century in which we now live. That a barrel of a substance that will no longer exist 75 years from now can be purchased for the equivalent of a dinner out for two is a testament to the short-sighted nature of human behavior.

Another testament to the short-sighted nature of human behavior is that we have collectively decided to pay a monetary price (for the incessant consumption of this invaluable good) to those who extract it from the earth. In a sense, we are paying certain people large sums of money to act irresponsibly on our behalf with a shared finite resource that should rightfully belong to all people. No human hand went into its production, only into its extraction. So we pay the price to some humans for the extraction and we neglect the inherent value of its production (its real value) which should in any other economic system be the first cost paid by the one who would then sell it on again. The oil companies are in effect middle men dealing in hot goods for which they paid nothing. Royalties for the use of public lands amount to a trifling nod to this imbalance.

When all the reserves have been tapped out in 75 or 100 years will we be remembered as thieves by those who will tell spiteful stories of this false Eden? Or will we set the stage now for a new and permanent Eden that is rebuilt on new foundations of sustainable and clean renewable energy?