Fossil Fuel Free Watauga?

This week, Watauga County commissioners adopted a resolution calling for “100% green energy” by 2050, meaning no fossil fuel use at all in 33 years.  And not just for Watauga County, but for the entire United States.

The problems with this are myriad, of course.  First, the commissioners can adopt whatever resolution they like, but they don’t have any power to bring it about.  This doesn’t do anything at all to actually move the country in that direction.

Second, the science behind the notion that we even should eliminate the use of fossil fuels is somewhat dubious.  Is that really what’s even driving climate change?

Third, we’re talking about Watauga County.  I loved the first comment from a reader on the story in High Country Press.

Lets start by baning all wood burning stoves and fire places in the county. Will never happen, they will all lose their seats.

He’s right, of course.  “Fossil fuels” brings to mind diesel trucks and coal mines, but it also includes the firewood I burn in my home.  Do Watauga County commissioners really want to eliminate fireplaces?

When I read the story, I was reminded of a quote from Zaki Yamani, Saudi Oil Minister for more than 30 years (and educated at New York University, Harvard Law, and University of Exeter), who famously said, “The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

He’s right.  Better technologies develop that move us away from existing ones.  That goes for oil, coal, and other fossil fuels, too.  But that kind of change works best and is most enduring when it is organic, developing from people’s changing desires and human innovation, not government dictate.

Which is really what we mean at the Locke Foundation when we talk about things being market-driven, i.e. driven by consumer demand and entrepreneurship rather than government regulation.  That will have far more lasting impact than a resolution by Watauga County Commissioners or any other government.

Julie Tisdale / City and County Policy Analyst

Julie Tisdale is City and County Policy Analyst at the John Locke Foundation. Before coming to the Locke Foundation as the research publications coordinator, she worked at the...

Reader Comments