In popular perception, fossil fuels are cast as nemeses of the environment. This sets up a false choice that traps too many of us, even in an industry well situated to know better and to say so. For us, this too often means accepting an adversarial role. We could instead take the high road.

In the real world, energy alternatives do not represent a dualistic either/or choice, but mixes of kinds of energy, used in particular times and places and under particular economic and technologic conditions. Lift the shroud of misconception and the real choices can be seen.

Renewability is often construed as an environmental benefit in and of itself, as well as an absolute characteristic of the commonly discussed "energy alternatives." This is not true. Similarly, talk of a "closed carbon cycle" for biomass fuels is critically flawed in the way it defines boundary conditions. If we further expose the flawed assumptions underlying the extrapolation of trends which overestimate the near term potential of popular energy alternatives, we can engage issues of energy for the future constructively.

Industry members gain nothing by denying the fundamental importance of the environment or the costs attributable to energy consumption. We gain something important by shifting the public debate away from false choices and to the real ones. In many lower income countries, for example, fossil fuel development can provide an environmental benefit, and the environmental costs of not using fossil fuels can be seen with particular clarity.

As we see and formulate the issues more clearly, we in the energy-producing industry can take a proactive stance in the evolution of energy mixes optimized for the context of time, space, environment, and economy.

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