Take a barrel of oil. Currently trading at about $51 US a barrel.

But what a delusion we live in with that price.

As Buckminster Fuller quoted in Critical Path, “Scientifically faithful, synergistically integrated, time-energy, electrochemical process accounting shows that it cost energetic Universe more than a million dollars to produce each gallon of petroleum when the amount of energy as heat and pressure used for the length of time necessary to produce that gallon of petroleum is charged for at the New York Con Edison Company’s retail kilowatt-hour rates for that much electricity.” (This is in 1983 dollar rates)

Our economy is broken. One of the reasons is quite simple. We do not do an all in accounting cost of most things.

Extraction costs are only a small part of the equation. We also must factor in how much it costs to create the stuff (millions of years of nature working), transport the stuff, and then get the stuff out of the atmosphere once we have burnt/used the stuff. Every step needs to be accounted for.

If we did this a fossil fuel economy is out of reach of everyone. Always has been. The price will be paid…is being paid…into a very long future. The price will be paid by our children and their children.

How much more creative would we humans be if we did the all cost math on our energy? And all the other things we use and abuse because we don’t consider the all in cost?

At some stage in the near future we will look back at this time in humanity and our gross neglect of the all in cost with such horror as we now look at slavery. (Both the historical and current forms of slavery.)

Business as unusual is bold enough to consider the all in cost….actually bold is the wrong word…smart, caring, thoughtful, future focused. We can no longer delude ourselves that we cannot look at the all in cost. If we thought cost of living is high now…we ain’t seen nothing yet.


Photo credit: Reto Fetz via Compfight

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