Before we were addicted to oil, we were addicted to coal. This fuel was used to heat homes, to drive locomotives and steamships, to power steam engines in factories, and for many other things in addition to its present-day uses in power generation and iron/steel production. While coal has many positive qualities as a fuel, the age of coal had its drawbacks. Coal mining was dangerous and often injurious to health. Stoking of furnaces involved backbreaking labor…although automatic stokers were developed for locomotives and power plants, the firing of steamship boilers still required the round-the-clock effort of large numbers of human beings.Our ancestors didn't have to buy gym memberships, because they sold their muscle power to dig coal or shovel it out of gondola cars or stoke it into furnaces. There is something jarring about people spending money on lawn tractors at the same time they're buying gym memberships and driving there in passenger trucks, but on balance they are healthier. Go read the rest of the article.
THE ESSENCE OF TRADEOFF. Spotted near campus: a Greenpeace "Spill Baby Spill" bumper sticker, and not on a hybrid or electric car either. For some perspective on the usefulness of primary energy, including oil, read and understand David Foster at Chicago Boyz.