Black Energy


[Lightly edited from 2009 blog]

The fight is on between traditional fossil fuel energy sources and alternative ones. Leaving aside the question of whether we should continue using huge amounts of energy to begin with (to which I would answer no), the issue is framed as being all about which of the two types of energy is best in the near term and long term.

However, in this debate we are a bit hamstrung linguistically. Cleaner energy technologies such as wind and solar have the easy overarching term “green.” But what is the short name for the fossil fuel energies of coal, oil, and natural gas? Well, if one is called “green energy,” the other ought to be called “black energy.” Color terms are nice and simple, and – after all – oil and coal are black if you look at them or unfortunately get them on you. Additionally, the color black has the negative connotations that pro-Earth people want in their debates with energy traditionalists, as much as the color green now has positive connotations. So I think it’s a fitting term, and I propose we use it.

“Black energy” is a common enough word in Australia, but hasn’t really hit the United States yet, and it’s high time it did. How quaint: black versus green. May these one-syllable terms simplify the debate.