Imagine all the places the combustion engine is used to make your life run the way it is. You (most likely) use combustion engines to go to the store, go on vacation, and mow your lawn. You use one to run a generator when the power goes out, to charge the battery on your boat, and to fire up the nail gun when you replace the roof on your house. The guy who brings gravel for your driveway used a combustion engine to dig the gravel out of the earth, turn it into gravel, and lay it on your driveway. Construction companies use combustion engines to dig earth, lay concrete (also made with combustion engines), and build houses and schools and office buildings and stores. The City you live in uses combustion engines to run school buses and pave the roads and pump sewage and pump water. All the tools you use are made out of minerals mined from the earth using massive machines running on, you guessed it, combustion engines. The plastic in your toothbrush and your umbrella and your food containers was made from oil extracted from the ground using combustion engines. The rare earths in your computer and iPod and iPhone were all mined and processed using combustion engines.
Of course, there are a few electric things here and there scattered about your life, but for the most part, it’s combustion engines. And for those electric gadgets (also made with plastic and steel, materials extracted and mined using combustion engines), those are powered with 33% coal energy, coal mined from the earth using combustion engines. The solar panels on top of your roof (and Google’s) are also made using materials mined using combustion engines.
In other words, without combustion engines, life as we know it stops.
And so, with that in mind, read the following sentence describing the goal of the International Panel on Climate Change, meeting this month in Geneva, Switzerland:
“Dates for abandoning all coal-burning power stations and halting the use of combustion engines across the globe – possibly within 15 years – are likely to be set.”
As the chair of these talks, Stanford University’s Professor Chris Field, said, succinctly:
“We should be under no illusions about the task we face.”
The bone truck in the image accompanying this post is the creation of Indian artist Jitish Kallat, whose work was exhibited in the GEM Museum of Contemporary Art in The Hague, the Netherlands. Made with resin, they represent the skeletal remains of the cars and trucks that will soon be obsolete in our lives.