Ars Technica publishes wild spin on high gas prices

June 22, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Ars Technica manages to miss an important part of the technical art here. Which isn’t a good thing, given the name of the media outlet.

The first part is its insistence that high gas prices are a good thing. This is what that Green New Deal has in store for us – that we can’t travel, can’t heat our homes, in fact, we must become poorer.

High fossil fuel prices are good for the planet—here’s how to keep it that way

That’s what the vision for us all is, that we shiver in the dark and we are happy.

But even after we absorb that planned future they still manage to get things wrong.

Switching to renewables will only happen if gas prices remain expensive. 

This is not, in fact, true. Nor is this “a very uncomfortable truth—that solving the climate crisis requires fossil fuel prices for consumers to stay high forever. “ This is not, in fact, true in the slightest. 

One part of this is a technical point from the IPCC process itself – you know, the science here. If oil and gas remain expensive then it’s entirely possible that we’ll go back to using coal, which is still nice and cheap. If we do that, well, that’s the very thing those IPCC models tell us really will cook Gaia. So, really, we don’t want to do that. Expensive energy would mean that we would use more coal.

But rather more important than that is the technical art point that’s being missed here. Which is that what matters for the choice between renewables and oil and gas is not the absolute price of either. It’s the relative prices of the two. It is not true that fossil fuels have to be expensive – only that renewables become cheaper than they are. This is something that is happening over time anyway – solar panels have been getting 20% cheaper a year for decades now. To return to that actual science, that IPCC process. It doesn’t assume that oil and gas become expensive – it assumes, if we’re to beat this thing, that renewables become cheap.

Ars Technica is part of the Conde Nast empire and as such has no shortage of resources to enable to them to get things right. It claims at least to specialize in technology and its interaction with the real world. It gains some 14 million visits a month. 

It simply is not true that energy must be expensive in the future. That’s a way to ensure that living standards are lower. It’s not even true that fossil fuels need be expensive – it’s only true that renewables be cheaper. A point that those skilled in the technical arts should be making no doubt.


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