The history of coal and oil in a few minutes.
Yes, the burning of fossil fuels in the quantities we do presently is wasteful and dirty, we need to conserve them for use as manufacturing feedstock.
If in 30 to 40 years the majority of automobiles on the road are BEV or PHEV and the majority of electricity is produced by hydro, wind, geothermal or solar as appropriate for the area served, I think the main problem will be solved.
We do not need to go for zero carbon emissions, that is silly and destructive to our developed economies. If we can cut emissions by half in 40 years that would be sufficient and doable with realistic progress with our existing technology.
We do not need pie in the sky fusion, inefficient and hyper expensive hydrogen cars or break though stuff, idealistic mandates and treaties are a waste of time money and will simply fail. Just logical progression and deployment of cleaner technologies to gradually replace and phase out most fossil fuel burning. Yes Tesla and SolarCity is a part of that solution.
What's really needed to profitize, decarbonize, & de-terrorize energy this century:
1) A smart transitioning policy based on the right type of compromises on both sides of the issue. Here's an Original Tesluthiasm for you: "Compromise is not a dirty word, in fact the right type compromise is the wisdom of crowds to the power of 10."
2). We need to get energy costs working for us, not against us by synergizing a short term, medium term, & long term energy strategy and policy for here and worldwide. What we have now is half the politicians sabotage the other side in order to win the argument rather than solve the problem. Or they kick the can down the road. Can you imagine if a board of directors ran a company this way ?
OT, just a historical reminder. Coal saved the forests, and oil saved the whales.
@ Brian H:
"OT, just a historical reminder. Coal saved the forests, and oil saved the whales."
Negative. Burning coal nets you more energy than burning raw logs; there is no evidence that environmental concerns played a part in the transition away from wood burning. Coal was hence a more versatile a fuel and also provided ancillary benefits as demonstrated with the creation of steel.
Fossil fuel based oil did not save the whales. The cost of whale oil saved the whales. An alternative was found that cost less. Barely a soul probably considered the environmental impact whale hunting had. Need I also post a link to the happenings in Valdez, Alaska?
It wasn't environmental concerns, but it was luck and economics. There wasn't going to be enough wood to fire the steam revolution, but there was enough coal. And cost always forces search for substitutes, and generally succeeds. But without such substitution, the higher valuation of whale oil would have intensified hunting, to extinction, in rapid order.