Dispatches from Future America: World Reaches Zero-Fossil-Fuel Milestone

[Editor's Note: It's happening again.


I hadn't gotten any of these messages since last year, and I was starting to hope that the wormhole, or whatever strange conduit it was, had closed for good. But once again, in my inbox this morning, there it was: the same anonymous remailer, the same untraceable IP address, and yet another message presenting itself as a news dispatch from a possible future version of our world. Is it truly what it claims to be, and if so, how did it end up in this era? I leave the decision to you.]

JEDDAH, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF ARABIA (September 30, 2040) — Energy-industry executives, celebrities and dignitaries from around the world, including American President Linda Sanchez, were on hand today as Arabian Prime Minister Faisal al-Sharif threw the ceremonial switch that shut off the flow of oil from the last drilling rig in the world. With this milestone, planetary fossil-fuel production has achieved the long-sought milestone of zero barrels per year.

"Today marks an achievement that will be remembered as surpassing the first domestication of fire," said Prime Minister Al-Sharif, with a new field of solar panels glittering golden in the desert sun behind him as he spoke. "Since the dawn of our species, human beings have relied on wasteful, polluting combustion to cook their food, warm their homes, and power their machines. Now, for the first time ever, our world is cut free from those bonds, and we use only clean, renewable energy to serve our every need."

"This is a triumph for all human beings everywhere, not just Americans," added the U.S. president in her prepared remarks. "Whether it be the free citizens of the democratic Middle East, the brilliant engineers operating our West Coast seawater-fusion reactors, or the brave explorers in our Orion I ship now en route to Jupiter, every person alive can bask in the glory of this accomplishment - for, indeed, it could never have come to fruition without the combined efforts of billions of people."

Media analysts were on hand to put the day into context. "We can trace the roots of this day back to the 2012 American presidential election," said CNN analyst Athena Jones. "Although Barack Obama turned out to be a cautious centrist, rather than the transformative figure millions had hoped for, the enthusiasm inspired by his landslide reelection turned out, in retrospect, to be the seed that blossomed into the progressive revolution of the 2020s. At the same time, the resurgent European Union was rediscovering its voice in global affairs after emerging from the crisis of the previous decade, basking in the vigorous economic recovery that followed the removal of self-destructive austerity measures."

"These two world powers were the driving force behind the ratification of a worldwide treaty to completely phase out fossil fuels within thirty years. Although there were challenges all along the way, the goal of cutting loose from the fossil-fuel yoke unleashed vast creativity and ingenuity that helped make this once-unimaginable dream a reality, several years ahead of schedule."

Despite the day's celebratory atmosphere, the President struck a sober note in her speech, reminding a global audience of the challenges that lie ahead. "Even the most efficient carbon-sequestration technologies currently in operation will take decades, possibly centuries, to clean up all the damage of pre-ZFFM industry and restore the Earth's climate to what it was before human interference began. We can never restore all the species that went extinct. But take comfort in the knowledge that our children will one day walk again on mighty glaciers, will see the Amazon rainforest and the monsoon rains return."

Although no protesters were present, a statement was later sent to the media by a group calling itself the First Reformed Church of Koch. The statement asserted that "God gave us the coal and the oil and it would be a sin not to burn them" and called climate change "a liberal hoax".

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