Acton Institute Powerblog

Still not Beyond Petroleum

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Plain and simple economics — not the alleged machinations of Big Oil or Congress’s unwillingness to put a price on carbon – explains why America remains dependent on petroleum.

We are still not beyond petroleum. In fact, we’re quite a ways away.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Neal Lang

    “Plain and simple economics” is the reason why today we do not ponder upon the “machinations” of “Big Whaling” or “Big Coal.” The coal driven steam engine are no longer useed in automobiles, and light is no longer provided by burning whale oil.

  • Roger McKinney

    Neal, I agree with you main point, but I wonder if we should be using steam powered cars. Watching the History channel I saw Jay Leno’s collection of steam engines and two steam powered cars. They were amazing even today and they were built in 1906. The boiler and engine were tiny compared to today’s engines and transmissions, yet the Stanley Steamer needed no transmission. That’s how powerful steam is! And he got it up to 70 mph! Several engineers have told me that steam is the most efficient method for transforming heat energy into mechanical energy. We might could increase our mpg a lot by using steam instead of the internal combustion engine, or maybe a combination in which the internal combustion engine heat the water to produce steam for a connected steam engine.