You can’t get there from here … if you keep it in the ground

Brazil is huge. And Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Olympic Games, is located on the southeast coast of this enormous country. So unless the 10,500 athletes and 500,000 Olympic tourists who have flocked to Rio had trudged through the jungle or hopped a steamer to get there, the chances are very good that they booked a commercial flight.

Now, it’s possible that the most ardent “keep it in the ground” activists who planned to attend the Olympic Games considered solar-powered flight to get there, lest they be thought to be hypocritical. But considering it took a year for the solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse 2, to fly a single human around the globe, we imagine that option quickly proved to be a non-starter.

This is not to diminish the astounding achievement of flying a solar-powered plane around the world. That is a testament to humankind’s ingenuity and determination. But the practical limitations of this achievement expose the fatal flaw in the “keep it in the ground’s” logic. The fact is international travel—or virtually every aspect of modern life as we know it—would cease to exist without oil and natural gas and the products that are made from it.