Your argument falls apart when you consider that, while we needed HC fuels to reach this point in our technological development, there’s no reason that we must continue to rely on HC fuels, when there are alternatives available.
There are currently more 140 nuclear-powered ships in the water, which demonstrates proof of concept. The Russians have one cargo ship and a nuclear icebreaker, which has been in service since 1988. (Three more are reportedly under construction.)
There are numerous proven energy storage systems that will become economically feasible when the demand for non-fossil fuel transportation reaches critical mass.
“ Few grasp that it is not the journey that produces wages, it’s what we do at either end of the journey that produces wages.”
There are 3.5 million truck drivers and more than 200,000 cab drivers in the United States alone who would argue with you that it is indeed the journey that produces their wages, not what we do at either end of the journey. That statement might be valid for the employer, but not for the employee, in the sense that an employer earns income from converting raw materials into finished products…but the transportation of the raw materials and the finished products is separate from the manufacturing process.
“We produce wages by converting one form of energy into another, for which we get paid in energy tokens.”
Who is the “WE” of whom you speak? Employees do not produce wages. They earn wages. Employers produce the revenue to pay wages by converting raw materials into finished products but, except in the sense that all matter is actually energy in suspension, wages are not produced by converting one form of energy into another. Workers earn wages by converting time into energy. Unless they are working in a piecework sweatshop, workers are paid for their time, not for the amount of energy they expend in the performance of their functions.
The game you suggested, examining our environment to determine what could be produced without fossil fuels is fallacious. I never suggested that we cannot or should not use hydrocarbons as a raw material for the manufacturing process. The Shah of Iran believed that it was sheer insanity to use oil as a fuel when it was so much more valuable as a raw material.
While many of the products in our environment cannot be manufactured without oil, oil isn’t necessary for the transportation of either the raw materials or the finished products. It is simply cheaper and more convenient.
Everything in the material world around us was produced to one extent or the other by the conversion of HC fuels into mechanical energy. However, except as an ingredient in the composition of the material objects created, there are few manufacturing operations that actually require HC fuels.
You cannot make steel without coke but the coke itself can be manufactured using electrically fired coking ovens, so that you need coal or petroleum as a raw ingredient but you don’t need it as a heat source for the smelting process.
On the other hand, you cannot make aluminum with fossil fuels. Aluminum production requires very large amounts of very cheap electrical energy, which is why aluminum smelters are always co-located with hydroelectric generators because without that cheap energy aluminum would be prohibitively expensive.