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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Archive for January, 2011

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (which started here) through the next few months whose purpose is to provide tangible examples of what our future might be like in a world where we will no longer have available to us the quality and quantity of fossil fuel energy sources as we have long been accustomed to possessing and using. Some examples will describe significant impacts beyond the most obvious one: less but more expensive gas to power our vehicles.

Other posts will describe routine aspects of daily living that will likely change when producers of goods and services no longer have inexpensive and adequate supplies of the fossil fuel resources they need. I’m certain that the questions I raise will in turn raise other concerns as well. It is only by acknowledging the consequences affecting each of us that we can begin an intelligent national process of planning and implementing new methods of providing the goods and services we’ll need or desire.]

~~~

My parents live approximately one hundred miles from me. A drive to their home is at most only ninety minutes, given that each of us lives fairly close to highways that quickly take us to opposite ends of the cross-state Massachusetts Turnpike.

If I didn’t own or have access to a car and had to rely on public transportation, I could—thankfully—still get from door to door.

Of course, getting there might be just a bit more costly (but only a bit) than if I toss in 10 or 12 gallons of gas into my SUV and pay the $7.00 or so in tolls. MBTA bus, MBTA subway, and Amtrak rail or Peter Pan bus fares will run about the same as near as I can figure, so that’s a wash. The big drawback is the time factor for that round trip.

First up is a pleasant and easy walk down the 1000 foot-plus hill that is our street. Getting up is a whole ‘nother story, however. My house is at the top of that very steep hill, and it’s not a casual stroll for a 15-year-old, let alone someone like me who is … older than that. But that’s a relatively minor trifle, especially since it is the only outdoor walking I need to do until I arrive at a bus stop near my parents’ home. From there, all I have to do is walk approximately 500 feet on two perfectly level roadways before arriving at their front door.

Walking down the hill takes about 5 minutes; at least twice as long going back up (it is a mean hill).

Right around the corner at the bottom of my street is an MBTA bus stop, which takes me directly to either of two MBTA subway stops of my choosing (both the same “Red Line”). From there, I can head directly to South Station in Boston and take either a bus or an Amtrak train to Western Massachusetts. Upon arrival, I could (I believe) still take a local bus line that would drop me off that very short distance away from my parents. If the local bus line is not running, then it’s about a 3 mile walk … and not all downhill, either. I’ll leave that one alone for now.

The local bus ride to either of the two subway stations near my home, with all the intermediate stops along the way and the expected traffic congestion upon arrival at either station, runs about 20 minutes, give or take. Assuming I don’t have too much of a wait for a subway train (generally not much of an issue), I can then get to Boston’s South Station in another 20 – 30 minutes.

In that amount of time, I’m (usually) already two-thirds of the way to my parents’ home if I’m driving, but no matter.

Granted, the cross-state bus or Amtrak train, with all of their intermediate stops, is going to take a while to get me to the other end of the state—certainly longer than my ninety minute door to door drive. But either of those options allows me work or read or rest, something a bit trickier to do when I’m driving. Fair trade-off? Sometimes, perhaps. I guess it just depends on the day, but if I can afford a 7 or 8 hour block of travel time, I can visit my parents entirely via public transportation. Not the most convenient way, to be sure, but the option exists.

I have a sister who lives in Pennsylvania. I can get there in just under 5 hours by car. No idea at all how long it would take me to get even close to her via alternative means of transportation, since she lives some 90 miles outside of Philadelphia and I have no idea at all if getting to within even remotely-walking distance via bus or rail is an option out there. Pretty sure that if it is, I’m budgeting a lot more time to get there than just a 5 hour drive. Given that they reside in a very tony suburban development which surely has no public transit options close by, I’m guessing there’s some walking involved at the tail end of that trip.

I also have two siblings who live in the western Massachusetts area. I think I could get to within a mile or so of my other sister’s home via a somewhat convoluted series of bus routes. I’m guessing that the 15-20 minute drive to her home from my parents is closer to 90 minutes via those multiple bus routes and the ensuing walk. A lot more effort and planning if I had to get there from my home….

My brother lives even further out in the suburbs, and I’m not certain if there is even any regular, local bus service in his very small town. If there is, I’m reasonably confident that it would travel only along his town’s one main thoroughfare, but which nonetheless would put me a very walkable three-quarters of a mile or so from his home. I’m not at all certain, however, that there is any way to get to his town via bus routes from either end of our state. As best I can determine, I could probably get within 3 – 4 miles of his home by other bus routes and transportation alternatives … perhaps.

Just a guess, but I’m probably looking at close to 3 hours via those alternatives in order to visit my brother if I were to leave from my Boston-area home (about an hour’s ride by car). Certainly an hour-plus from my parents’ home, which is otherwise about a 20 minute drive.

This all assumes I’m then within a reasonable walking distance after my last bus stop. I could do 3 miles or so … in the spring, when it’s a pleasant 60 sunny degrees. Not so sure about that in January (this month we’ve had more than 3 feet of snow and single digit temps tossed in for good measure—hardly ideal walking conditions. This morning’s forecast is now calling for nearly 18 more inches of snow in the next 48 hours. Not good). A 90 degree day in July? No hikes for me, thank you very much.

As mentioned in my very first post, we’re fortunate to have an ocean-view summer home along the North Shore of Massachusetts. Even under terrible traffic conditions, it almost never takes us more than an hour to drive there from our home. As I described then, we can also get there without driving: “It takes a bus trip, two subway trips, a commuter rail trip, another bus trip at the tail end, and a several hundred yard walk thereafter for us to get to our beach house via public transportation … about 3 hours start to finish if we schedule it right, and that’s not counting the brutal walk up our very long and very steep hill when we return home.”

I raise all of this for several very simple reasons. For one, I’m quite fortunate to have alternative options to visit at least most of my immediate family. None of those options are especially convenient, some much worse than merely inconvenient. And as for my out-of-state sister, I’m not entirely certain I “can get there from here.” We’re quite close, so that’s bothersome to contemplate.

We’re also fortunate that we have means of getting to the summer home we love—likewise more than a slight inconvenience, but doable.

I’m a very optimistic person. Even with all the information I’ve acquired and try to share with others about Peak Oil, I’m not convinced that the sky is falling in the next few months or even perhaps the next couple of years.

The inexorable decline in oil production we now face (slight upticks or disingenuous-at-best arguments to the contrary notwithstanding) is not going to get better, however. Slowly (I hope!) but surely we’re all going to soon enough be dealing with likely higher and then much higher prices for oil and gas, which will have their expected individual budgetary impacts, forcing most of us to cut back here and there in purchases, or traveling, or both.

While I don’t like to sound any alarms about rationing, I can state with great certainty that I will not be in the least bit surprised if somewhere down the road each and all of us find ourselves having to deal with restrictions in our ability to get gas as and when we need it. (Facts continue to be damned annoying.)

This will certainly alter the nature and frequency of my visits with siblings and parents. My daughter graduates from college this year, and it’s likely she’ll be living back in state, so I’m not too concerned about how I’ll get to see her … yet. My step-daughter attends college in New York City, and we already rely on Amtrak to get us there and back, so that’s not an issue now. My step-son graduates from high school in June and is then off to serve in the military. Big question mark, there.

My wife and I will certainly have to come up with some alternatives for getting supplies to and from our summer home. There’s a grocery store less than a mile away, and the downtown area is a good two or three miles away at least, but not impossible to get to on foot if we have to. Carrying anything back to the beach house is a different matter. I stopped being twenty years old several decades ago. Muscles and conditioning aren’t what they used to be.

There is also local bus service. Obviously we’d have to plan local trips around the daily bus schedule, which runs not nearly as often as I’d like. I doubt that my complaints will make much of a difference. Of course, I’m also optimistically assuming that bus travel will still be affordable in the not-too-distant future, and/or that rising diesel prices (or lack of availability) won’t force services to end entirely.

In that case, I can probably disregard at least some of the family travel options I’ve mentioned above. I’ve barely figured out Plan B. No clue yet about my Plan C.

So the declining oil production and availability is clearly going to have some distinct personal consequences, forcing some changes in lifestyle that I would definitely prefer avoiding. I’m convinced, however, that these small sets of inconveniences and changes will not be restricted to just me and my family.

How are these declines going to affect you? (Make no mistake, they will.)

Might be a good time for all of us to start thinking and planning. While we’re at it, might be a good idea to be asking our local, regional, state, and federal governments to do the same. Gonna take a good long while to figure this all out (and a lot more)….

More to come.

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series through the next few months whose purpose is to provide tangible examples of what our future might be like in a world where we will no longer have available to us the quality and quantity of fossil fuel energy sources as we have long been accustomed to possessing and using. Some examples will describe significant impacts beyond the most obvious one: less but more expensive gas to power our vehicles. Other posts will describe routine aspects of daily living that will likely change when producers of goods and services no longer have inexpensive and adequate supplies of the fossil fuel resources they need. I’m certain that the questions I raise will in turn raise other concerns as well. It is only by acknowledging the consequences affecting each of us that we can begin an intelligent national process of planning and implementing new methods of providing the goods and services we’ll need or desire.]

Last week, I raised some issues and questions about what we’ll have to consider during and immediately after snowstorms in a post-peak oil world. I realize that someone sitting on a beach in Key West, Florida might not find that especially relevant.

So let’s take a look at another of post-peak oil’s impacts … a much more mundane example inside the home. (I promise that before too long there will be some logical continuity to all of this. For now, I think it’s important to just a sampling of how Peak Oil is going to cut across a wide swath of behaviors and needs and preferences.)

I’ll assume that my wife’s (and my) customary morning routines before work are not all that dissimilar from how most of you conduct yourselves at home as you prepare for your day.

That being the case, I’ll also assume that I’m not going too far out on a limb by suggesting that some or all of these bathroom items are familiar to each of you:

Toothbrushes
Toothpaste Tubes
Shaving cream
Shower Curtains / Shower Doors
Shampoo
Hair coloring
Hand Lotion
Deodorant
Combs
Perfume
Soft Contact Lenses
Lipstick
Nail polish

All, of course, are products whose design and/or manufacture and/or marketing and/or packaging and/or delivery to retail outlets for your ultimate consumption or use depend at least to some extent on petroleum. No petroleum, and some if not all of these products become more challenging to produce and distribute. But that’s a problem for the corporate world. How about for each of us?

I’m pretty sure that civilizations past, even those in the fairly recent past, have managed just fine without today’s bazillion varieties of toothbrushes and toothpastes, but we do have our preferences, after all. Millions of workers depend on our finicky preferences for this formula gel or that formula color to make us feel good. It’s also extremely convenient to just hop into the car and head to the local convenience or grocery or department store (or gas station!) and pick up a spare toothbrush or pocket comb or deodorant moments after we toss away an empty tube or container or bottle of our favorite bathroom items. A few dollars later and we’re on our way!

But when happens when product manufacturers are obliged of necessity to start making do with less of the “ingredients” they need? What changes will be required? How quickly can the health and beauty industry adapt to the elimination of a key component in producing many of our basic necessities? What costs might be involved? What happens to suppliers along the chain? To the transportation services who may now have fewer products to deliver? What kind of plans and processes will have to be revised—if not created anew—in order to maintain their same levels of production and supply in a world where no one and no company and no industry can rely on the same qualities and quantities (and at feasible costs) of petroleum-based products?

What about us? What happens when the 40 different brands of shaving cream we can count on in Aisle 4 at Walmart are whittled down to perhaps 15? 10? 5? How will we feel about having to now pay two or even three times the price of those once-plentiful and varied products, given that the domino effect of less supply will surely play a part in the health and beauty industry’s price increases no less than any other commercial or industrial enterprise dealing with supply and demand issues. What happens if entire lines of shaving cream or shampoos or nail polishes are discontinued because costs become prohibitively expensive and/or availability of petroleum is either rationed or simply diminishes, and the expenses associated with maintaining all the workers and machinery and distribution chains for certain products can no longer be justified?

No one will die if they have to suddenly rely upon some different type of product to shave their face or legs! Millions worldwide manage quite nicely, thank you very much. But creature comforts for we spoiled Americans are one of many indicators of the good life we usually take for granted, and that is all going to change long before we’ve put into place all of the needed alternative energy supply and production and distribution processes.

Like those millions of others, life will continue without our Brand X Spearmint Shave Gel With Whisker Softeners and Skin Regenerators in both the 16 and 32 ounce easy-press cans. Will we be so cavalier about this when combs and brushes likewise disappear from the shelves? And then half the brands of toothpaste gradually disappear as well? A favorite line of body lotion? Replacement shower curtains for the one your teenager ripped last night? And what of your soft contact lenses—the only ones that you can wear comfortably all day? Or your wife’s vanilla- and chamomile-scented perfume that lingers long after she’s left the house, the one that is now nowhere to be found? How about when your choice of deodorant is now down to just a handful, costs a lot more than you ever imagined, and is available only at a couple of locations in your area? None of those considerations are especially outlandish. It’s not much more than basic economics.

What about your brother-in-law the chemist? The one who has worked in the industry for nearly twenty years to help design our favorite fruit-scented hair sprays and now finds himself among the countless product designers and industrial artists and copywriters and machine operators and truck drivers and distributors and the employees of the companies that supply the lipstick containers and toothpaste tubes who are now all out of work because over the course of a number of years, the fossil fuel that each of their companies depended upon in some way, shape, or form (and likely without so much as a thought about that) is now being diverted to other uses and other industries?

How distressing might we find all of this in the years to come? We’re not exactly the poster children for doing without.

How much effort and financing and creativity are any of us devoting right now to preparing for that eventuality? Are we and the relevant industries just hoping for the best? Ignoring this issue entirely? Waiting for some magic design to materialize from someone’s basement? Should they, and we, just go on assuming that despite the facts of stagnating oil production and ever-rising prices (surely signaling that something is amiss), the supply of petroleum-derived products and ingredients and services will continue unceasingly and always affordably?

To be sure, I don’t expect any of us to suffer great trauma any time soon because we’re losing our favorite flavored toothpastes, but the process of designing and producing and advertising and testing and distributing and continuing to manufacture those products are all and each the end results of much labor and innovation over considerable periods of time. Entire industries and their countless employees and accountants and lawyers and all the rest are dependent on the continuing success of the health and beauty industry giants and their legions of chemists and machine workers and drivers and administrative personnel and marketing departments.

What happens when they are no longer giants and no successors have emerged?

How disquieting will it be for each of us to find ourselves having to adapt to entirely different ways of maintaining personal hygiene? Probably a bit (or a lot) silly to have to consider this right now. I’m fairly certain that each and every one of us not employed in the health and beauty industry have given this exactly no thought at all. Shampoo is shampoo, right? “I’m worried about feeding my kids and you’re wondering if I can manage without my favorite toothpaste? Seriously?”

Actually, yes. It does not begin and end with toothpaste, or lotion, or lipstick….

How many resources of any kind are being devoted to contending with this type of supply “problem”? (a term I admittedly use loosely at the moment. I won’t suddenly stop brushing my teeth because my blue gel toothpaste becomes a casualty of Peak Oil, nor will there be any hunger strikes on my part.)

The more important question is how many resources are being devoted in all kinds of industries who will themselves be confronted with the same kinds of challenges as those health and beauty industry corporations? There a lot of dominoes in play when the declining fossil fuel one tips over first. Changes in our morning bathroom routines should be our biggest concern in the years to come.

But it won’t be.

To be continued….

In my last post, I again raised the issue that how we address and ultimately overcome the problems and challenges declining oil production/Peak Oil imposes on all of us will largely depend on how we as individuals collaborate with our political, industrial, and media leaders. No longer can we simply pass the responsibility on to designated others, or worse, hope that these others will in fact act with our best interests at heart.

In order for this approach to work, we must be informed about what is at stake, and we have to be courageous enough to demand only the truth about what we will be contending with. Leaders must exhibit that same courage in being honest with us, regardless of the impact on poll numbers or stock valuations or ratings. Sad to say that this will be no easy accomplishment.

But everything first begins with each of us. Peak Oil is not only going to affect people in North Dakota, or the auto industry, or NBC. The impact of declining oil production, be it gradual or slow, will affect anyone and everything that depends on petroleum and/or transportation. That doesn’t leave too much outside the box.

The decisions each of us make about our respect for the problems and for others will determine how much we in turn will demand and expect from those in positions of power, influence, and leadership. We’ve demonstrated our capacity to join with others to achieve great ends in the past, and I’ll remain optimistic that we can do so again. The stakes are every bit as high now as they’ve been at other turning points in our history. I think it’s important that we not trivialize this, just as I believe it is critical we don’t proclaim that the world is about to end, either. There’s a large and reasonable middle for us to move to.

Nothing which I or others who devote much of our time to the topic of Peak Oil say or suggest should be interpreted as easy or simple to do and achieve. We’ve built an awesome system of industrial and technological prowess and prosperity on the back of fossil fuel production and consumption. What we have and own and use and depend on by and large resulted from our abilities to extract, refine, and then utilize fossil fuels. One hundred and fifty plus years of achievements have as their source mankind’s skill in exploiting and adapting fossil fuels to the needs and demands of society. It has indeed been a hell of a ride.

It’s not about to come to a crashing end anytime soon, but the pace is going to slow; we’ll see reductions here and there at first, and soon enough more and more reductions and restrictions in more here’s and there’s. Having devoted far too few of our resources and capabilities to innovation, exploration, and development of alternatives leaves us woefully unprepared for the changes that will come. The mere thought of converting … everything to some alternative forms of energy not even close to adequate supply or production at this point leaves many of us with great anxiety and far too little hope.

This must change, and it begins with what we choose to know and understand and address. The facts are what they are: there are no more easily-accessible, gigantic, inexpensively-produced and refined fossil fuel sources just waiting for some intrepid oil company to show up and open the spigots. Prices are rising, and those in the know do not see much change in that trend absent yet another economic calamity. I’m not sure we should be hoping for that.

It’s all fine and well to be optimistic that deep-sea oil exploration or discoveries in other remote areas of the world will yield a rich harvest of all the fossil fuels we’ll need for the next century or two, but optimism needs to find a place in the truth about our energy resources.

Who among us wants to think that we can’t just continue on to ever-greater levels of prosperity without too much fuss or bother once this pesky financial crisis resolves itself?

But until we can individually and collectively admit that in a world of finite resources and ever-expanding population increase and ever-expanding demand for more and more from more and more, the math just cannot work for much longer. Our delusions that “business as usual” is just around the corner will only add to our longer-term burdens. Is that our best strategy?

It seems all too often that we’re working too hard to preserve what is or once was while life keeps happening and passing us by, and that appears to govern most of our dealings now. It’s a strategy that will only provide a certain level of comfort and only for so long. We won’t know how much courage we possess, and how much ingenuity and innovation we can utilize, until we do. And the only way any of this will happen is for leaders across the board to start telling us the truth, rather than having small voices such as mine making pronouncements.

Then, each and all of us must understand and accept those truths.

Until we know, we cannot effectively do.

Let’s face it, there is very little happening around the world or in this nation that offers immediate comfort and hope that all will be well, and soon. Ideologies are nice but will only take us so far if the resistance remains so pronounced—narrow-minded though it may be. It’s hard not to feel a genuine fear and dismay about what the future holds. We just can’t seem to get a good grip on the one great magical solution, and so instead we understandably grasp anything that seems even a bit reasonable or assuring.

We need our leaders to be better. We need them to start telling us the truth.

“Americans need a wake-up call, but unfortunately politics has colored how we talk about oil in this country, and we have some incredibly irresponsible people who want to see their party in power who are not being honest with the American people about this stuff. If you know there are only 650 billion barrels of oil left in the entire world and you know that we know where it is and the issue isn’t finding it but figuring out how to get at it, wouldn’t you start cutting your use? Finding alternative energy sources? Instead of telling people we need to ‘drill here drill now, dagnabbit!’ — which we are already doing — wouldn’t you be telling people, ‘we’re running out let’s find out how we can switch to something else and conserve what we’ve got left’”?

All that’s happening “out there” in the world of politics and energy and finance and industry seems so dramatically and broadly different than what most of us have experienced. It’s easy for that lack of knowing to promote a healthy sense of disquiet if not outright fear. With so many different voices pulling and pushing in so many different directions, it’s almost impossible for us to have any perspective on what’s going on. Without that understanding, how can we hope to find our way clear of and past all of these challenges?

I’m just as guilty as the next person: we’re spoiled by the progress and prosperity we once claimed so effortlessly. That all now seems threatened, and we feel so powerless and so uncertain amid the current complexities of life and government and industry and energy and climate. All we know is the safety and relative security of what once was. Who can blame anyone for wanting to just quickly and quietly return to the “way it used to be”?

Pre-Great Recession, things were “simpler.” We’ve already experienced great prosperity and progress and opportunity. Of course we all want more of that, and we want it to resume … yesterday! Of course we’d like for that great train of growth to pull into the station right about now, moving us along toward our individual realizations of the American Dream. And our nation being—not so long ago—the clearly dominant world power, we could each rely on that for our own sense of security and well-being. Stuff happening “out there” wasn’t going to affect us too much or for too long because we’re … America! Not too much to fault for thinking that way, of course, but change in an ever-changing world is the reality, and change doesn’t always happen exactly as we’d like.

All of that promise and progress appears threatened now, and the most common approach is for most to just hunker down, hope “others” will fix all of this for us soon, while we do our best to get by from day to day. When you aren’t entirely certain that your job will be there next Monday, or that your meager retirement savings won’t get you well into your senior years, or when a child is ill and you just aren’t sure that you can weather the financial trauma, world energy supplies and a warmer planet thirty years down the road don’t seem all that serious.

I get that.

Asking each of us to now do more, to expand our vision and efforts while we contend with the challenges and burdens of just getting through each day successfully seems at the very least quite unfair. I get that, too.

But facts remain stubborn and annoying, and while it’s entirely unrealistic to expect the vast majority of us to carve out large pieces of our day to devote to the bigger issues and problems “out there”, it is only in that knowing, and then participating at some level, that we can begin to take the steps we need to provide us with the best assurances that our hopes remain viable and vital.

What’s essential to our long term prospects for success, growth, and prosperity is how much choose to know about what confronts us, the measure of integrity our leaders exhibit (history is not encouraging), and how and how much each and every one us decides to commit to a better vision for our future. The days of leaving it entirely in the hands of others is past.

“We live on a finite planet, and it seems likely that we are nearing the limits of the Earth’s ability to support ongoing growth. Even if this limit is still decades or centuries away, there is serious moral hazard in the continuation of growth on a finite planet as it serves merely to push that problem on to our children or grandchildren. Growth cannot continue infinitely on a finite planet.” [2]

If we’re not starting to think long term about what we’ll be doing and how we’ll be doing it, the rest of our lives, our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s as well will be a succession of mini-crises that are never solved, with an election turnover every two years that guarantees all the wrong kinds of change (stagnation is more likely). It’s hard to see how that is going to keep working well for us. Is that the best we can now hope for? Are we willing to endure that anxiety and pain rather than face the uncertainty of structuring great change?

This series is about finding a new and better vision. We have more of a voice than we think we do. Finding that voice will be our best hope.

To be continued….

Sources:

[1] http://sobeale.blogspot.com/2011/01/terrible-disconnect.html; The Terrible Disconnect – Jan 17, 2011
[2] http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3721; The Problem of Growth by Jeff Vail – March 21, 2008

Just wondering….

Last week, my comfy little Massachusetts town was one of many to endure the brunt of a major nor’easter. Somewhere between 12” – 18” of snow fell in not much more than half a day. The big and little plows of our town worked pretty much nonstop through the pre-dawn hours and on through most of that day to try and keep pace with the impressive storm.

Later that day, the steady cacophony of snow blowers was everywhere. (2 of our 3 children helped me shovel – we don’t own a snow blower, although that would have been a good day to have one!) It’s amazing how high, thick, and heavy snow from the street can be when a plow passes by and dumps it all at the end of one’s driveway … several times!

[And as an aside: this past Sunday morning, I took my wife’s mid-sized German sedan (decent gas mileage and all) and filled the tank with premium gas … $3.59 per gallon. Ten cents more than when I last filled it earlier this month, and if memory serves, 20 cents more than the Christmas-time price. Not a good trend….]

I found myself wondering what happens in years to come, as these massive storms intensify as a likely consequence of climate change. (I could switch political ideologies of course, which would have the primary benefit of ridding me of any concerns about global warming facts and thus more intense storms, but that might ultimately prove to be a limited advantage.) What happens when the storms are more frequent, more snow falls, and I’m a lot older and don’t have the benefit of 1, 2, or 3 able-bodied college-age children to help me dig out (on, I must add, the very steep hill on which our home is situated)?

Snow blowers might very well be relics 5, 10, 20 years down the road. Hard to imagine that fossil-fueled machines like that will have a place in most garages. Wind-powered snow blowers? Not so likely.

But that’s a small matter. Of course, plastic shovels may be a lot more expensive, given that we won’t have as much fossil fuel available to help manufacture and/or distribute those plastic items—given that petroleum is an important element in the manufacture and use of plastics. Metal shovels aren’t likely to be any less expensive, either … transportation costs and all will increase, and that means those costs get passed on to those of us buying the shovels … when we can find them. Not likely to be as many of them around….The cost of, and to run, the needed machinery; higher utility bills and similar costs at those industrial facilities, and all those other little extras that we tend not to think about when we swipe our credit cars at the local hardware store will all be that much more pronounced in the years to come as we find ourselves with less and less oil available to not just fuel transportation, but to serve as an irreplaceable component to manufacturing and distribution.

There are no signs as yet that the magic of technology will be able to seamlessly step in and allow industry to continue on as is with nary a glitch. What then?

Back to those plows. When diesel fuel production is similarly curtailed of necessity, how will the remaining smaller portions be allocated?

There are no doubt tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of similarly-fueled vehicles in dozens of northern states (now, even some southern ones), and their hundreds upon hundreds of cities and towns. Each and every one of those municipalities depends on fossil fuels to power the sanders and salters and plows which enable all of us hardy souls in colder climates to get around in the winter.

What criteria are states going to use to ensure that each community has a remotely-sufficient supply of fuel for its municipal plows (to say nothing of all of its other municipal vehicles)?

We live at the top of one of our town’s steepest roads. When it snows in any measureable amount, getting up and down our street becomes a bit of an adventure, to put it mildly. (Last winter we had to request a town sander to come to our home in order that one of our daughters could turn her vehicle into our driveway. The ice on the street and steepness of the hill rendered her immobile less than twenty feet away! Not nearly as much fun as one might think….I’m guessing we won’t have the luxury of that option too many more years from now.)

So what does happen when municipalities are confronted with the difficult and painful realization that they simply will not have enough fuel to power their snow-removal vehicles? Which locations or neighborhoods within each community will be serviced first, and how are those assessments going to be made in such a way that the remaining eighty percent or so of residents and business owners aren’t immediately raising a ruckus?

Aside from the obvious fire, police, hospital locations, what’s next? (Is that in fact obvious?) Are only primary streets going to be plowed? How is that designation going to be made? Do people whose homes were built on the hilly streets get next priority, or do they have to get at the back of the line? Are only some of the steep streets eligible for priority plowing?

I can assure you that once a half a foot or so of snow has fallen—notwithstanding the all-wheel drive features of my and my wife’s vehicles—we’re not going anywhere until our street is plowed. The steepness of the hill makes it impossible to gain traction to get to the top of our street some one hundred feet or so from our driveway, and the nearly thousand-foot descent is treacherous at best in inclement weather. Freezing rain? Make no plans. Lose control on the way down and there are lots of trees on either side of the road that will serve as a final resting place for skidding vehicles. Thanks, but no thanks!

Are lotteries conducted at the first snow fall, with “winners” being assured that their streets are plowed first? How well is that likely to sit with those holding all the non-winning “tickets”? Are some areas simply going to have to wait for melting temperatures if snowfall totals are by some criteria determined to not merit plowing at all?

Less plows needed, less plows manufactured. Less available plows means less plowing jobs, and we all know by now what that means. The dominoes tumble quickly.

What happens to all the individuals who depend on private contractors/other residents with plows? If gas is no longer as readily available for ordinary passenger and commercial vehicles, on what basis will the owner of a pickup truck and plow be deemed to have priority in acquiring gas over, say, a nurse at the local hospital, or the owner of the town’s primary grocery store, or … or … ? Why will the owners of some private parking lots be deemed to have plowing priorities over equally-deserving others? Mall parking lots or school parking lots? Plow today, or plow perhaps in a day or two? If multiple storms are forecast in a relatively short period of time (not uncommon here in the Northeast), does everyone have to wait for plowing until after the second storm has passed so as to conserve fuel and fuel costs?

I’m sure that others can conjure up dozens of other consideration and questions just as important as these. Is anyone thinking about this right now?

It is surely not a problem in isolation. Very few challenges brought about by declining oil production will lend themselves to facile, straight-out-of-the-box solutions. One problem begets another which begets more still.

No one wants to have to deal with any of this, of course. One can simply hope that the problems either go away, don’t materialize to begin with, won’t be as severe, or won’t happen for many, many decades into the future (with the hope that by then we’ll have just figured it all out by accident), but are those strategies ones that thousands and thousands of communities and their millions of citizens ought to be relying on?

Now is when we need to turn the immense skill and capability and potential of our citizens and industries and leaders to work to not just prepare for Peak Oil, but to transcend it. Are we up to the challenge?

Just wondering….

More to come next week!

“It starts with a vision. As they say, begin with the end in mind. A vision can be quantitative or qualitative, but since you need to be able to know when you get there, some degree of measurability is a must. Without a shared vision of what success looks like, it’s tough to get anywhere.” [1]

So where to begin? I’ve given more than a passing amount of thought to all of this, and have (I believe) a fairly extensive number of considerations to offer. This series will unfold slowly as a result, but I hope readers will find the discussions thought-provoking at the very least.

What does our future hold in store, and what will and can we do to give ourselves the best chance of continuing at least the semblance of individual and collective success? Can we still find a measure of respectable prosperity and contentment?

Do we want to be just incrementally better in the days to come, or do we aspire to something much grander and greater, consistent with our hopes and visions for what a prosperous America could and should be? No guarantees, of course, but doing nothing or just hoping will not make any of that happen.

If we truly wish to return to a place where we all feel and believe that this nation indeed remains “exceptional”, then we need to harness a vision for the future that is not just incrementally better than this one. The uncomfortable truth is that in the years to come, using the same resources and methods and strategies that got us here will be of limited value at best. A bigger and more expansive vision is required, and all of us will have an essential role to play. With billions more expected in the next few decades—all utilizing many more of the finite resources this planet harbors—we have no choice but to more expansive, creative, and inclusive.

“We can’t turn a finite resource into an infinite one, however much wishful thinking we apply to it. And however much business and other interested parties try to deny the reality of peak oil in order to achieve their own interests—short term personal profits, the long arc of American success be damned—there is no more time to waste.” [2]

That means challenging the comforting ideologies most of us rely upon. So too do we need to rid ourselves of the fears and worries and objectives that serve no long term purpose. (Sorry, but gays in the military, to cite one prominent issue of the day, will have to slide pretty far down our list of priorities. There are many other hot-button issues that must likewise be cast aside. And that’s just the beginning.)

“Most people find the process of challenging their assumptions very difficult. It is not just that the assumptions are hard to see; we usually do not want to see them. We become emotionally attached to our beliefs, and to question them can feel very threatening. Nevertheless, uncomfortable as the process may be, it nearly always pays dividends. It usually leads to a deeper understanding of the nature of the problem, and often to better solutions.” [3]

I begin with this optimistic premise: We have the opportunity to take the best of all that we have and have to offer—from each of us—and move forward with greater definitions and determinations of success and prosperity and fulfillment. If we want to cling to the mantle of our exceptionalism and greatness as a nation, then more will be demanded and expected not just from our mostly dysfunctional political leaders and limited-vision corporations. We all need to step up to the plate, set aside the pettiness and ignorance and narrow-mindedness too often on vivid public display, and find our own “better angels.” Extremely idealistic, to be sure. I’m open to a better starting point.

We have a lot going on as it is: from climate change, to our economic and employment struggles, to concerns about our continuing lofty place on the international stage and our corresponding ability to successfully compete with other nations, to the ragged and sorry state of our educational system and national infrastructure, to the financial challenges of state and local governments, and on to our own individual stresses and strains as these and other external events make their mark in our own lives. That is a pretty full plate!

And now we have to figure out what to put into place to foster continuing prosperity and success as we confront the declining production of the primary source of energy that has fueled us to this point—and how we do so. Given that we have so little on the suggestion board to begin with, we have our work cut out for us.

The truth, however unpleasant some may view it, is that great change is taking place regardless of our wishes or preferences. That train has left the station.

We must now first commit at least some time and effort to gaining more understanding and knowledge. Facts and truth. That’s what we need, and those who are responsible for sharing information must find the ways to do so with a level of integrity sorely lacking so far. Climate change evidence, for one, is overwhelming at this point, and the silly ideologies that routinely turn fact into mere opinion can no longer have a prominent place in public discussion. Shortsighted attempts to sway the citizenry so as to promote narrow interests can only harm all of us even more. Can we be better than that?

If we are to alleviate the fears about continuing disruptions to our once-comfortable ways of life and the great unknown of ambiguity so as to give everyone a greater sense of control and understanding, we must insist upon the courage of leaders in the media and government and industry to start telling us unvarnished truths.

“[E]xposing a true predicament while also offering a viable and optimistic strategy to address that predicament creates myriad opportunities for hope to morph into vision and vision into strategy.
“The moment couldn’t be more ripe” [4]

No question that this is highly idealistic and in the moment, seemingly impossible to achieve and attain, but it is where we must eventually be. We must first understand and become aware of what we face. It is only then that we leave no doubt as to the importance of our collectively contributing to the crafting of a new vision for what we will be and achieve.

What kind of a nation do we choose to be? As an old adage suggests: “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.” Not an option.

We have to do so much more now if we choose to remain a dominant presence on the world stage while continuing to provide the best opportunities for our own citizens. Now we will have to do so under different rules and with different resources going forward. The planning must begin soon.

A choice: we either take the lead and devote our massive abilities to both revitalizing our nation and determining what we’ll achieve and be in this century, or we simply allow the many varied forces of nature and progress in and among other nations to lead us where they will (at most likely at much lower levels of prosperity—given that we are dealing with finite resources which are getting used up in even greater quantities than ever before.)

It is up to us, and we need the courage to recognize that the world is a different place now. Adapt and lead, or be dragged along? Crisis or opportunity?

So I’ll ask again: Where do we begin?

To be continued….

Sources:

[1] http://www.urbanophile.com/2010/12/17/replay-what-is-a-strategy/: Replay: What Is A Strategy? – Aaron M. Renn (The Urbanophile); 12/17/10
[2] http://transitionvoice.com/2010/12/america-in-decline/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TransitionVoice+%28Transition+Voice%29; America In Decline? – Lindsay Curren; 12/15/10
[3] http://www.peterrussell.com/Speaker/Talks/WBA.php; Who’s Kidding Whom? Is Sustainable Development Compatible with Western Civilization? by Peter Russell
[4] America In Decline? – Lindsay Curren

Accompanying the planned series on discussing the opportunities we have at hand and the strategies we might start considering stemming from a decline in oil production (my last post), I’d like to pick up on a theme I had originally intended to devote more posts to when I first began Peak Oil Matters. Along the way I’ve put together a small number of posts (here, for example). The full list of links to those posts appears at the end of this piece.

The purpose is an attempt to get us thinking in more concrete, day-to-day terms of what life might be like without the same levels of similar quality, inexpensive, and readily available fossil fuels supplying us with … just about everything.

Petroleum plays a part in the creation, production, and/or transportation of literally thousands of products. Probably safe to assume that about 98% of us never give that a single thought in the course of a year. We just buy or consumer or otherwise use and use up whatever our merry little hearts desire, and we’ve known for many decades that if we want or need more, there’s a store not too far away that will get us what we want or need without too much fuss or bother. Our knowledge of petroleum-based products usually begins and ends at the local gas station. A nice life, indeed.

I’m on record from my very first post that my family has enjoyed more than its fair share of the nice things life and oil each make available. And yes, I’d be willing to wager that just about every single gadget or doohickey we own would not exist but for fossil fuels. With five drivers in our family (two away at college), we own four cars—and two homes! The foreign vehicles my wife and I drive are commonly considered to be luxury items. One of them is an SUV. Not the gas-guzzling, monstrous (but beloved) Land Rover LR-3 we owned a few years back, but a full-size SUV nonetheless, with most of the bells and whistles one would want. It goes on … in some cases, quite frankly, embarrassingly so, given my status as a fledgling, pseudo-serious expert in matters of and about Peak Oil production.

I’m also on record as stating that I really like this lifestyle! The arrangement my wife and I have is not without its challenges and turmoils, but we manage to keep afloat reasonably well. I’m no different than any other consumer in this country: I’d like to have what I want when I want it and how I want it, without much hassle, thank you very much. I don’t particularly want to sacrifice. Sure as hell I don’t want to have to be the only one, or in the small minority of those willing to step up to the plate and start giving up for the benefit of mankind or similar noble gestures.

There are, quite frankly, a lot of things I don’t want to see happen because oil production is declining, and I’m actually quite annoyed that I have to even consider the possibility. Like just about everyone else, my life has enough built-in stress and problems and all the rest. I’m not looking for more, thank you very much once again.

But now that I’ve gotten some of that out of my stem, I’m all-too-mindful of the fact that a lot is going to change in the years to come. I’m not, I’ll say again, a doomer. The sky is NOT falling next week, life as we know is not falling off the edge of the earth in the spring, and aside from higher prices, we’re probably not likely to see too many noticeable or noteworthy changes any time soon.

The problem is that changes are happening now, and one little ripple here leads to more ripples there, and if we’re not devoting time and effort to countering that, we will see some rather substantial and quite painful changes in the ways we live before too many more years have passed. Waiting until a week or two before we begin to tangibly experience the consequences of declining availability of fossil fuels is definitely not a strategy for coming up with solutions that we ought to be relying on. We depend on fossil fuels for a great deal; a great deal of effort and expense and planning and testing and marketing and transporting and revising and repairing and maintaining has come into play so that we’ve been able to at a minimum maintain our lifestyles and have at the ready the gratification of almost any desire or need we might wish for. It’s been a hell of a ride.

Adapting all of that to a world with less oil available to us, and going through the same processes as we adapt alternative energy sources to what we now have and use as well as adapting to entirely new products dependent on energy sources not yet commercially viable is no mean feat. Anyone thinking that that will all happen in a fortnight or two is seriously delusional! Years … decades, even, are more likely what we’ll need. Exactly how many more years are we supposed to wait?

Let’s not allow anyone to make the mistake of thinking that we can find anything that will replace oil and its by-products any time soon, at anywhere near the same inexpensive prices, at the same levels of ease of acquisition or availability, or with the same levels of efficiency and productivity. A lot went into the creation of all that we see, own, and use, and when we don’t have nearly enough of the basic energy source that makes all of that available, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Reflecting on the near-infinite supply of creature comforts and conveniences and products and services made possible by petroleum will be an awakening for most. Recognizing that soon enough we’re not going to have the same quantities or qualities of that same stuff will be an awakening as well. What happens then?

A lot of what we see and use and buy and rely on in our immediate environment and “out there” depends on readily available supplies of not-too-pricey oil. When the not-too-pricey stuff starts getting to the “Damn, that’s gotten expensive!” stage, changes will occur. We’ll either make the painful adaptations ourselves, or some person out there in Marketplace-Land is going to be telling us:  “We’re sorry, but we’re just not making as much of that stuff and sending it to your neighborhood store as we used to. And before you ask:  Nope, we won’t ever be making more than we are now … pretty sure, actually, there’s gonna be less. More expensive too – costs a lot more to get the stuff we need to make the stuff you need.”

A while back, in one of my posts, I offered this list as a very small sampling of products made from, used with, or transported by a derivative of petroleum.

Solvents       Diesel fuel       Motor Oil       Bearing Grease       Ink       Floor Wax       Ballpoint Pens        Football Cleats       Upholstery Sweaters       Boats       Insecticides       Bicycle Tires       Sports Car Bodies       Nail Polish       Fishing lures       Dresses       Tires       Golf Bags       Perfumes       Cassettes       Dishwasher parts       Tool Boxes       Shoe Polish       Motorcycle Helmet       Caulking       Petroleum Jelly       Transparent       Tape       CD Player       Faucet Washers       Antiseptics        Clothesline       Curtains       Food Preservatives Basketballs       Soap       Vitamin Capsules       Antihistamines        Purses       Shoes       Dashboards       Cortisone       Deodorant       Footballs       Putty       Dyes       Panty Hose       Refrigerant       Percolators       Life Jackets       Rubbing Alcohol       Linings       Skis       TV Cabinets       Shag Rugs       Electrician’s Tape       Tool Racks       Car Battery Cases       Epoxy       Paint       Mops       Slacks       Insect Repellent       Oil Filters       Umbrellas       Yarn       Fertilizers       Hair Coloring       Roofing       Toilet Seats       Fishing Rods       Lipstick      Denture       Adhesive       Linoleum       Ice Cube Trays       Synthetic Rubber       Speakers      Electric Blankets       Glycerin      Tennis Rackets       Rubber Cement       Fishing Boots       Dice       Nylon Rope       Candles       Trash Bags       House Paint       Water Pipes       Hand Lotion       Roller Skates       Surf Boards       Shampoo       Wheels       Paint Rollers       Shower Curtains       Guitar Strings       Luggage       Aspirin       Safety Glasses       Antifreeze       Football Helmets       Awnings       Eyeglasses       Clothes       Toothbrushes       Ice Chests       Footballs       Combs       CD’s & DVD’s       Paint Brushes       Detergents       Vaporizers       Balloons       Sun Glasses       Tents       Heart Valves       Crayons       Parachutes       Telephones       Enamel       Pillows       Dishes       Cameras       Anesthetics   Artificial Turf       Artificial limbs       Bandages       Dentures       Model Cars       Folding Doors       Hair Curlers       Cold cream       Movie film       Soft Contact lenses       Drinking Cups       Fan Belts       Car Enamel       Shaving Cream       Ammonia       Refrigerators       Golf Balls       Toothpaste       Gasoline

There are a lot more of those lists, and as I’ve indicated, the other regular series I’m planning to run for at least the next few months will center around what we need to do in the absence of all this stuff we use or rely on. It’s all fine and well to discuss the costs of unconventional resource extraction in far Western Canada, or oil drilling techniques in deep waters off the coast of Brazil. It hits a bit closer to home when all of a sudden the simple pocket combs you’ve been buying and using for years are suddenly harder to find, and when they are located, more expensive too … like just about everything else. When it starts hitting closer to home, Peak Oil will move from the nebulous “out there” kind of problem to the “Oh, jeez, now what?” stage in your own home.

It might make sense to do some preparing in advance. More information is always a good thing. A lot of the surprises that Peak Oil will bestow are not likely to be the kinds of surprises we all typically enjoy.

So that’s the hyper-broad overview for this series.

I’ll be back next week to begin my discussion….Stay tuned!

~~~

Links to my 2010 series on Peak Oil’s impact:

http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/06/09/peak-oils-impact-1/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/06/11/peak-oils-impact-2/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/06/14/peak-oils-impact-3-water-bottles/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/06/18/peak-oils-impact-4-visiting-your-dentistmd/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/07/01/peak-oil-impact-5-laptopscomputers/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/07/06/peak-oil-impact-6-rural-communities/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/07/09/peak-oil-impact-7-a-first-look-at-air-travel/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/08/03/peak-oil-impact-8-vacations/

What kind of a nation do we want to be?

This will be, if not the most important question we’ll collectively ask ourselves in the months and years to come, in the top 2 or 3.

The answers we produce—“we” being our political leaders, our business leaders, the media, and perhaps most importantly: each and every one of us—will obviously determine the strategies we adopt and the successes and prosperity which (we hope) will remain available to us. In this new series, I’d like to offer my two cents’ worth and provide some talking points to help us sort things out.

If we are not standing at the most critical crossroad of our industrial and economic history, the signs on the side of the road are letting us know it is coming up soon.

We face some challenges. The headlines tell us all we need to know about employment and economic woes, the increasingly disheartening hypocrisy and gamesmanship that continue to define politics here in America, and a growing unease about the direction of our country. I begin writing this post only 24 hours after the tragic, senseless, idiotic massacre in Arizona that nearly claimed the life of a by-all-accounts well-respected Congresswoman, and did in fact kill several other just-as-innocent bystanders. (A nine-year-old girl? Really? How is that justified under even the most insane of insane defenses?)

Climate change evidence continues its daily march into reality—the inability of deniers to grasp simple truths notwithstanding. And atop and amid all of these lovely and encouraging challenges, we have some fossil fuel resource problems knocking on our door.

Let’s hope that the convergence of these issues sparks a different level and quality of public discourse. Most would be hard-pressed to think that that would not be a good thing….

As I and others have taken great pains to explain, if we have not yet reached the point where we have extracted and sent to market the highest level of oil production we’ll ever attain (I think we have, as does the International Energy Agency, among others much more in the know than me), we’re pretty damn close. And as I and those same others have taken other great pains to explain, we’re not on the verge of imminent collapse, either. The process of ever-declining oil production, and thus ever-declining amounts of oil available to us, will unfold over a fairly lengthy period of time. I have no plans for a Chicken-Little-Sky-Is-Falling party anytime soon. Despite the efforts of peak oil deniers to attribute this false claim to us, we are not running out of oil—at least not for many decades.

That does not mean we are problem-free for years or decades to come, however. We need to shine some light on that distinction while starting the very lengthy and complex process of transitioning our everything away from never-ending reliance on fossil fuels … oil, specifically.

There are still many billions of barrels of conventional oil still buried underground, and perhaps many more billions—hundreds, perhaps—of unconventional supplies buried as well. If that’s where the discussion could end, then Peak Oil would indeed be the rantings of another group of paranoid conspirators rightfully ignored as should be those who continue to think President Obama was born on Mars or wherever.

But it’s a wee bit more complicated than that.

The fact that we may have enormous quantities of unconventional reserves/resources underground isn’t the be-all and end-all of the are-we-or-aren’t-we-running-out-of-oil discussion. What must be understood more clearly is that having those presumed resources in the ground is one thing and all fine and well as a starting point. But getting unconventional resources (by fact and definition available only with considerable extra effort, time, and cost) out of the ground and into the marketplace at reasonable costs and in reasonable time frames while conventional supplies continue to decline is a very, very different thing. They are called “unconventional” for a number of reasons, after all!

If it costs more (and let’s not even discuss the environmental degradation and water resource consumption issues that are part and parcel of unconventional oil extraction and production), takes more time to get to the market, is of lesser quality, and clearly much more difficult to extract, the math doesn’t work. Unconventional resources aren’t the answer … not even close. (Tighter supplies of the conventional fossil fuels our engines are designed to burn means higher costs at your local gas station, for one thing. Anyone experiencing anything like that nowadays?)

Demand worldwide is increasing, regardless of where the charts suggest U.S. demand might be right now. As much as we like to admire our exceptionalism and burnish our lofty perch as the One and Only, we’re not alone on the planet, and what we want isn’t the beginning and the end of discussions about resource consumption and supply.

There are many billions of people on this planet who do not now enjoy and have never enjoyed the levels of growth and prosperity this nation has been blessed with, and there are very few among those billions who would not like their own chance at their own version of the American Dream—tarnished and bruised though it may be. We—they—are confronted with a pretty simple yet very powerful obstacle, however.

Finite resources are … finite. Not infinite. Not not finite. Whatever spin one may wish to employ to make the problem go away, the math is what it is. It takes some impressive contortions to suggest that the increasing demand clashing with declining supplies shouldn’t concern any of us. In one sense, those deniers are correct on the “any of us” scale … it concerns all of us.

Production is declining, however slowly that may be; unconventional resources are not making up the difference; alternative energy supplies are many, many years away from supplanting the fossil fuels we’ve depended on for the last 150 years or so, more people are asking for more of this declining resource, we don’t have an infrastructure in place to accommodate the requirements of non-fossil fuel resources, and there is no magic out there which will enable the increasing demand to be satisfied in full, at acceptable prices, quality, or timeliness. That is not going to change, and not going to get better. A month bump-up in production here and there sounds wonderful, but long term, it means next to nothing.

Facts are indeed annoying as hell. But the sooner more of us take the time to understand and appreciate what we must deal with, the sooner we can devise and then employ the strategies we’ll need, and the sooner we unleash the still-awesome capabilities of this nation and its remarkable citizenry to create a future that may just turn out okay despite our seemingly-best efforts to keep screwing it up.

I am by temperament a very optimistic person, and it is that attitude that will guide my efforts in this humble little blog to get us thinking and being and doing differently. Not easy? Check. Highly idealistic at the moment? Double check. Not enough to dissuade me? Triple check.

We need to take a look at where we are and what we are doing in a world now filled with relentless and great change, complexity on levels never before imagined, and widespread hopes for progress intersecting on the back side of a nearly-overwhelming global financial crisis. At the same time, these circumstances demand that we come to some better understandings and decisions about what we are doing to both adapt to energy and environmental concerns as well as participate in that adaptation if we continue to hold on to hope.

That’s the hyper-broad overview….

Recognition that change is taking place is the first step to then embracing it and participating in its evolution. Opportunity, or crises?

I’m no historian, but my vague recollections of American History suggest that “difficult” has never been the one insurmountable obstacle that has kept us from achievement. No reason to change that now.

I’m going with “Opportunity”, and will devote most of my posts in these next few months to exploring what that means and what we might do to seize the moments that now present themselves. Hope you’ll stay tuned.

To be continued next week….

Happy New Year to all

This very brief post will be my only one of the week. My lovely daughter returns to college in a couple of days to begin her final semester, and I’m keeping my schedule open for her.

The primary reason for this notice is to let you all know that Peak Oil Matters is going to be taking a slightly different and more expansive direction in 2011. Last year I offered a number of posts about actual consequences and concerns that will impact our everyday lives, and in 2011 my plan is to devote one post per week to that topic, giving readers a more direct and personal understanding about Peak Oil’s effects across a wide spectrum of daily living.

In the last several weeks, I also devoted several posts to discussing the need for planning (as have several other writers).

I think it is imperative that we begin more tangible preparations for the onset of Peak Oil. We won’t be falling off a cliff tomorrow, and the full brunt of Peak Oil’s effects won’t be experienced all at once, either. Gradually, but inexorably, changes will be in the offing, however.

We need to come to a better understanding of this, and start preparing ourselves now for the lengthy transition and just as lengthy impact of Peak Oil. Many issues must of necessity be considered, and I hope to make a contribution to the public dialogue we need to have.

To that end, I’ll be devoting at least one post per week to that vital topic.

I hope you’ll find these objectives enjoyable as well as beneficial.

I’ll return sometime later next week with the first posts in these two new series.