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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, 2012

We all act much the same way, ideologies notwithstanding. Human nature, I suppose. The more important questions: might we benefit from a bit of introspection before doing more of the same….

What comes after the ideology is appeased? How do we each and collectively deal with the outcomes of roads taken and not taken?

I could spend hours pointing out the nonsense of Republican orthodoxy, and sure as hell ten from the Right will rise up and point out what an idiot I am because they happen to have Chart A, Opinion B, and Evidence C to show me why I’m so thoroughly wrong. And just as quickly, ten of my peers will produce Chart D, Opinion E, and Evidence F to show why the Right is clueless. There are surely no topics having influence or impacting any segment of society which are not subjected to this type of analysis, dialogue, and dispute. And on and on it goes….

As an ideological exercise designed to reassure us that we are obviously correct and our opponents are just as decidedly insane, there’s merit in continuing to wage philosophical, political, and economic war with those on the “other” side who just simply don’t get it … at all! Ever! In a fact-free and consequence-free world, we could indulge ourselves forever by playing this game. Every day is Groundhog Day.

What is this getting us, exactly (besides a healthy stroking of our egos and intellect, of course)?

Back in the day, when all of life was so much simpler and easier, we could afford to just take care of our own, prosper, debate, solve problems, and then carry on with the assurance that tomorrow all but guaranteed better opportunities than those of today. That dizzying pace never got away from us.

But today, “our own” is … everyone else, and the pace has quickened in every direction. Several billion people want to be just like the best of our best. But when the few best resist the efforts and attempts of everyone else, or deny them the very opportunities which boosted them up the ladder, we have problems. And when the game board itself has changed to, and we no longer have all the pieces we need to win the game on our own, we’ll have even more problems if we don’t consider changing the rules a bit—assuming “winning” is still the goal. If not, then the current winners will by and large remain, everyone else loses, and pretty soon, everyone loses … all 100% of us.

Sound like a good strategy for the 21st Century?

I’m thinking a bigger vision is needed. As I suggested several months ago: “do we bog ourselves down by nit-picking—working harder to find out why something won’t work or why it is not perfect in every way under every condition and for every person—or do we adopt a grander strategy that will under no conditions be perfect or even acceptable to everyone, but provides us with the best long-term opportunities…?”

That remains a choice we each and all own.

The challenges are exacerbated by little tricks each and every one of us plays. They must help us in the moment, else we would change, but introspection might offer up some different approaches to help us all, and for a longer period of time. We shouldn’t be turning down any chances to make things better.

… [P]eople who know very little about an issue — say the economic downturn, changes in the climate or dwindling fossil fuel reserves — tend to avoid learning more about it. This insulates them in their ignorance — a pattern described by researchers as ‘motivated avoidance.’
Faced with complicated or troubling situations, these people often defer to authorities like the government or scientists, hoping they have the situation under control….
‘This is psychologically easier than taking a significant amount of time to learn about an issue, all the while confronting unpleasant information about it,’ [Steven Shepard] added. [1]

Too often, the “authorities” deferred to have motivations and interests entirely at odds with those who have turned to them for assurances that everything is being managed and “under control.” The result is obvious: Authorities misinform, misdirect, or even outright lie to promote their own agenda.

More and more we respond by shutting out the assault of cognitive dissonance and retreating from any unwelcome input. We surround ourselves with news outlets, friends and even neighbors who carefully reinforce what we want to believe. We are building our own reality to support our chosen narrative. It doesn’t seem to be working out well on a personal level and it’s rotting our politics. [2]

Is this the better and wiser approach (notwithstanding the pointlessness of it all)? Will there come a time when most of us (I’m not that optimistic!) decide that perhaps we ought to consider choosing paths which give us the best chance of leading to a reasonable and acceptable level of continuing well-being and prosperity—even if those choices do not mesh with the ideologies and beliefs we cling to so tenaciously?

That commitment requires that we take a moment to consider what happens if we don’t do so. This is not the time or place for delusion and denial.

… [A]n array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called ‘motivated reasoning [citation]’ helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, ‘death panels,’ the birthplace and religion of the president [citation], and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts….
We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself….
[O]ur quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about….
‘[We] retrieve thoughts that are consistent with [our] previous beliefs,’ says Charles Taber [political scientist from Stony Brook University], ‘and that will lead [us] to build an argument and challenge what [we’re] hearing.’
In other words, when we think we’re reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing … Our ‘reasoning’ is a means to a predetermined end—winning our ‘case’—and is shot through with biases. They include ‘confirmation bias,’ in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and ‘disconfirmation bias,’ in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial. [3]

Okay … guilty as charged. So now what?

We obviously wouldn’t be making use of these psychological tricks of the trade if they didn’t provide us with benefits and gratifications. So is that it? Shrug our shoulders, admit that we are all guilty from time to time and then … nothing?

Might we consider the possibility of being “better” than that? If we choose to solve what might appear at first blush to be overwhelming and even insoluble problems, we need more. We need more from our systems, more from our leaders, and more from ourselves. “Greater/better” leads to greater responsibilities of course, and there are ample reasons why we may prefer to just leave that to others.

A choice, of course. But every choice has an outcome, and when the challenges are great, great effort is called for. The alternative outcome is usually quite obvious: worse….

Guilty as charged there, too. Not much long-term benefit, to be sure, but easier in the moment by a long shot….

… [A]ccording to Charles Taber and Milton Lodge of Stony Brook, one insidious aspect of motivated reasoning is that political sophisticates are prone to be more biased than those who know less about the issues. ‘People who have a dislike of some policy—for example, abortion—if they’re unsophisticated they can just reject it out of hand,’ says Lodge. ‘But if they’re sophisticated, they can go one step further and start coming up     with counterarguments.’ These individuals are just as emotionally driven and biased as the rest of us, but they’re able to generate more and better reasons to explain why they’re right—and so their minds become harder to change.
Cherry-picking is precisely the sort of behavior you would expect motivated reasoners to engage in to bolster their views. [4]

Sound familiar?

More shoulder-shrugging, or do we reach for and seek to be … more?

Sources:

[1] http://www.eenews.net/public/climatewire/2011/12/19/1; PUBLIC OPINION: Report finds ‘motivated avoidance’ plays a role in climate change politics, by Umair Irfan – 12.19.11
[2] http://www.frumforum.com/where-the-crazy-may-be-coming-from; Where the Crazy May Be Coming From, by Chris Ladd – 09.16.11
[3] http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney; The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science – How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link, by Chris Mooney – 04.18.11
[4] Mooney

If we focus on trying to wean ourselves from dependence on oil, we can do it.
No, it won’t be easy–kicking an addiction never is. Yes, it might lead to some people eventually switching jobs or being slightly less fantastically wealthy (oil industry executives). And, yes, it will require some lifestyle and philosophical changes (ditto). But some of those changes will eventually be positive, not negative.
And, done intelligently, kicking our Middle Eastern oil addiction will also lead to the development of vast, exciting new jobs, companies, and industries–industries that we own and control and that will ultimately employ and enrich millions of Americans…..
We’ve had almost a half-century to prepare for this situation, and we haven’t done jack. If we remain in denial, fighting to preserve the status quo, a transition of Middle Eastern oil will ultimately be forced on us. And it’s hard to see why we would ever want that.
So it’s time we focused on this problem. And it’s time we did what any individual or company focused on fixing a long-term problem would do: Start by developing an intelligent long-term plan. [1]

Creating and disseminating an executable, unambiguous and widely adopted vision with supporting goals is one of the first steps to successful goal setting and implementation for any organization. The more complex the initiative and the larger the organization, the more important the creation and adoption of a shared vision becomes. [2]

Both quotes above echo themes I’ve been promoting since my first post more than two years ago. Addressing concerns and the challenges we face now by promoting ideas and policies designed to get us to the next election is not enough, and we should not for one moment be content with this strategy. Feckless Democrats and mind-numbingly narrow-minded Republicans serve no useful purpose, and we should all work to make sure that our elected leaders share the Vision we create for our future, and that they will abide by the directives we establish to make that our reality.

The challenges Peak Oil and Global Warming impose on us demand nothing less. Leadership has been almost entirely absent, and we’re past the point where we can wait through one or two more election cycles to get what we need. So far, we’ve gotten too much of the leadership we’ve deserved, and so there is responsibility on our parts to become more involved and knowledgeable about what takes place in the world outside our front door. Leaving others entirely in charge is no longer a viable option. The sooner we come to grips with that, the better our chances for the future most of us still hope to create.

Those themes are among the guiding tenets of what I’ll be proposing as this blog evolves, as I first suggested here.

As time passes, we’ll have fewer resources at our disposal to make the great changes we’re destined to make. Accordingly, we cannot afford to waste more now. We clearly have to find ways to move beyond the soul-crushing partisanship and the idiotic battles we wage to preserve ideologies at the expense of this great nation. Putting ourselves further behind cannot be a guiding strategy any longer. It never was, and is less so now.

So too must many of us come to accept that a blind, stubborn, and/or arrogant insistence on having now what once was is not the path forward either. Certainly it is more appealing and psychologically easier, given that it requires less of a (or no) commitment and effort on our part. We cannot do that to ourselves and our children, for one. And the uselessness of Congressional officials has made it abundantly clear that ceding all authority to them is a pointless exercise on its best days. We should be far more embarrassed than we are. We need to move beyond that, as well. Finger-pointing cannot be in the playbook, either.

In truth, the future could be unrecognizably harder than today in as little as 20 years. To reject this real possibility is to be willfully biased toward a bright future. Just because I warn of a possible future of hardship does not mean that I reject the notion that we could pull through the transition ahead in glorious fashion to a splendid shiny future for all. In fact, I’d love to see this happen, and I’d love it if we find a way around all my worries. But given the scale of our challenges, we would be foolish to assume that this path will materialize.
Assuming that a high-tech future will naturally unfold on the back-side of this curve is dangerous.
But for us to pretend that we are not stressing the ecosystem on a multitude of fronts at a scale never before seen in this world is irresponsible. It really is no wonder that we have a sense of unraveling. The future is unwritten, and the recent past may not be a good     template for the near future. We must accept that we face in the decline of fossil fuels the mother of all problems for humanity, and that past success has been against the backdrop of cheap and abundant energy. An unfamiliar phase awaits. [3]

The evidence of a warming planet and diminishing fossil fuel supplies are everywhere. What’s not at all clear are the motivations which support the destructive strategy of denial (although Naomi Klein had a brilliant piece on this recently—one to which I’ll be devoting considerable time to in the next few weeks.) Changes are going to force adaptations on our part. We can either lead by making intelligent, rational choices for the long term, or be at the mercy of changes for which we’ve instead chosen to be foolishly unprepared.

One could go on. The point is that the way we live together now, the way we govern ourselves, the way we arrange our physical spaces and our commerce, the way we do economics and measure prosperity—all these have to be changed in creative ways if we want to achieve the goal of sustainable prosperity. All these changes require … wait for it … innovation. Innovations in the way we think, interact, and structure our lives require just as much imagination, intelligence, persistence, and funding as innovations in technology. [4]

We buy fire insurance for our homes even though the likelihood of ever needing it are exceedingly small. The National Fire Protection Association reports that approximately 400,00 house fires occurred per year in the last half of this past decade. The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are more than 90 million single detached and mobile homes in this country, and 40 million other types of housing units. The percentage of homes requiring such coverage is thus exceedingly small, on the order of about four-thousandths of a percent if I did the math correctly (odds aren’t good, but regardless, the number is small!)

We weigh the risks and decide nonetheless that it is one we cannot and will not chance. Global warming is happening, and the quantity and quality of fossil fuel reserves available to us will not meet demand in the years to come. Much better odds (almost a guarantee) of dealing with the varied and overwhelming consequences, yet we are doing almost nothing about these challenges which carry the potential for greater harm and disruption to all of us! Hello!

Even if you want desperately to doubt, and can muster all the artillery possible which favors your point of view, the reality is what it is. Deniers must demonstrate the courage to at least consider the possibilities that there are indeed many truths and facts in support of the evidence they so ardently deny, and thus preparation and planning ought to at the very least be considered.

If you choose not to purchase fire insurance for your home because of your supreme confidence it will never be needed, then this argument will fall on deaf ears. But for all the others, you owe it yourselves and your children to consider the possibility—however slim it might appear to be from your perspective—that the evidence offered by your ideological opponents might … just might, have some validity.

America needs to resurrect the benevolent community and take on a new challenge. The Great Seal of the United States bears the dictum, ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ Out of many, one. That’s the historic spirit of America that is needed now more than ever. [5]

Sources:

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/middle-eastern-oil-addiction-2011-12; It’s 2012–It’s Just Absurd That We’re Still Addicted To Middle-Eastern Oil by Henry Blodget, 12.28.11
[2] http://www.businessofgovernment.org/blog/strategies-font-color-redcut-costsfont-and-improve-performance/reduce-energy-use-leading-vision; Reduce Energy Use: Leading with a Vision and Acting with Strategic Intent by Tim Fain – 07.20.11
[3] http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/12/the-future-needs-an-attitude-adjustment/; The future needs an attitude adjustment by Tim Murphy – 12.27.11
[4] http://www.energybulletin.net/node/51627; Why Bill Gates is wrong by David Roberts – 02.17.10
[5] http://www.opednews.com/articles/Lost-in-Space-The-Decline-by-Bob-Burnett-110715-765.html; Lost in Space: The Decline of the American Spirit by Bob Burnett – 07.15.11

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (the first from 2010 and from 2011 can be found here and here) 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.]

~~~

I don’t know if this is good news or bad, but credit card usage was up in 2011. [1] We’ve all survived another holiday shopping season, and if we’re behaving reasonably, we’ve all decided to hide a credit card or two for a few more weeks as part of our recovery.

I’ll confess that they are handy (as are debit cards, although my wife and I use those only on rare occasions). We’ve pared down the amounts and frequency with which we use them nowadays, but for most of our everyday purchases (gas for the cars, groceries, dry-cleaners, etc) they remain the standard. They are also quite handy in setting up online accounts as well … no fuss, no bother. Just click and pay. Great to have for all that Christmas shopping!

Raw Materials
[Credit] cards are made of several layers of plastic laminated together. The core is commonly made from a plastic resin known as polyvinyl chloride acetate (PVCA). This resin is mixed with opacifying materials, dyes, and plasticizers to give it the proper appearance and consistency. This core material is laminated with thin layers of PVCA or clear plastic materials. These laminates will adhere to the core when applied with     pressure and heat.
A variety of inks or dyes are also used for printing credit cards. These are available in a variety of colors and are designed for use on plastic substrates. Some manufacturers use special magnetic inks to print the magnetic stripe on the back of the card. The inks are made by dispersing metal oxide particles in the appropriate solvents. Additional special printing processes are involved for cards, like VISA, which feature holograms.
The Manufacturing Process
The manufacturing process consists of multiple steps: first the plastic core and laminate materials are compounded and cast into sheet form; then the core is the printed with appropriate information; next the laminates are applied to the core; and finally the assembled sheet is cut into individual cards.
Plastic compounding and molding
1 The plastic for the core sheet is made by melting and mixing polyvinyl chloride acetate with other additives. The blended components are transferred to an extrusion molding apparatus, which forces the molten plastic through a small flat orifice known as a die. As the sheet exits the die, it goes through a series of three rollers stacked on top of each other that pulls the sheet along. These rollers keep the sheet flat and maintain the proper thickness. The sheets may then pass through additional cooling units before being cut into separate sheets by saws, shears, or hot wires. The cut sheets enter a sheet stacker that stacks them into place and stores them for subsequent operations.
2 The laminate films used to coat the core stock are made by a similar extrusion process. These thinner films may be made with a slot cast die process in which a molten plastic film is spread on a casting roller. The roller determines the film’s thickness and width. Upon cooling the films are stored on rolls until ready for use.
Printing
3 The plastic core of the card is printed with text and graphics. This is done using a variety of common silk screen processes. In addition, one of the laminate films may also undergo subsequent operations where it is imprinted with magnetic ink. Alternately, the magnetic stripe may be added by a hot stamping method. The magnetic heads used to code and decode the iron oxide particles can only operate if the magnetic medium is close to the surface of the card, so the metal particles must be placed on top of the laminating layer. Upon completion of the printing process, the core is ready to be laminated.
Lamination
4 Lamination helps protect the finish of the card and increases its strength. In this process, sheets of core stock are fed through a system of rollers. Rolls of laminate stock are located above and below the core stock. These rolls feed the laminate into the vacuum shoes along with the core stock. The vacuum holds the three pieces of plastic together while they travel to a tacking station. At the tacking station a pair of quartz infrared heat lamps warm the upper and lower plastic films. These lamps are backed with reflectors to focus the radiant energy onto a narrow area of the films, which optimizes a smooth bonding of the film to the core stock. The laminate films are then fully bonded to the core stock by pressing with metal platens, which are heated to 266° F (130° C) and applied with a pressure of 166 psi/sq inch. This lamination process may take up to 3 minutes.
Die cutting and embossing
5 After lamination has been completed, the finished assembly is cut and completed by die cutting methods. Each assembly yields a sheet, which is cut into 63 credit cards. This is achieved by first cutting the assembly longitudinally to form seven elongated sections. Each of the seven sections is then cut and trimmed to form nine credit cards. In subsequent operations, the card is embossed with account numbers. The finished cards are then prepared for shipping, usually by attaching the card to a paper letter with adhesive. [2]

There were 1,488,000,000 credit cards in use 2006 and that number is projected to grow to 1,618,000,000 in 2010….
A stack of the 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the U.S. would reach more than 70 miles into space and be almost as tall as 13 Mount Everests….
There were 354 million debit cards in use 2006 and that number is projected to grow to 484 million in 2010. [3]

That is much more than I ever wanted or needed to know about credit card manufacturing, and I’m safe in assuming it’s more than you ever cared to know as well. The above information may be a bit dated, but I’m further assuming that the manufacturing processes remain essentially the same. The economy may have impacted the Census Bureau estimates in the second quote above, but it’s reasonable to assume that here in the U.S. there are still well over one billion credit and debit cards circulating in and out of wallets and purses today.

I couldn’t bring myself to determine the materials needed to obtain, manufacture, supply, transport, dispose of, or market each of the dozens of components required to create a credit card, and who knows how many hundreds of processes and components needed to obtain, manufacture, supply, transport, dispose of, or market each piece of machinery required to get from A to Z in the world of credit card manufacturing. How many workers and suppliers who depend on this industry is beyond my capacity to imagine.

A lot is a good guess. An even more accurate guess is that none of those dozens/hundreds of steps happen without some measure of fossil fuel at each and every one of those individual phases. Without twisting yourself into knots, just think about this entire A to Z process for another moment and consider that observation.

Oil production worldwide peaked/plateaued (whatever works for you) five years ago. Whatever we get from here on in is pretty much guaranteed to cost more; take longer to bring to market; in too many cases be of inferior quality, and will be financially/politically/technologically/practically riskier to obtain. [see this and this, for example]

While I cannot recall now where I read the statistic last month, more than a billion additional cars are expected to grace the planet in the not-too-distant future (mostly in China and India if I recall correctly). That’s just one fossil fuel-consuming product (albeit a big one).

If we no longer have adequate supplies as it is, and cannot rationally (key distinction) expect quality, affordable supply to keep pace with increasing demand—keeping in mind that the “good stuff” is being depleted each and every day and that unconventional supplies are barely keeping pace with those rates of depletion—what happens?

How many component manufacturers in the chain of credit card production are going to find their manufacturing capacities adversely affected when the fossil fuel supplies each and every one them needs is either restricted occasionally or frequently, and/or becomes prohibitively expensive? How many components will be in short supply? For how long? Replacements parts? Transportation capacity?

How many workers up and down the supply chain will have hours cut or eliminated? What’s the ripple effect then?

What if Friendly Bank A finds itself unable to meet your request for a replacement card until … “not really sure when”?

Of course, a collective decision could be reached that credit card manufacturing has been deemed a “Class A, Really, Really Important” Industry and thus will suffer no curtailment whatsoever in fossil fuel supplies up and down the chain.

Of course, that means Some Other Industry will have to sacrifice a bit more….

This is just one industry among how many hundreds/thousands which require full supplies of fossil fuels to get from Point A to Point Z. How long should we continue to deny or keep fingers and toes crossed that Magic Technology is racing to the rescue On Time?

Sources:

[1] http://money.cnn.com/2011/12/05/pf/credit_card_use/index.htm
[2] http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Credit-Card.html
[3] http://quezi.com/5215; How many credit cards and debit cards are there in the United States? – 03.16.09

Ten months ago, I offered this observation:

This is the reality: we’re NOT running out of oil, and we won’t for several more decades. But that is not the point and never is when discussing peak oil. Peak oil is about the rate of production, the quality of oil, the ease of access, refinement, availability, and affordability. Each of these production elements are now more challenging to meet, and is now happening when worldwide demand is ratcheting up. Finding fewer and smaller fields that consistently fail to keep up with depletion rates, producing less oil, often inferior in quality, more slowly, at greater expense, with much more effort required to satisfy increasing demand (just for starters) is not a recipe for success, profitability, and availability. And it’s not going to get any better. The steady march down the back slope of oil production is soon upon us, and very little that we produce, use, or depend on will remain unaffected by that truth.

Reality can be incredibly inconvenient, but we do ourselves no favors now, short-term, and especially long-term by either falling for the fact-free, feel-good nonsense offered by too many; deluding ourselves into thinking “someone else” is working on this and so we need not be concerned; or perhaps worst of all: simply refusing to educate ourselves about what we’ll soon enough be facing.

With that in mind, I thought it might be best to offer up some inconvenient truths about our fossil fuel supplies we would all do well to keep in mind. How we respond to the realities at hand is absolutely critical to the different future we’ll find ourselves in before too long. Preparation is a good thing; knowledge even better.

A little more than a year ago, Jeffrey Rubin offered commentary on the International Energy Agency’s then-current World Energy Outlook. His sobering take:

Output from currently producing fields is projected to fall precipitously, looking ironically like the steeply declining trajectory of peak oil’s Hubbert curve. (I say ironically because the IEA has historically denied the existence of peak oil.) According to the report, by 2035 three quarters of currently operating oil fields won’t be producing anymore. In fact, current fields are only expected to account for less than one fifth of that     year’s production.
That leaves over 80 per cent of the IEA’s 2035 production projection coming from new oil fields, ones that either haven’t yet been developed or haven’t even been discovered. And the contribution from that undiscovered category alone is still far greater than the one from currently producing fields. That’s a tall order for new field discovery. especially since almost none of it is cheap or easy….

Take that in for a moment. Those projections offer comfort about the future availability of high-quality crude oil only if Major Denial is your standard MO and/or happy, fact-free optimism is your preferred glide path through life.

With all indicators suggesting that we reached Peak Oil production rates more than five years ago (see this as just one observation on the issue), how we pull ourselves out of these difficult economic conditions and restore ourselves onto the path of continuing growth (along with those same expectations from several billion other inhabitants on the planet) demands some consideration from all of us.

If that didn’t get your attention, how about this:

In the 2011 World Energy Outlook by the IEA the Production of Crude Oil from the oil fields that produce oil in 2010 in expected to drop by over Two-Thirds by 2035. Quote: ‘We project that crude oil production from fields that were producing in 2010 will drop from 69mb/to 22mb/d by 2025 – a fall of over two-thirds’. But the IEA still expects the crude world production to remain at 67,9 mb/d per day 2035 from Crude Oil Yet to be found and Yet to be developed (WEO 2011: 122-123)….
The World’s Largest Oil Fields play a very important part for supplying the world’s energy demand. The Top Ten Fields produced 14,26 mb/d; around 20% of the World’s Total Oil Production. If the next ten fields were added the figure was around 25%. In total there was around 70.000 Oil Fields producing oil in 2007 and 20 of these fields produced a fifth of all the oil (WEO 2008: 225-226).
Another fact also stands out very clear; none of these fields has been discovered recently; the ones that was discovered the latest was discovered in 1982 and 1985. Only two of these fields hadn’t reached their Peak in production in 2007; the rest where on decline. During the summer of 2011 there were big headlines concerning an unusually big oil find outside the coast of Norway that is expected being able to produce up to 500-1200 million barrels of oil. Ghawar with its production of 5 million barrels of oil per day produces this amount of oil in 100-210 days. The trends of smaller and smaller findings are something often stressed by researchers within the Peak Oil movement; smaller and smaller fields of oil are being discovered even though the technological tool available to search for new fields constantly develops. [1]

This author’s conclusion states an obvious and painful truth: “[W]e will either have to be very lucky in our explorations or find an enormous amount of small fields.”

Despite putting their best foot forward, those in denial about Peak Oil, who laud the potentials of the tar sands and shale oil (and even those advocating the very necessary focus on alternative sources of non-fossil fuel resources) are unable to come up with any scenarios where production of these unconventional and alternative reserves make up what will be lost over these next few decades from the conventional oil fields we’ve long depended upon.

Denial remains an option, but its utility diminishes by the day. We need to be better.

If subtlety is not your thing, Henry Blodget offers us a more direct assessment:

Oil is at $100 not because of some world war or supply shock or other Black Swan, but because the world’s emerging economies are demanding more oil while the world’s oil producers are producing pretty much the same amount of it….
We’re highly dependent on a finite fuel source controlled by crazy people who hate us
We’ve done next to nothing about this problem for four decades
In some places, this inaction on our part would be referred to as insanity. Or at least gross stupidity.
In other places, it would just be called denial. [2]

And in a recent post by Brad Plumer, more sobering assessments were offered for those still struggling with facts and reality:

Most of the older, easier-to-drill oil fields appear to be running near full capacity, while newer supplies often prove costly and difficult to drill….
But here’s another way to look at it. As a chart from ExxonMobil’s new 2012 Outlook for Energy (via Gregor McDonald) shows, the vast bulk of our oil comes from those older, easier-to-drill fields, with more recently discovered supplies playing a smaller and smaller role:
As ExxonMobil details in its report more than 95 percent of today’s oil comes from fields discovered before 2000. About 75 percent comes from pre-1980 discoveries. While many massive, older fields can keep gushing for decades — Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar field, first tapped in 1951, still hums along at 5 million barrels per day — they seem to be dwindling overall. As Exxon’s chart shows, reserves discovered in the 1960s and before maxed out around 1980 (even as oil companies are trying to recover additional oil from older wells with better technology). What’s more, it seems to be getting tougher to squeeze oil out of newer finds. [3]

This is what confronts us: do we choose to spin it so it sounds better, or do we accept it and then work collectively to meet the challenge?

Simple choice … monumental ramifications.

Sources:

[1] http://www.americanpreppersnetwork.com/2011/12/peak-oil-and-our-mental-models.html; Peak Oil and Our Mental Models – The WikiLeaks Cable and The Worlds Largest Oil Fields, from  http://sibitotique.blogspot.com – 12.15.11
[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/middle-eastern-oil-addiction-2011-12; It’s 2012–It’s Just Absurd That We’re Still Addicted To Middle-Eastern Oil by Henry Blodget, 12.28.11
[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/most-of-the-worlds-oil-comes-from-aging-fields/2011/12/13/gIQAaM6CsO_blog.html?wprss=ezra-klein; Oil’s getting harder and harder to come by – Brad Plumer, 12.13.11

… [W]e are farther away than we have ever been from having a shared national vision for the future of our country….
Absent such a framework for the future, the national debate has been the victim of an increasingly acute form of intellectual paralysis: The short-term mindsets of our elected officials and the voters — tied to the two-year election cycle — force debate on inherently inadequate, short-term solutions to substantial, long-term problems. Because we have no shared vision of the country’s future, against which short-term solutions might be measured, there are no metrics for productive discourse. Hence, our so-called ‘leaders’ argue in reliance on their ‘principles,’ rather than with a broader view toward implementing the future we want to see.
Things will only continue to grow worse, and much more polarized (although that’s truly frightening to imagine), unless and until we agree, as a nation, that there are some fundamental issues about our future that need to be addressed… and resolved. [1]

So perhaps the most important question of all: What is the Goal—our Vision for the future—for the kind of nation and people we hope to be?

It is much more than a discussion of how we get there. What is it that we want to achieve … to be? Do we want “success” and prosperity and peace only if it can be obtained through the narrow lens of our highly-partisan individual and collective ideologies, or is attaining our primary objectives by whatever means are necessary in a changed world more important?

Last July, I offered this:

If we truly wish to believe and know ourselves to still be exceptional amid all the chaos and challenges and burdens that encompass us, then we need to harness a vision for the future that is not just incrementally better than this one, using the same resources and methods and strategies and ideologies that brought us to here and now. Peak Oil is going to change pretty much all of the dynamics.
We must ask ourselves—individually and community-wide—what we believe are the best opportunities for growth and prosperity going forward, and we must ask this with full awareness that we approach a future very different from the past and the present we will soon leave behind. In the years to come, the energy source which empowered and enabled us to rise to our lofty perch atop the world of technological marvel and progress     will gradually but steadily fail to meet our expectations of ongoing, ready availability; ease of access, and affordability.

We have the opportunity to take the best of all that we have and have to offer—from everyone—and move forward with greater definitions and determinations of success and prosperity and fulfillment. That’s a choice we still own.

But whatever it is we might want or feel entitled to will have to give way to the courage of knowing and understanding what the new scenarios and circumstances will be. Only then can we/should we proceed. That knowing, unpleasant or unwelcome as it is to all of us, must be accepted. The delusional and the fact-free denials about the challenges ahead must be set aside once and for all. They preserve an ideology which serves almost no one, and we need to come to terms with that fact. We deserve better; we are better; and it’s time we demonstrate those truths.

We still have the chance to resume our position of leadership, excellence, and exceptionalism, but we will do so from a different platform and with different resources and purposes to guide us. The longer we take to accept this inevitability, the more troubles we create for ourselves.

Resistance to change must be avoided in every possible way, as unfamiliar a process as that may be for some of us. Without our efforts and commitments and greater understandings, things will only get much worse for almost all of us, regardless of ideology.

I raised these issues almost a year ago:

Is global warming a “hoax” and nothing more? Should we concern ourselves at all with the current and future conditions of fossil fuel production that provides for us all? Are we better off in the long run cutting even more public expenditures that now afford some minimal assistance to our fellow citizens in need, better educational opportunities for our children, opportunities to innovate and invent better lives for all of us, and maintain, repair, and improve the infrastructure that serves as the foundation of all that we achieve? Or are we better off ensuring that instead, that small group of the wealthiest among us preserve their wealth at the expense of the many?

It may seem to be nothing more than a philosophical/ideological exercise, but the answers to those questions go to the very heart of the decision-making that will determine our future. Those decisions affect all of us, if not today or tomorrow, soon enough. As I’ve previously noted:

But the most critical issue to be addressed by all of will be more direct: do we bog ourselves down by nit-picking—working harder to find out why something won’t work or why it is not perfect in every way under every condition and for every person—or do we adopt a grander strategy that will under no conditions be perfect or even acceptable to everyone, but provides us with the best long-term opportunities in the face of Peak Oil. If     we cannot get beyond problem-solving-business-as-usual, we’ll be having these pointless partisan battles for another century … assuming we survive intact that long.

We begin with the question of where we want to go and how we want to be, and then figure out the path that will get us there by taking into account the realities with which we must contend: peak oil, global warming, economic issues (including the destructive inequality), and their impact on what has been to date. Anything less will eventually show us to be doing nothing more than chasing our tail.

The capacity for the United States to alter its current and projected economic and energy course is dependent upon its leaders’ abilities to formulate and effectively communicate a clear vision and unified purpose in the energy field, establish clear renewable energy goals, commit to a rigorous energy-use reduction plan, prioritize energy research, and implement an energy policy that creates a viable energy future. The American populace will need to acknowledge the reality of biophysical constraints, and embrace a renewable, energy efficient ‘American way of life’. [2]

I remain convinced we’re up to the task. We just need to start.

Much more on the way.

Sources:

[1] http://www.newgeography.com/content/002394-whatever-happened-the-vision-thing-part-ii?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Newgeography+%28Newgeography.com+-+Economic%2C+demographic%2C+and+political+commentary+about+places%29; Whatever Happened to ‘The Vision Thing’? Part II, by Peter Smirniotopoulos – 09/03/2011
[2] Lambert, J.G.; Lambert, G.P. Predicting the Psychological Response of the American People to Oil Depletion and Declining Energy Return on Investment (EROI). Sustainability 2011, 3, 2129-2156 [p, 2150]. http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/3/11/2129/

What would the New Year be if we didn’t have an offering of more half-truth, delusional nonsense about our fossil fuel status?

Amy Myers Jaffe (nice takedown here) wrote an article for Foreign Policy a while back, serving up another example from the playbook of denial nonsense. As I suggested in a series of posts at the end of 2011 [first one here], it’s high time we start recognizing the strategies of half-truths employed by those whose primary vested interest appears to be their own wallets much more so than the well-being of our nation. But this is a free country, and if nonsense is what you choose to spout, there are forums everywhere.

Just a sampling from that article of what continues to pass for the valuable exchange of information, with my commentary in the [ ] following:

Geologists have long known that the Americas are home to plentiful hydrocarbons trapped in hard-to-reach offshore deposits, on-land shale rock, oil sands, and heavy oil formations….The problem was always how to unlock them economically.
But since the early 2000s, the energy industry has largely solved that problem. With the help of horizontal drilling and other innovations, shale gas production in the United States has skyrocketed from virtually nothing to 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply in less than a decade. By 2040, it could account for more than half of it.

[Facts—damn them!—suggest that the energy industry hasn’t exactly “solved” the problem, and “could account” is not the assurance we should be counting on. Chris Nelder—damn him—took this proposition apart in a very nice post. Nelder had the audacity to use facts, calculations, statistics, reports and assorted other so-called evidence to rebut this now-familiar claim about our natural gas potential, when he could have played by the same rules and tossed in a few “might possibly’s” and “if only’s” … but no, he had to use actual information. I hate that!]

… analysts are predicting production of as much as 1.5 million barrels a day in the next few years from resources beneath the Great Plains and Texas alone — the equivalent of 8 percent of current U.S. oil consumption. The development raises the question of what else the U.S. energy industry might accomplish if prices remain high and technology continues to advance. Rising recovery rates from old wells, for example, could also stem previous declines. On top of all this, analysts expect an additional 1 to 2 million barrels a day from the Gulf of Mexico now that drilling is resuming. Peak oil? Not anytime soon.

[A couple of questions come to mind: Which analysts? Using what evidence? “predicting … as much as” means what, exactly? As for “what else the U.S. energy industry might accomplish if prices remain high and technology continues to advance”: I believe that “if prices remain high” is good for oil company executives and … that’s about it. So that’s not necessarily a good thing for most of us, but if “technology continues to advance”, why then, we might perhaps possibly have some potential good news in the future. Fantastic!]

The picture elsewhere in the Americas is similarly promising. Brazil is believed to have the capacity to pump 2 million barrels a day from “pre-salt” deepwater resources, deposits of crude found more than a mile below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean that until the last couple of years were technologically inaccessible. Similar gains are to be had in Canadian oil sands, where petroleum is extracted from tarry sediment in open     pits. And production of perhaps 3 million to 7 million barrels a day more is possible if U.S. in situ heavy oil, or kerogen, can be produced commercially, a process that involves heating rock to allow the oil contained within it to be pumped out in a liquid form. There is no question that such developments face environmental hurdles. But industry is starting to see that it must find ways to get over them, investing in nontoxic drilling fluids, less-invasive hydraulic-fracturing techniques, and new water-recycling processes, among other technologies, in hopes of shrinking the environmental impact of drilling. And like the U.S. oil industry, oil-thirsty China has also recognized the energy potential of the Americas, investing billions in Canada, the United States, and Latin America.

[Where in our planning for the future should we put “similarly promising”? As regards the second sentence about Brazil, who is doing this “believing” about that nation’s capacity? When might this happen? I didn’t note anything about the actual costs or process of extracting this crude “more than a mile below the surface” of the ocean … I’m assuming some facts might be available to instruct us as to what’s involved and what we     can expect? This nonsense—emphasis mine—speaks for itself: “And production of perhaps 3 million to 7 million barrels a day more is possible if U.S. in situ heavy oil, or kerogen, can be produced commercially, a process that involves heating rock to allow the oil contained within it to be pumped out in a liquid form.” Perhaps it’s possible if? This is the basis for the happy-talk about our fossil fuels? Seriously? I didn’t happen to catch any details about what’s involved in “heating rock.”     The facts would spoil all that optimism, and God forbid we be obliged to deal with reality….And that kerogen deal: they’ve been trying for a few decades now….]

And then there’s this bit of almost-factual opinion from Robert Bradley, touting his very own Institute for Energy Research’s report on our energy “inventory.”

The first red flag is right there in the title of his Forbes piece: “America’s Massive Energy Potential Awaits, Mr. President

As I noted in that above-referenced November 15 post of mine, “massive” and “vast” are straight from Page One of the right-wing handbook on misdirection and half-truths: use impressive (but unquantifiable) terms to bolster your claim … and hope readers aren’t curious enough to ask how much?

The real problem is that much of our resources are not being developed because of antiquated, heavy-handed government regulations. As a consequence, the American economy is being deprived of significant job creation and new investments….
The blame rests largely on unnecessary and onerous government regulations. Many offshore reserves are still blocked by outdated moratoriums no one is taking the time to reform. New permit applications are almost always subject to massive bureaucratic delays. Existing energy operations have to navigate labyrinthine — and costly — regulations. And regulators themselves are largely free to impose new controls on energy development with little to no congressional check.

This tiresome rant from the Right just isn’t adding much to the discussion any more. It’s a great red-meat sound bite, but devoid of any factual content, its benefits to our well-being are, well, non-existent. (But if you use “liberal”, “taxes,” and “regulations” in a sentence, you earn bonus points!)

Why are these regulations “unnecessary”? What “massive bureaucratic delays” (unique to this issue) and “labyrinthine [sure sounds awful!] — and costly — regulations” are involved? What might happen absent these socialist-liberal-Martian-tax-crazed regulations? “[R]egulators themselves are largely free to impose new controls on energy development with little to no congressional check.” Sounds awful! How about a “for instance” unique to this situation (with context, of course, which I realize violates a basic rule of the playbook)?

Seriously? “Regulations” are all that stand in the way of a limitless bonanza of energy resources for us? These johnny-one-note offerings suggest nothing more than a failure of both imagination and willingness to engage in meaningful and honest conversations.

I remain at a loss to understand why so many insist on tactics like these which have almost no relevance to legitimate, long-term solutions. Sure would be nice to toss some integrity into the mix now and then.

The author then offers this impressive-sounding collection of statements:

Total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels, which is more oil than the entire world has used over the last 150 years. And that amount alone could meet the energy needs of the United States for the next 250 years.
An estimated 1.4 trillion of those barrels are buried under American soil. For some perspective: the total proven reserves in Saudi Arabia is just about 260 billion barrels.
And even that 1.4 trillion figure might be an underestimation. Future technological innovation may well lead to improved detection techniques, helping us locate oil deposits currently uncovered. Or innovation could improve extraction techniques, enabling us to tap into reserves previously thought unreachable.

I can’t help myself [my emphasis]: “Future technological innovation may well lead to improved detection techniques, helping us locate oil deposits currently uncovered. Or innovation could improve extraction techniques….” Really? More Page One happy talk about all of the “could possibly perhaps” and “just might if” justifications (I use that term loosely). When do we declare a winner in the Happy Talk v. Facts competition?

I don’t recall seeing much in the way of an explanation or facts about all of these magical totals. Costs? Quality? Environmental concerns? Time factor? Return on energy investment? How about depletion from existing fields as a factor?

Robert Rapier offered a damning rebuttal to this author’s propositions, starting with a big hint in the title of his piece: Why Some Republican are Delusional About Oil and Energy Policy. (To be fair, he also offers criticisms of some of the positions offered by Democrats, and commends each party as well for certain other approaches.)

Like Mr. Nelder above, Mr. Rapier wasn’t content to just toss out a fact-free statement and end the discussion there. No, he had to go and conduct an investigation, and then analyze the facts offered above. Damn him! (Another hint Rapier offers comes from a sub-heading discussing the very same report prepared and cited by Robert Bradley: “Misleading Study Obfuscates Recoverable Reserves.”)

Rapier begins his analysis with this: “I find these sorts of reports highly misleading, for the following reason” and then quickly dismantles Mr. Bradley’s contentions in the next few paragraphs.

He then concludes:

The truth is that it will always take too much energy to produce some of those oil resources, placing some of them forever out of reach. But, the magical thinking from many Republicans here is that the oil is there if the political will is there for taking it. The danger in this kind of thinking is exactly the same as the danger in thinking we can smoothly transition to renewables: It diminishes the urgency of our energy predicament. After all, if people believe that renewables will save us, or that more drilling will save us — we are going to put off making the tough decisions that could really save us in the long run.

All of us—conservatives, liberals, whatevers—would do well to heed his advice.

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[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (the first from 2010 and from 2011 can be found here and here) 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.]

~~~

The (I hope) festive holiday season is once more in our collective rearview mirror, and we all now eagerly await the return of spring and the good feelings the change to warmer seasons always seem to usher in.

Most of us probably spent at least a brief period of time celebrating the holidays and (again, I hope!) enjoying our time with family and friends. Surely a good majority of us enjoyed a home-cooked meal or two at some point in these last seven or eight weeks….

What does this have to do with Peak Oil? Everything has to do with Peak Oil one way or another, and family meals are no different.

Another safe assumption I’ll offer up is that the home-cooked meals—be they simple all the way to extravagant—involved an electric or gas appliance or two. Pots and pans? Utensils and plates and cups? Travel to one or more stores and grocers to get all the fixins’? Air or car travel involved? And how about leftovers?

I doubt my family get-together was even marginally different than most of yours in those regards. One of our children drove up from her apartment some fifty miles away from us on four separate occasions. Another traveled back from college in New York on three separate occasions (via Amtrak). Our youngest was home on leave from the U.S. Army via a flight from Down South. He made two round-trips home in the last six weeks of 2011.

There were more than a few family/friend gatherings during that period. Lots of cooking, cleaning, eating (dining out, too) and leftovers. Sound familiar?

Not one single meal—purchase, prep, consumption, or “doggy bag”—and not one entrance into our home happened without some measure of fossil fuel usage. The multiple trips to grocery stores, drives back and forth from apartment to our home, travels to and from other states, pickups and drop-offs at Amtrak stations and Logan Airport, meal preparations, products used, re-used, and disposed of, leftovers packed away … all of that required that we use and consume some small and not-so-small amounts of oil and gas.

I’m sure I was the only one in my family who even once considered that fact, and even then I can’t say I spent much time contemplating it. I’m willing to wager a fair amount that the significant majority of readers paid that truth not even a second’s worth of attention. But it is the truth.

The farmers and others who provided the food and drink (along with the chain of suppliers who enabled them to do so in the first place), the transportation systems employed to get Seed A to Table B and all the interim phases and personnel … each and every one of them made some small or not-so-small use of fossil fuels as well. The manufacturers of the appliances and dishes and utensils we used, and the manufacturers of the machinery which allowed the manufacturers of the appliances et al to do their thing … they used fossil fuels, too. The plastic bags and Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers we all made use of liberally … same deal.

I could go on, but the picture should be fairly clear right about now. A lot of people required to make each family meal an enjoyable reality, and a lot of fossil fuels consumed along the way.

As I and others even more knowledgeable than me have noted before and do so once again: Oil production worldwide peaked in the middle of the last decade. Whatever supplies are left for us all to acquire and consume will surely cost more (and guess who pays?). The easy stuff is pretty much gone now, so what we are going to use will take longer to get from there to here. A lot of it won’t be nearly as efficient as good ole’ crude oil. That’s just for starters.

If supplies are about as good and plentiful as they’ll ever be from now on—soon enough embarking on an irreversible downward slide—what happens?

How many component manufacturers and suppliers in the chain of food and beverage production are going to find their capacities adversely affected when the fossil fuel supplies each and every one them needs is either restricted occasionally or frequently? Costs will rise, so that won’t help much. How many shortages of this or that item start cropping up, with no reasonable substitute waiting in the wings? Which transportation system finds itself lacking adequate supplies of fuel to meet demand?

What happens to our holiday family travel and dining plans as a result?

How many workers up and down the chain will lose their jobs because employers cannot meet demand and/or have lost business because resources and supplies simply aren’t available?

Of course, we could just decide that food and air travel (much more expensive, undoubtedly) are to be preserved as priorities no matter what (food … okay; air travel?).

Of course, that will require we collectively decide that something else will have to bear the burdens of less….Won’t that be fun!

What plans are in place today to address these and countless related concerns? What are we waiting for?

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today
— Abraham Lincoln

Let’s work to make this a very good year for us all….

Imagine, if you will, a nation of 300-plus million people … the vast majority of them good, honest, decent, and hard-working (when they have the opportunity, that is).

Each and every one of these honorable individuals is looking for just about the same things as everyone else: to make a good life for themselves and those to whom they owe a responsibility; to better their circumstances and those of their children in whatever manner best expresses their individuals dreams, ideals, and expectations; to plan for a future that is a bit brighter than the one they faced years ago or contend with now; and a future for their children filled with hope and promise and expectations that the world they inhabit will be brighter and happier and more fulfilling and peaceful and rewarding at all levels.

Not so difficult to imagine, is it? Any objections to this definition of what most might recognize as an expression of the American Dream?

Now imagine this same nation where just 400 people are wealthier as a group than half of that exceptional nation of 300 million citizens (impressive, and not necessarily a problem in and of itself). But imagine further than these 400 people are better served by policies and benefits and advantages than more than 150 million of their fellow citizens. Imagine that the representatives elected by those millions of citizens to serve them instead devote their efforts and energies to making certain that the 400 are always better served and protected than the 300 million.

Probably don’t have to actually explain to anyone residing on Planet Earth in these last couple of years which nation we’re referencing. What comes after shameful?

This is “exceptional”? This is the kind of nation we choose to be? One need not vilify the 400 for their wealth if fairly-earned, but it should not be an objectionable argument that protecting their interests at the expense of all others is not the mark of a great nation and respected leaders.

This is the kind of nation we choose to offer to our children?

It’s been a recurring theme of mine, among others, that we face a set of challenges as daunting as any this nation has ever encountered.

I have not been shy in stating that I believe we are up to the challenge, and that we are indeed an exceptional people. But I have not been hesitant to call out the rampant hypocrisy, stupidity, as well as the appalling lack of integrity and compassion routinely exhibited by “leaders” (and yes, much of my ire is directed to the nonsense and fact-free justifications from some on the Right, whose lack of concern for almost everyone not in that sacred group of 1%-ers is breathtaking in its arrogance and disregard.)

Ideology can be a club, but rarely is it a shield, and in light of what the facts (for those for whom such things matter) tell us about our climate (laughable, tinfoil-hat-wearing, paranoid nonsense like this notwithstanding) and fossil fuel reserves, the narrow-minded and short-sighted ideology guiding too many with influential voices will offer them no protection when the consequences make themselves known to even the most delusional among them. (The attacks from the many who placed their misguided trust in the smooth assurances these “leaders” trotted out from their one-note play books will be another story altogether.)

We’re all going to have to come to some understanding sooner than later about what is most important: prosperity, opportunity, and peace; or preserving a rigid ideology which protects the few at the expense of the many.

Long-term planning, visionary thinking, and the courage and wisdom to act upon what is in the best interests of society, regardless of the short-term consequences, political or otherwise, are the hallmarks of a progressive* society. [1]

* I interpret this term in its broader (i.e., forward-thinking, innovative) sense than the left-leaning political definition more often attributed to it.

What will we demonstrate now and in the years to come? And by “we” I mean all of us, not just the “leaders” to whom we’ve assigned responsibility for our well-being while paying too little attention to what they’re doing with that charge.

Back in May, I began this series about our future by setting out my “table-setters” for the Vision I’ll explore in much greater depth in the months to come:

~ What kind of a nation do we want to be?

~ What do you want for yourself, now and in the days to come?

~ What kind of life are you looking forward to living, whether you are a recent graduate about to enter the workforce, an established professional, or are now in your later years?

~ What kind of community do you want to live in?

~ What kind of environment do you truly believe is most conducive to a life of opportunity and hoped-for prosperity?

~ Will you choose to fear change, or welcome it as an opportunity for you to play a greater part in using it for your own benefit as well as for others—in whatever manner offers the most meaning for you?

~ Do you want to feel as though you have a voice in what your life can and will be, or is being entirely at the mercy of others a better way to live?

~ Do you still harbor at least a bit of hope for better days to come?

~ What do you want for your children and grandchildren?

~ What answers will we provide for them in years to come when they are mired in the difficulties and challenges brought about by an ever-declining supply of fossil fuels and are wondering why we were so short-sighted and narrow-minded when we had so many opportunities to do more?

These are not (or at least they shouldn’t be) idle questions given short-shrift. How we answer these and related questions will determine our future. It’s not rocket science.

Will our future be one filled with great regret for opportunities lost, or one relished because we showed ourselves—individually and collectively—to be the exceptional people we’ve been boasting about? I know where I’m casting my vote and placing my hopes. You?

The great majority of us—the 99%-ers (Left and Right), have a very simple decision to make and abide by from this moment forward: should we continue to advocate affirmatively, support passively, or defend vigorously, the policies and ideologies which in the end (and through most of the journey, for that matter), benefit the 1% and their obedient sycophants regardless of its negative impact on most of us; or do we decide that we and our children (future 99%-ers in most cases) are just important enough that we all need to start doing things differently?

Should each and all of us be denied the better opportunities we have long held as this nation’s most sacred promise because of the actions and favored policies of the few? Do we honor the hopes of the 21st Century or find ourselves catapulted back to the Middle Ages with clear demarcations between the those entitled and those not? We might want to sneak a peek out the front windshield and figure out which road we’re traveling.

We still have choices….

Much more on the way.

Sources:

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lance-simmens/california-high-speed-rail-_b_1093423.html; Why We Can Afford High-Speed Rail by Lance Simmens (Deputy Director for Communications, California High-Speed Rail Authority) – 11.17.11