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[Sixth in a series]
Back in November, Naomi Klein offered a fascinating and thought-provoking essay in Nation magazine entitled “Capitalism vs. the Climate” in which she discussed the transformative changes needed if we are to successfully (not a guarantee) and thoroughly address the challenges of our warming planet. Her insights and observations can easily be adapted to the similar considerations and challenges Peak Oil will extend to us as well. Taken together, the confluence of these looming impositions on our once-cozy ways of life mandate responses far more expansive than a policy here or a tweak there. Ms. Klein offers us all a well-reasoned approach for both how and why.

Every Monday (and for one more week), I’ll take advantage of her arguably controversial yet well-reasoned assessments to elaborate and extend the thought process as it applies to Peak Oil. This is the sixth installment of the discussion inspired by Ms. Klein’s essay [Links to Parts 1 – 5 below].

[* Any quotes following are taken from Ms. Klein’s essay in Nation unless noted otherwise.]

~~~

The biggest and most difficult changes will have to be in world view and values.  The present commitment to individualistic competition for affluent-consumer ‘living standards’ and endless increases in wealth must be replaced by a strong desire to live simply, cooperatively, and self-sufficiently, and by concern for the common good. [1]

It has been another of my main themes that small changes here and there, every now and then, by a few of us when we can spare the time, are not the optimal strategies for us to pursue in the face of Peak Oil’s looming challenges to our well-being and our industrialized society (with all the attendant benefits we currently enjoy). Change is coming….The sooner the majority of us recognize and accept that fact, enabling us to then prepare intelligently for what we’ll all adapt to, the better our chances of creating a rewarding future for us all.

And as I have noted in the most recent posts in this series, others better credentialed than me have stated with more than a bit of urgency that we will need an entirely new and different economic and industrial system to not only provide us with the opportunities and the means to continue growth, we will need such systems to function at all. As with most great undertakings, the saying is easier than the doing.

The media and the government understandably see the preservation of the status quo as good, and anything threatening it as bad. But if we adopt that outlook, we condemn ourselves to a future of endless bad news. In order to make our way through the decades of transition ahead, it’s important that we adopt a longer view, and devote much less effort to preserving a beguiling veneer of normalcy. The more of us who have a long view, the better. Without it, people (including world leaders) will get scared or unrealistically, giddily optimistic and do foolish things. [2]

The responsibility rests with all of us. Ceding that to others clearly possessing their own agenda (or worse, serving masters who clearly have different agendas which do not allow for concerns about the community at large), is no longer acceptable—if it ever was. While speaking specifically to the issue of climate change denial, Naomi Klein’s observations apply with equal force to Peak Oil and the opposition mounted against that reality:

Heartland’s campaign against climate science grew out of fear about the policies that the science would require. ‘When we look at this issue, we say, This is a recipe for massive increase in government….Before we take this step, let’s take another look at the science. So conservative and libertarian groups, I think, stopped and said, Let’s not simply accept this as an article of faith; let’s actually do our own research.’ This is a crucial point to     understand: it is not opposition to the scientific facts of climate change that drives denialists but rather opposition to the real-world implications of those facts.

… ideas about minimal government, no matter how demonstrably at war with reality, remain so profitable to the world’s billionaires that they are kept fed and clothed in think tanks by the likes of Charles and David Koch, and ExxonMobil….
The deniers are doing more than protecting their cultural worldview—they are protecting powerful interests that stand to gain from muddying the waters of the climate debate.

As President Obama noted recently:

Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them – that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans. [3]

We need to come to a decision—soon—about whether or not this system which clearly favors so few at the continuing expense of so many must be allowed to continue in its present form. On the near-horizon are critical, complex, consequence-laden assessments to be made about what kind of a society we choose to be going forward and in the kind of nation we choose to occupy. And it is not because there must be a declared winner in the idiotic partisan war we’ve been engaged in with increasing fervor since we elected a Socialist-Martian-Kenyan-tax-loving-America-hating-whatever-the-hell-‘Charming’-Newt Gingrich-is-calling-him-this-week President.

As much fun as it has been to paint the other side delusional and unpatriotic (but only when we want to be nice; and yes, I’m guilty, too), we’ve accomplished absolutely nothing beyond a near-paralyzed state of governance and deeply-embedded animosity to the “other side” who are clearly intent on destroying all that our side holds near and dear.

The decisions to be made are not limited to the kind of culture we’ll adopt or which political ideology triumphs. To take but one popular source of never-ending contention, banning gay marriage so that those satanic, heterosexual-marriage-destroying and choosing-to-be-gay-for-the-hell-of-it sickos no longer have the opportunity to destroy this entire country by encapsulating us (apparently) in some kind of destructive force fields which will then presumably cause every heterosexual marriage to spontaneously combust (whew!) … should be shelved. And that’s but one of too many other equally idiotic distractions that do nothing but play to irrational fears of the clueless. Policy by ignorant, red meat sound bites ought to be trashed once and for all. We’re better than that … or at least we should be, by now.

We’ve got more important things to worry about than whether or not Bill and Dave’s marriage to each other will end civilization as we know it. (Here’s a clue for the clueless: it won’t. People loving for one another and committing themselves a permanent relationship has rarely led to the downfall of nations, and it won’t now either. Perhaps the more-than-once married heteros who fight that fight might instead spend a bit of time in introspection … or at the very least familiarize themselves with the term “hypocrite.”)

The reasons why we need to start making adult decisions about our very serious adult problems are much more pronounced:
For decades, our best science has suggested that staying on our present growth-based path to global development implies catastrophe for billions of people and undermines the possibility of maintaining a complex global civilization. Yet there is scant evidence that national governments, the United Nations, or other official international organizations have begun seriously to contemplate the implications for humanity of the scientists’ warnings, let alone articulate the kind of policy responses the science evokes. The modern world remains mired in a swamp of cognitive dissonance and collective     denial seemingly dedicated to maintaining the status quo. We appear, in philosopher Martin Heidegger’s words, to be ‘in flight from thinking.’ [4]

Now might be a good time to try something else. We all have skin in this game, and since the consequences that spill out across the landscape once we really start having to deal with the impact of Peak Oil in our day-to-day lives are going to affect just about each and every one of us, we need to join in the debate. And as I have been urging throughout, that means we all need to become better educated about the facts and the risks. Relying on the feel-good pablum dispensed by those with interests at odds with our own is another tactic we should toss into the trash heap.

NO ONE wants to even think about, let alone plan for and then step into an entirely new lifestyle where the fundamental tenets of capitalism, growth, and profit-making are subsumed to something much less “appealing.” Who among us wants to spend the rest of our days living in a society which, after all of our technological achievements and progress, resembles something much more like a life on a little house on the prairie, circa 1756? That existence and the sacrifices which might be be necessary as we transition to a world powered by some other less efficient and less plentiful sources of energy are as foreign to us as adaptation to life on the outer moons of Jupiter.

But the question which will confront us all soon enough requires some hard choices and levels of involvement and change few of us are prepared to even think about, let alone act on. Do we want to survive and carry on with new definitions of success and contentment and prosperity as our guides, or do we continue to drive the profit-and-all-the-gadgets-we-can-muster bus over a cliff?

What to do?

Choices….

I’ll have some final thoughts on this series in an upcoming post.

Links to Parts 1 – 5 of this series:

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/03/26/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-1/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/02/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-2/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/09/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-3/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/16/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-4/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/23/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-5/

Sources:

[1] http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/TSWmain.html; WE MUST MOVE TO THE  SIMPLER WAY: AN OUTLINE OF THE GLOBAL SITUATION, THE SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY, AND THE TRANSITION TO IT by Ted Trainer, Faculty of Arts, University of N.S.W. – 10.22.09
[2] http://www.postcarbon.org/beguiling_veneer; A Beguiling Veneer of Normalcy by Richard Heinberg · 04.23.09
[3] http://robertreich.org/post/13852130536; The Most Important Speech of His Presidency by Robert Reich – 12.06.11
[4] http://sspp.proquest.com/archives/vol6iss2/1001-012.rees.html; Rees W. 2010. What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 6(2):13-25. Published online Oct 14, 2010.

Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.
This effect is only heightened by the information glut, which offers — alongside an unprecedented amount of good information — endless rumors, misinformation, and questionable variations on the truth. In other words, it’s never been easier for people to be wrong, and at the same time feel more certain that they’re right. [1]

[NOTE: This is the third in a subset of my ongoing series entitled Looking Left and Right (which began here; see Category sidebar for all links). This is about Peak Oil, but addresses the considerations and potential solutions from a different perspective than purely fact-based and/or he-said—she-said ones which too often dominate public discourse. With the caveat that I have NO professional expertise/training in psychology or its related fields, I’ll look at emotional and psychological “tricks” and traits we all use—Left, Right, and in-between—to bolster our beliefs and opinions as we do battle with our “opponents” in the increasingly polarized political forums which too-often dominate our culture.

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate  – Francis Bacon [courtesy of David McRaney]

As I observed in that first post of this Looking Left and Right series:

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?…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.
There is a great deal at stake for all us, and we might all be better served understanding not just what we do in asserting and defending our beliefs, policies, and opinions, but why. Appreciating that might make a world of difference … literally!]

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this mini-series, I began an examination of what my semi-snarky, decidedly liberal perspective saw as a perfect summation of stereotypical right-wing nonsense regarding fossil fuel production and gas pricing, relying on the concept of cultural cognition as described by Dan M. Kahan, Yale University and Donald Barman – George Washington University [link to PDF download]. I’m doing so in the hope that this might afford Peak Oil proponents—and those who doubt—a window into how the discussion has been approached to date, and more importantly, how to get past the stumbling block of ideology (my own and the “others”). We’ll need all the intelligence, expertise, and assistance we can get to find some practical adaptations and solutions.

Studies of everyday reasoning show that we usually use reason to search for evidence to support our initial judgment, which was made in milliseconds. [2]

Our task, then, is to organize society so that reason and intuition interact in healthy ways. [Jonathan] Haidt’s research suggests several broad guidelines. First, we need to help citizens develop sympathetic relationships so that they seek to understand one another instead of using reason to parry opposing views. Second, we need to create time for contemplation. Research shows that two minutes of reflection on a good argument can change a person’s mind. Third, we need to break up our ideological segregation. [3]

Problems solved!

And now, back to reality….I’ve argued in any number of posts that how we approach, plan for, and then finally adapt to the changes Peak Oil and a warming planet are going to impose requires not just better efforts from our so-called political and business leaders. As full as our plates may be, meaningful adaptation to a very different future requires understanding, effort, cooperation, and contribution on our parts as well.

So far, most of our leaders have done an admirable job of ignoring and pandering instead. “Gotta cover my political ass” is the unfortunate, long-lamented but yet-to-be-changed legislative approach for most. No one seems willing or able to get past that and have honest, full-disclosure conversations with the electorate (all of them, not just constituents on the same side of their ideological fence), to thus explain why change is on its way and why (and how) we need to plan for it now. It’s a daunting challenge to be sure, but it’s the only way. (I’m not suggesting that President Obama isn’t attempting to do so. He is. It’s just not enough, and that’s not solely his “fault.”)

It’s well past time for us to ask: What’s the incentive and benefit in keeping people uninformed? Expecting delivery of honest (albeit unpleasant) truths shouldn’t be just an ideal….How is not doing so of any benefit past the next election?

And so again we circle back to more of the perspectives commonly adopted and expressed by those who deny Peak Oil, artfully shared by the above-referenced Mr. Folks. (There’s a lot to discuss. I’ll examine and discuss these points in the final installments.)

That’s been more than enough time to fix the problem, but he’s done nothing but make it worse. If the president had promoted domestic production of fossil fuels as he should have done, we wouldn’t need a quick fix.  We would have had a fix already in place, and it would now be working.

Meanwhile, on his four-stop ‘energy tour,’ Obama continued pushing the failed policies that have resulted in soaring gas prices.  At every stop — even at Cushing, Oklahoma, the heart of oil country — he insisted that drilling for oil is not enough.  It will take “all of the above,” he stated, including greater subsidies for solar outfits like Solyndra and higher taxes on oil companies.  How is that going to bring down gas prices?
At the same time, Obama’s surrogates are attacking Wall Street speculators and ‘greedy oil companies’ for driving up prices.  Those same speculators drove down prices during the Bush administration — why are prices soaring only now, if not as a result of Obama’s policies?  And those so-called greedy oil companies have had to fight Obama for permission to drill anywhere.

For over 40 years the left has brought out one argument after another against fossil fuels.

Whether it is ‘peak oil,’ ‘carbon emissions,’ ‘can’t drill our way out,’ or ‘no quick fix,’ every argument has the same goal: to force Americans off fossil fuels and onto expensive, government-regulated green alternatives.

When Obama tells us there’s no quick fix, he is not suggesting that we should get started on a fossil fuel fix.  He’s saying that since there is no quick fix with fossil fuels, we’re better off dumping them and moving on to renewables. But if the fossil fuel fix is not all that quick, the green energy fix is glacial.  In fact, it is no fix at all, because no matter how many windmills and solar farms we subsidize with taxpayer money, it will not be enough to fuel even one tenth of our energy needs.

The proper course is to withdraw all subsidies and allow market forces to decide where to allocate capital.
Yet Obama refuses to consider this obvious solution, despite the fact that in the real economy and at the state level, where federal regulation has not yet intruded, it is already working.  The oil and gas boom in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states is spurring growth, producing cheap energy, and why can’t you recognize the facts about its limitations and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

If only he could gain control over oil and gas drilling — regulatory control that still rests mainly with state governments — he would soon have his boot on the neck of America’s energy companies — extorting billions from them to further his political ambitions.

If Obama is re-elected, the effort to bring the energy sector under national regulation will only be intensified.  A large part of that effort will be punishing new taxes and environmental regulation at the national level.  None of this will result in lower gas prices.  In fact, it will continue the push toward European price levels, currently at $10 a gallon.
Despite what the president tells us, there actually is a ‘fix’ for high gas prices.  It is to get government out of the way and allow America’s world-class energy companies to compete in the production of cheap and reliable energy.

Sigh….

For starters, the ongoing whining (I know, I know—not helpful, but I am duly acknowledged that this is not a practice limited only to the Right bashing a President on the Left) that President Obama’s policies are either raising gas prices or not lowering them has been thoroughly discredited by a long list of experts from across the political spectrum *, yet the “argument” persists. To what end?

The question I posed above as it relates to our political and business leaders is no less applicable to these “messengers:” What’s the incentive and benefit in keeping people uninformed?

How do we get past that? Can we? We don’t have much of a choice.

More on the way….

* A random search of articles I’ve reviewed in just the last 6 – 8 weeks produced the following list. It’s a nice cross-section of fact-based debunking of the gas price whining mentioned above. The optimist in me says this should be sufficient to put that argument to bed, but it won’t. (A few weeks ago, I also posted a discussion about the President’s “responsibility” for keeping gas prices high.)

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/cpt/2012/03/06/our-view-on-the-price-of-oil/
OUR VIEW ON THE PRICE OF OIL
by Glen Bottoms
03.26.12

http://www.salon.com/2012/02/23/obamas_most_dangerous_foe_high_gas_prices/
Obama’s most dangerous foe: High gas prices
by Andrew Leonard
02.23.12

http://energypolicyinfo.com/2012/02/get-real-on-gas-prices/
Get Real on Gas Prices
02.27.12

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/breaking-views/drilling-alone-wont-bring-cheap-us-oil/article2350463/
Drilling alone won’t bring cheap U.S. oil
by Christopher Swann
02.26.12

http://www.greatenergychallengeblog.com/blog/2012/02/27/presidents-and-the-price-of-oil/
Presidents and the Price of Oil
by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson
02.27.12

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/03/02/436254/empty-promises-experts-say-keystone-xl-wont-do-anything-for-gas-prices/
Empty Promises: Experts Say Keystone XL Won’t Do Anything For Gas Prices
by Stephen Lacey
03.02.12

http://www.truth-out.org/gas-us-elections/1330365861
Gas in the US Elections
by Dean Baker
02.27.12

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/playing-politics-with-us-gasoline-prices/2012/02/27/gIQAIRKieR_story.html
Driving the politics out of gas prices
by Charles Lane
02.27.12

http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/presidential-oil-lies/2088
Presidential Oil Lies: Politicians Lie, the Market Doesn’t
by Nick Hodge
02.28.12

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/02/drilling_gas_prices.html
More Drilling Won’t Lower Gas Prices
by Michael Conathan
02.29.12

http://theenergycollective.com/node/77794
Who’s To Blame For Current Gas Prices? (Newt Gingrich — Gas Price Fairy)
by Robert Rapier
02.28.12

http://mediamatters.org/research/201203060003
Energy Experts Debunk Right-Wing Defense Of Oil Subsidies
03.06.12,

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-story-behind-us-gas-price-pain
The Story Behind US Gas Price Pain

by Tyler Durden
03.08.12

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/03/14/the-truth-about-obama-oil-and-the-gasoline-blame-game-part-i/
The Truth About Obama, Oil And The Gasoline Blame Game-Part I
by Rick Ungar
03.14.12

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/03/17/the-truth-about-obama-oil-and-the-gasoline-blame-game-part-two/
The Truth About Obama, Oil And The Gasoline Blame Game-Part Two
by Rick Ungar

03.17.12

http://c4ss.org/content/9933
Big Oil, Big Government, and Big Hypocrisy
by Kevin Carson
03.18.12

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2109474,00.html
Viewpoint: Gas Prices and the Big GOP Lie
by Bryan Walsh
03.20.12

http://grist.org/media/media-produces-laments-public-ignorance-on-gas-prices/
Media produces, laments public ignorance on gas prices
by David Roberts
03.21.12

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_DRILL_NOW_FACT_CHECK?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
FACT CHECK: More US drilling didn’t drop gas price
By SETH BORENSTEIN and JACK GILLUM
03.21.12

http://www.alternet.org/news/154724/why_the_right%27s_zombie_lie_about_gas_prices_is_wrong_but_they%27ll_never_let_it_die
Why the Right’s Zombie Lie About Gas Prices Is Wrong But They’ll Never Let it Die
by Joshua Holland
03.27.12

Sources:

[1] http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/; How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains by Joe Keohane – 07.11.10
[2] http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt07/haidt07_index.html; MORAL PSYCHOLOGY AND THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF RELIGION by Jonathan Haidt – 09.22.07
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/the-righteous-mind-by-jonathan-haidt.html?pagewanted=1; Why Won’t They Listen? [book review of] ‘The Righteous Mind,’ by Jonathan Haidt – March 23, 2012 by William Saletan

[Fifth in a series]
Back in November, Naomi Klein offered a fascinating and thought-provoking essay in Nation magazine entitled “Capitalism vs. the Climate” in which she discussed the transformative changes needed if we are to successfully (not a guarantee) and thoroughly address the challenges of our warming planet. Her insights and observations can easily be adapted to the similar considerations and challenges Peak Oil will extend to us as well. Taken together, the confluence of these looming impositions on our once-cozy ways of life mandate responses far more expansive than a policy here or a tweak there. Ms. Klein offers us all a well-reasoned approach for both how and why.

Every Monday (and for two more weeks), I’ll take advantage of her arguably controversial yet well-reasoned assessments to elaborate and extend the thought process as it applies to Peak Oil. This is the fifth installment of the discussion inspired by Ms. Klein’s essay [Links to Parts 1 – 4 below].

[* Any quotes following are taken from Ms. Klein’s essay in Nation unless noted otherwise.]

~~~

If you’ve read the first four installments of this series, “What the f*ck are we going to do?” would seem a reasonable inquiry right about now. Unfortunately, finding even a reasonable approximation of just one well-developed comprehensive response is a pipe-dream at the moment, although there have been many well-reasoned contributions to the discussion.

If/when a petroleum shortage impacts it will concentrate minds wonderfully. But when it comes the window of opportunity could be brief and risky. If things deteriorate too far too fast there could easily be too much chaos for sense to prevail and for us to organize cooperative local alternative systems. [1]

I’m fairly certain that that should not be our first option. And while there’s no disputing this sage observation, we’re going to need much more, as is duly noted:

I submit that most of the world today is in the thrall of a grand, socially constructed vision of global development and poverty alleviation centered on unlimited economic expansion fueled by open markets and more liberalized trade (Rees, 2002). This mythic construct springs from the demonstrably flawed assumption that human well-being derives from perpetual income growth….
Mere information, including scientific analysis of a problem, is generally not enough to stimulate policy reform or effective action. [2]

Here’s what I see as a fundamental and quite serious obstacle to Peak Oil/Climate Change-mandated adaptations: We will soon be asking several billion people to adopt an entirely new mindset about how to live their remaining years on the planet—economically, industrially, socially, personally—with all that this entails. At the same time we’ll be telling several billion more on the verge of finally enjoying at least some semblance of the economic and personal lifestyles of the former that most if not all of those expectations are not going to be met. Messenger volunteers?

All major governments and international development agencies are committed to maintaining the growth in per capita income that has characterized industrial countries for more than a century and to extending consumer culture to the three-quarters of the world’s people who have yet to join the party [3]

In essence, absent planning (and education) at levels and in scope at this moment beyond our rational embrace, a distinct possibility is that all of us are going to have to live our lives and conduct our commercial enterprises in the much more limited manner which this latter group of several billion have been obliged to all their lives.

Who’s prepared for that option?

In my very first post I made my position on the subject quite clear:

… I am definitely not the peak oil movement’s poster child.
I’m an American consumer through and through, but/and yes, a political and social liberal. To our teens’ never-ending annoyance, we recycle religiously. Nearly every one of the seeming seven million light bulbs in our two homes is an energy-saving one. I installed them all myself. But that’s pretty much it for now.
We own two very nice, new luxury automobiles—one an SUV. We have a terrific second home a short walk from the ocean; less than an hour’s drive from our home in the ‘burbs of Boston….
We drive [there, in lieu of public transportation]. Often. Always. Sometimes we make two round trips in the same day. Most times we take at least two if not all 3 vehicles (the third belongs to our 3 teenagers. A fourth—car, not teenager—will soon make its appearance in our driveway). We go to our summer home a lot between May and October.
We’ve traveled a fair amount, have lots of neat household toys, and in general have enjoyed a very nice lifestyle in recent years. I do not recite this to boast about what a great life we have, which we admittedly do—none of which I take credit for. We are indeed very, very lucky, and we know it. But I also understand that we won’t be donating or selling any of our possessions in the near or not-so-near future.

Still haven’t, by the way. Like more than 99% of you, I do not want to have to deal with this; think about it; figure out how to plan, or do anything else of the kind. The enormity of it all is paralyzing!

It would be naïve to think that any attempt to articulate a new sustainability-oriented cultural narrative would not be met by strenuous pushback. We have already shown how reluctant society is to respond consistently to evidence that the world is on a collision course with biophysical reality. Few people opt for ‘voluntarily simplicity’….
‘Contraction’ is simply not a narrative that resonates with the times. On the contrary, most people are psychologically committed to continuous economic growth, the illusion of ever-increasing material prosperity, and the myth of progress (citation). Powerful and privileged elites, those with the greatest personal stake in the status quo, control the policy levers that are steering us onto the ecological rocks.  [4]

It is thus perfectly understandable why instead we are inclined to deny, deceive, or hope that technology will somehow lead or find a way….Some clearly have more than a vested interest in ensuring that we don’t tinker too much with what has been working—for them.

The truth is different. Harsher. Daunting at its best.

[F]or reasons confined to sustainability consumer-capitalist society is so grossly unsustainable that it cannot be fixed. You cannot reform such a system so that it remains focused on affluence, market forces, and growth yet does not cause ever-increasing problems of resource depletion, environmental destruction and social conflict. If you still want to claim that such a system is redeemable the above discussion makes clear the magnitude of the problems you will have to show can be solved by technical advance; statements of faith in technology are not acceptable here. [5]

This not a value judgment about the merits of capitalism versus its drawbacks. It is beyond that. It must be if we are to successfully adapt in some semblance of “just in time.”

This is no longer about blame or condemning the wealthy. We need to move beyond that cat fight. It is instead a recognition we must all come to terms with: That life as we have known it, as wonderful and thrilling and rewarding a ride as it has been, depended on certain fundamental conditions and resources to make it all happen, and now the availability of those essential provisions is diminishing.

We’re still blessed with all kinds of choices. Not a single one of us has to accept this premise or believe in it even a little bit. We are free to continue to go right on living as if life had no limits, and enjoy this until reality puts an end to it. Soon enough, the unpleasant truth is that reality is going to smack each and every one of us upside the head. Denial and hope have their effectiveness limitations, too.

This is instead a simple recognition that certain outcomes flow from the many wonders of capitalism. There are countless good rewards and benefits. Who can rationally argue against that proposition? A peek out one’s window is sufficient proof; a glance around the room inside is no less convincing.

But some results are not so good. There exists an amply-documented inequality in income and opportunity that all but the most viciously self-centered or delusional must admit to. That cannot continue. It’s also quite true that it is admittedly and practically impossible for us to conceive of any other kind of economic system. It’s almost as difficult to believe that we won’t find a way to adapt through even more technological advances and thus continue to carry on.…

But the critical difference is that the fuel—literally—which enabled and supported the creation and maintenance of the society we’ve known over the past 150+ years is simply no longer available as it has been throughout this great ride. Again, not good or bad; just an end result. What to do?

Choices….

Links to Parts 1 – 4 of this series:
http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/03/26/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-1/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/02/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-2/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/09/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-3/

http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/04/16/peak-oil-capitalism-sustainability-pt-4/

Sources:

[1] http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/TheTransitionProcess.html; Thoughts on THE TRANSITION To a Sustainable Society by Ted Trainer – 04.10.11
[2] http://sspp.proquest.com/archives/vol6iss2/1001-012.rees.html; Rees W. 2010. What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 6(2):13-25. Published online Oct 14, 2010. http:///archives/vol6iss2/1001-012.rees.html
[3] Rees
[4] Rees
[5] http://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/ted-trainer-the-simpler-way-perspective-on-the-global-predicament/; Ted Trainer: The Simpler Way perspective on the global predicamentIn Around the web – 06.01.11 [from TED TRAINER, The Simpler Way]

The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. [1]

[NOTE: This is the second in a subset of my ongoing series entitled Looking Left and Right (which began here; see Category sidebar for all links). This is about Peak Oil, but addresses the considerations and potential solutions from a different perspective than purely fact-based and/or he-said—she-said ones which too often dominate public discourse. With the caveat that I have NO professional expertise/training in psychology or its related fields, I’ll look at emotional and psychological “tricks” and traits we all use—Left, Right, and in-between—to bolster our beliefs and opinions as we do battle with our “opponents” in the increasingly polarized political forums which too-often dominate our culture.

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate
– Francis Bacon [courtesy of David McRaney]

As I observed in that first post of this Looking Left and Right series:

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?…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.
There is a great deal at stake for all us, and we might all be better served understanding not just what we do in asserting and defending our beliefs, policies, and opinions, but why. Appreciating that might make a world of difference … literally!]

In Part 1 of this “mini-series”, I proposed an examination of what my semi-snarky, decidedly liberal perspective saw as a perfect summation of stereotypical right-wing nonsense regarding fossil fuel production and gas pricing, relying on the concept of cultural cognition as described by Dan M. Kahan, Yale University and Donald Barman – George Washington University [link to PDF download]. I do so in the hope that this might afford Peak Oil proponents—and those who doubt—a window into how the discussion has been approached to date, and more importantly, how to get past the stumbling block of ideology (my own and the “others”). We’ll need all the intelligence, expertise, and assistance we can get to find some practical adaptations and solutions.

(Of necessity, there must at a minimum be some recognition on the part of those who dispute Peak Oil that at least some facts bear consideration before outright dismissal. I hope that bar is low enough….)

So let’s dive in.

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper….
Contradictory evidence strengthens the position of the believer. It is seen as part of the conspiracy, and missing evidence is dismissed as part of the coverup….
What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs….
The backfire effect is constantly shaping your beliefs and memory, keeping you consistently leaning one way or the other through a process psychologists call biased assimilation. Decades of research into a variety of cognitive biases shows you tend to see the world through thick, horn-rimmed glasses forged of belief and smudged with attitudes and ideologies. [2]

Certainly makes sense! As a general proposition, aren’t we all most comfortable in familiar surroundings and circumstances? How many of us have been guilty at one time or another (or many more) of staying in a job we hate, or a relationship clearly having no future, simply because the known is “easier” to deal with than the unknown, regardless of potential improvement?

Isn’t it perfectly reasonable to assume that everyone acts in ways to support and validate their thoughts and beliefs and opinions? Who likes change or wants to be proven wrong all the time (or even occasionally)?

And so risks objectively undertaken and/or controversial positions adopted tend not to be such an issue when we’re lodged in the familiar or among peers who share our opinions and beliefs. Common sense, right?

There’s now a staggering amount of research on the psychological and even the physiological traits of people who opt for conservative ideologies. And on average, you see people who are more wedded to certainty, and to having fixed beliefs. You also see people who are more sensitive to fear and threat — in a way that can be measured in their bodily responses to certain types of stimuli. [3]

In and of itself, this is neither a “bad” or “wrong” approach. It’s just how one views the world, and it’s also understandable that most of our life experiences are shaped by and from a particular vantage point most comfortable to each of us.

So, conservatives tend to be ‘individualists’– meaning, essentially, that they prize a system in which government leaves you alone — and ‘hierarchs,’ meaning, they are supportive of various types of inequality.
The individualist is threatened by global warming, deeply threatened, because it means that markets have failed and governments — including global governments — have to step in to fix the problem. And some individualists are so threatened by this reality that they even spin out conspiracy theories, arguing that all the world’s scientists are in a cabal with, like, the UN, to make up phony science so they can crash economies. [4]

Which at long last brings me to Mr. Folks, and our dilemma.

The left’s goal is to shift control of a vital sector of the economy, and one that plays a crucial part in the lives of all Americans, into the hands of government.  Along with ObamaCare and financial regulation, it is the third leg of Obama’s socialist takeover of the economy.

We Peak Oil advocates want to find ways to adapt and solve the problems Peak Oil will create. Whatever works best in fashioning acceptable and hopefully profitable/beneficial solutions amid the great complexity and inter-connectedness of 21st century living is our concern and objective. We’re willing to tweak what must be tweaked because we accept and understand that Business-As-Usual simply will not be possible in the long term. We would rather that perspective be adopted and understood sooner rather than later.

So when we read statements like the one just quoted, our first reaction (other than snickering at the bug-eyed conspiracy nonsense), is despair. At first glance there seems little hope of bridging the divide between what we accept as fact and the “other side’s” promotion of irrelevancies, delusions, misrepresentations, and failures to understand and accept … reality! And no doubt we are doing so colored by our perceptions and biases and beliefs.

Liberals don’t understand conservative values. And they can’t recognize this failing, because they’re so convinced of their rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment. [5]

What to do? We’re driven to get past this and solve the problems before they become unsolvable, but how to make that happen when our perceptions convince us that those who deny Peak Oil are delusional at best?

Climate change and Peak Oil are going to impose some major-league changes for all of us. Those whose psychological make-up is more discomfited by change will go to great lengths to fashion justifications for denying or ignoring potential consequences. This is all the more pronounced given that solutions will almost certainly require more involvement by government, more community-wide planning, and concessions by free-marketers—all of which are anathema to conservatives.

But the bigger issue is not how to continue supporting one’s belief system in the face of potential change. The more important question is: do we create more harm for ourselves and others by failing to question or think about what we’re confronted with? Do we give in to the emotional responses which first set us on the paths of ideological make-up, or can we find room for reasoning before arriving at final conclusions? Given what we face, is that “automatic” and unquestioned response wise? Is the ideology more important than our longer term well-being?

Politics isn’t just about ­manipulating people who disagree with you. It’s about learning from them. [6]

In the next installment of this series, we’ll examine more of Mr. Folks’ commonly-held positions to see what we can learn from the conservative’s perspective, and what those who share his viewpoint might learn from ours.

Sources:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/the-righteous-mind-by-jonathan-haidt.html?pagewanted=1; Why Won’t They Listen? [book review of]The Righteous Mind,’ by Jonathan Haidt – March 23, 2012 review by William Saletan
[2] http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/; The Backfire Effect by David McRaney – 06.10.11
[3] http://www.alternet.org/environment/154709/the_strange_conservative_brain:_3_reasons_republicans_refuse_to_accept_reality_about_global_warming; The Strange Conservative Brain: 3 Reasons Republicans Refuse to Accept Reality About Global Warming by Chris Mooney – 03.26.12
[4] Chris Mooney
[5], [6] William Saletan

[Fourth in a series]
Back in November, Naomi Klein offered a fascinating and thought-provoking essay in Nation magazine entitled “Capitalism vs. the Climate” in which she discussed the transformative changes needed if we are to successfully (not a guarantee) and thoroughly address the challenges of our warming planet. Her insights and observations can easily be adapted to the similar considerations and challenges Peak Oil will extend to us as well. Taken together, the confluence of these looming impositions on our once-cozy ways of life mandate responses far more expansive than a policy here or a tweak there. Ms. Klein offers us all a well-reasoned approach for both how and why.

Every Monday (and for three more weeks), I’ll take advantage of her arguably controversial yet well-reasoned assessments to elaborate and extend the thought process as it applies to Peak Oil. [Part 1 here; part 2 here; and part 3 here].

[* Any quotes following are taken from Ms. Klein’s essay in Nation unless noted otherwise.]

~~~

Late last month, in the course of my research and readings, I came across a number of essays and articles by and about Ted Trainer, the proponent of The Simpler Way….

Echoing themes raised by others which I’ve noted in recent posts—and in particular a key feature in Ms. Klein’s essay—Trainer argued that the very system which has produced so much prosperity and technological wonder is simultaneously the very reason why we face monumental challenges in the coming years—most notably the economic inequality front and center these days, as well as the effects of climate change and Peak Oil.

Resolution of the problems we’ll confront, while ensuring the hopes for a future which can and will support our continuing well-being, necessitate much more than a tweak here and there. More troubling still is his (and others’) assessment that the economic system which brought us to this point is not the one to rely on for the next part of our journey.

These considerations of sustainability, global economic justice and social cohesion show that our predicament is extreme and that it cannot be solved in consumer-capitalist society. This society cannot be fixed, because its problems are caused by its fundamental structures and processes. There is no possibility of having an ecologically sustainable, just, peaceful and ‘spiritually’ satisfactory society if we allow market forces and the profit motive to be the major determinant of what happens, or if we seek economic growth and ever-higher ‘living standards’ without limit. [1]

Ms. Klein was a bit more expansive in her similar assessment:

Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.

Piece of cake! Can’t imagine anyone offering even the slightest objections … couple of weeks and we oughta have everything switched over to ah, um, whatever Plan B is. In truth, the enormity of such an undertaking is for all intents and purposes inconceivable. What to do?

Critical for us all to understand and accept, as Ms. Klein also noted, is that:

Outside the [right-wing, climate change-denying] Heartland conference and like-minded gatherings, the return of planning is nothing to fear. We are not talking about a return to authoritarian socialism, after all, but a turn toward real democracy. The thirty-odd-year experiment in deregulated, Wild West economics is failing the vast majority of people around the world. These systemic failures are precisely why so many are in open revolt against their elites, demanding living wages and an end to corruption. Climate change [and Peak Oilmy comment] doesn’t conflict with demands for a new kind of economy. Rather, it adds to them an existential imperative….
There is a growing body of economic research on the conflict between economic growth and sound climate policy….
The way out is to embrace a managed transition to another economic paradigm.…But the role of the corporate sector, with its structural demand for increased sales and profits, would have to contract.

Her observations are no less relevant to the onset of Peak Oil, and every bit as daunting in execution.

We must guard against the notion that Peak Oil’s impact (like climate change) is just a one-time, cataclysmic episode “scheduled” to happen but only at some random time at an indefinite point sometime in the future, and thus we can put off dealing with it until “later.” It’s already here … has been for more than five years! We’re now cruising along atop a somewhat steady (?) plateau of crude oil supply while feverish exploration continues; but the mountain tops are now all below us.

The fact that we’re addicted to Middle Eastern oil is a national embarrassment.
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….
[W]e can elect people who will actually lead us, instead of telling us what we want to hear. And we can encourage these leaders to develop a 10-Year-Plan to cure our Middle Eastern oil addiction.
Such a 10-year plan would likely have elements that will initially be unpopular. The alternative to this unpopularity, however, is continued lack of control over our destiny—which most folks who look at this situation objectively will probably agree is worse. [2]

The assessment is spot-on, but seriously: Who DOESN’T want our marvelous capitalist system to continue full bore, pumping out one astonishing technological feat after another, while producing enormous wealth for many, and equal opportunities for so many more? Who doesn’t want to do all that they can to ensure the continuation of the promises of this lifestyle (present woes duly noted and notwithstanding)? Who in their right mind wants to contemplate for even a micro-second the creation of Mr. Blodget’s suggested ten-year plan, let alone the twenty-year proposal suggested in The Hirsch Report (see related links in the Category sidebar)?

The problem is that at some point, we bump up against reality. We may be enjoying this heady ride for all its worth, but we are doing so because we have enjoyed the untrammeled use of a seemingly-endless supply of resources … and the ride is going to come to an eventual end because reality tells us that the “seemingly-endless supply” is instead quite finite. The end of the ride won’t happen next month or next year or maybe even 2016 or 2020. Who knows for certain?

The issue is that whenever it does arise, based on current observations, we will have not done anywhere near the amount of work and planning and transitioning needed. We will then be faced with more people with more demands who will then be dealing with limited and declining supplies (with alternatives insufficient to match and meet demand) at the very point where they most need them and are most prepared to use them. And no one will have been informed about what we’ll all be confronted with or what we all must do. Is that really our best strategy?

• Waiting until world oil production peaks before taking crash program action leaves the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for more than two decades.
• Initiating a mitigation crash program 10 years before world oil peaking helps considerably but still leaves a liquid fuels shortfall roughly a decade after the time that oil would have peaked.
• Initiating a mitigation crash program 20 years before peaking appears to offer the possibility of avoiding a world liquid fuels shortfall for the forecast period.

The obvious conclusion from this analysis is that with adequate, timely mitigation, the costs of peaking can be minimized. If mitigation were to be too little, too late, world supply/demand balance will be achieved through massive demand destruction (shortages), which would translate to significant economic hardship [3]

Sound like a good idea to implement? Or: Sit back, wait, hope for the best, and see what happens?

More to come….

Sources:

[1] http://sspp.proquest.com/archives/vol6iss2/1001-012.rees.html; Rees W. 2010. What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 6(2):13-25. Published online Oct 14, 2010

[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.netl.doe.gov/publications/others/pdf/oil_peaking_netl.pdf; The Hirsch Report p. 52 [PEAKING OF WORLD OIL PRODUCTION: IMPACTS, MITIGATION, & RISK MANAGEMENT by Robert L. Hirsch, SAIC, Project Leader Roger Bezdek, MISI Robert Wendling, MISI – February 2005]

Reality has a well-known liberal bias – Stephen Colbert

[NOTE: This is the first in a subset of my ongoing series entitled Looking Left and Right (which began here; see Category sidebar for all links). This is about Peak Oil, but addresses the considerations and potential solutions from a different perspective than purely fact-based and/or he-said—she-said ones which too often dominate public discourse. With the caveat that I have NO professional expertise/training in psychology or its related fields, I’ll look at emotional and psychological “tricks” and traits we all use—Left, Right, and in-between—to bolster our beliefs and opinions as we do battle with our “opponents” in the increasingly polarized political forums which too-often dominate our culture.

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate
– Francis Bacon [courtesy of David McRaney]

As I observed in that first post:

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…? 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.
There is a great deal at stake for all us, and we might all be better served understanding not just what we do in asserting and defending our beliefs, policies, and opinions, but why. Appreciating that might make a world of difference … literally!]

Recently [Part 3 of this Looking Left and Right series], I introduced the concept of “cultural cognition”, from the works of Dan M. Kahan, Yale University and Donald Barman – George Washington University [link to PDF download]. The authors’ introduction:

There is some phenomenon— other than the paucity or inaccessibility of scientific information—that shapes the distribution of factual beliefs about, and the existence of political conflict over, law and public policy. What is it?
The answer, we propose, is a set of processes we call cultural cognition. Essentially, cultural commitments are prior to factual beliefs on highly charged political issues….culture is prior to facts in the cognitive sense that what citizens believe about the empirical consequences of those policies derives from their cultural worldviews. Based on a variety of overlapping psychological mechanisms, individuals accept or reject empirical claims about the consequences of controversial polices based on their vision of a good society. [p. 148]

So here’s one Peak Oil-related problem:

Furthermore, in a democracy, a mandate for radical changes, particularly those that will in the short-term adversely impact the living standards of voters, requires the electorate to be already suffering from the condition that the government’s ‘cure’ is intended to alleviate. With regard to the energy sector, there is a lengthy lag between the adoption of a new policy and its implementation, due to the scale of the infrastructure and work required. If a crisis occurs in the energy sector, then it follows that a country will find it much more expensive to resolve, than if it had taken earlier measures to prevent it from happening in the first place. In other words, prevention is better than the cure….
Like climate change, peak oil and resource depletion in general runs into the human tendency to discount the future. While this worked admirably back when our problems occurred on a daily or at most seasonal basis, it is ill-suited to managing events that happen over the course of decades. [1]

If planning ahead makes sense, then this would appear to be one reasonable approach:

Clearly, you shouldn’t try to persuade your ideological opponents by citing threatening facts. Rather, if your goal is an honest give-and-take, you should demonstrate the existence of common ground and shared values before broaching anything controversial, and you should interact calmly and interpersonally. To throw emotion into the mix is to stoke automatic, moralistic, indignant responses. [2]

Hard to argue with the truth or rational approach of either observation, at least in an objective world. So how should one deal with the perspectives in opposition to Peak Oil or any planning other than “drill, baby, drill”—expressed in articles like this one by Jeffrey Folks?:

Everything from ‘peak oil’ to ‘no quick fix’ is a thinly disguised attempt at government takeover of the energy sector, something the left has plotted since at least the 1930s.

A likely knee-jerk reaction from those who understand the developing urgency of Peak Oil’s impact is admittedly unkind: “It’s not much more than laughably ignorant, paranoid nonsense, and it’s thus impossible to take either the comment or author seriously. After eighty years, you’d think the nefarious Left’s super-duper, double-secret plot would have either succeeded or those damn liberals would have given up.” So that’s settled!

A wild guess: this doesn’t make for much of a discussion of any kind, let alone a good-faith attempt to understand opposing perspectives and then make the effort to arrive at some mutually agreeable and ideally beneficial solutions to the problem at hand. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People strategy it is not.

So that option, while validating one’s own beliefs and ideology at the expense of some clueless, reality-challenged, tinfoil-hat-wearing “other”, doesn’t offer much to any of us. With the high stakes at hand, obviously another approach is called for.

But the seemingly logical alternative is quickly dismissed by Kahan and Barman:

If one starts with the intuitive but mistaken premise that public disagreement is an artifact of insufficient or insufficiently accessible scientific information, the obvious strategy for dispelling disagreement, and for promoting enlightened democratic decision-making, is to produce and disseminate sound information as widely as possible. But the phenomenon of cultural cognition implies that this strategy will be futile. [pp. 148-149].

So now what? Peak Oil (and climate change) are—to those of us who do accept the evidence and expert assessments—serious, fact-based realities which will soon enough impose some rather unpleasant, widespread, and irrevocable changes on how we live and work … all of us, even those on the Right who presently find almost nothing about either topic to be worth contemplating at all. That poses a dilemma (more than one, but let’s stick with this for the moment).

Almost no aspect of our personal, cultural, economic, industrial, or commercial lifestyles will not be affected in large or small measure by the impact of Peak Oil and/or climate change. We don’t treat that unpleasant expectation lightly, although I suspect that I’m not the only Peak Oil proponent who would prefer being wrong! Our beliefs and the facts we accept in support make for a beyond-reasonable-doubt convincing case—from where we sit. So whatever solutions/adaptations are needed will require on all-hands-on-deck approach, and soon.

We will need the insights and perspectives and experiences and expertise of all parties, and ideologies aren’t high on the checklist of criteria. We’ll need the expertise of business owners and investment advisors and bankers. (Would they prefer getting left behind as economic conditions change, or might having a say in, and possibilities for, continuing success be more appealing?) That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some recognition of cultural perspectives, but we will have to decide what works best across as many lifestyle categories as is possible.

The changes needed can’t be dictated solely by a Big Liberal Government-No Government Tea Party scorecard for the simple reason that the effects of Peak Oil and climate change will be beyond any challenge we’ve ever confronted. The manner in which we address the effects thus do not fit neatly into ideological boxes providing clear choices.

We must move beyond those limitations. As with most observations on the subject of Peak Oil, saying is so much easier than doing. The challenge is all the greater—if that’s possible—because from our perspective too many people without the means/opportunities to understand what’s at stake are being fed a steady diet of half-truths, misrepresentations, irrelevancies, nonsense, and in some cases outright lies. If you come to the table without understanding or even knowing the facts, it’s a wee bit more difficult to contribute and then leave with meaningful solutions in hand. Not exactly a major revelation….

So now what?

Because I found Mr. Folks’ arguments to be an ideal example of most elements of the “diet” mentioned above, I’ll expand on the topics of this Looking Left and Right subset in several follow-up posts over the next few Thursdays. The conclusions about cultural cognition offered by Mr. Kahan and Mr. Barman as they relate to the points raised in the piece by Mr. Folks will serve as the foundation.

Perhaps (I hope) we all might benefit from a different take. If nothing else, it should spark what I can only hope will be meaningful exchanges as we begin the long overdue process of trying to figure out what to do in the face of Peak Oil’s many challenges.

Until next time….

Sources:

[1] http://www.ifandp.com/article/009633.html; Is time running out? by Dr. Samuel Fenwick/ IFandP Research – 02.14.11
[2] http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/154607/how_the_right-wing_brain_works_and_what_that_means_for_progressives?; How the Right-Wing Brain Works and What That Means for Progressives by Chris Mooney – 03.20.12

[Third in a series]

[NOTE]: Back in November, Naomi Klein offered a fascinating and thought-provoking essay in Nation magazine entitled “Capitalism vs. the Climate” in which she discussed the transformative changes needed if we are to successfully (not a guarantee) and thoroughly address the challenges of our warming planet. Her insights and observations can easily be adapted to the similar considerations and challenges Peak Oil will extend to us as well. Taken together, the confluence of these looming impositions on our once-cozy ways of life mandate responses far more expansive than a policy here or a tweak there. Ms. Klein offers us all a well-reasoned approach for both how and why.

Every Monday (and for four more weeks), I’ll take advantage of her arguably controversial yet well-reasoned assessments to elaborate and extend the thought process as it applies to Peak Oil. [Part one here; part two here]

[* Any quotes following are taken from Ms. Klein’s essay in Nation unless noted otherwise.]

~~~

Our difficulties and our dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them   — Winston Churchill

Our civilization is driven by an economic system that expects continued and limitless growth. However, during the summer of 2008 when the price of a barrel of oil reached $147, we reached a tipping point for our global economy. The impact on the transportation system and on micro economies and the collapse of global financial systems created a worldwide wakeup call.
We, as a civilization, are totally dependent on oil and fossil fuels. During the summer of 2008, I personally heard the wakeup call and asked my top leaders to gather in our executive conference room. I had a simple question for them. What would happen to our business when the price of a barrel of oil reaches $250? What do we look like in terms of raw materials costs, supply and profitability? Our analysis and relevant contingency planning showed that the business would collapse and most likely disappear if we adopted a wait-and-see strategy. [1]

What if … what if the already-overwhelming and still-growing body of evidence about our warming planet and the peak in crude oil production actually might be the truth? What if the tinfoil hat crowd’s paranoid fears about this Agenda-21-guided, liberal-conspiracy-to-control-the-world sort of nonsense they rant about is in fact nothing but nonsense after all?

What if the countless tens of thousands of scientists and energy experts across countless industries aren’t actually scheming to lie to the citizens of planet Earth in order to … ah, you know … do nefarious conspiratorial liberal things that are “bad”, but are instead merely telling the truth to inform and assist the countless billions who simply do not have access to the information and thus don’t know what faces them? Imagine that!

What a concept: provide sound information to help people plan! Who knew humans could do such things? Some of them Liberals, no less!

Two choices, it seems.

First: continue to deny and delude yourself into thinking that there simply is no conceivable way any—all 100%—of that great body of evidence/facts and the only rational conclusions to be drawn are entirely wrong (and nefarious, etc., etc.). Business as usual, the magic and wonder of just-in-the-nick-of-time Technology rides to the rescue, and “what, me worry?” attitudes can thus continue their paths to limitless growth and prosperity.

Second: there’s more than a bit of truth contained in that great body of evidence/facts and the only rational conclusions to be drawn. It might not be an iron-clad guarantee (what is?). It might not be an 80% or even 65% certainty. But in a rational, practical world where risks are weighed and addressed based on examinations of not-always-100%-guaranteed-facts at hand, the accumulated body of knowledge, evidence, facts, and truths (take your pick) about climate change and Peak Oil are now well past the point where they can be ignored in totality for any sane person or business owner expecting some future measure of continuing well-being and prosperity.

And by “future”, I mean some period of time extending beyond the next-week/next-month-only “long term” calendar some of our leaders seem to utilize in making decisions. We’re talking not just this decade or the next … we’re talking about all of the future—everything after today! “Good right now” is not how we address potential problems of such magnitude unless you simply do not care about what happens to you, your friends, your family, your colleagues, your company, your community, your nation. Hell of life that must be….

In addition to reversing the thirty-year privatization trend, a serious response to the climate threat involves recovering an art that has been relentlessly vilified during these decades of market fundamentalism: planning. Lots and lots of planning. And not just at the national and international levels. Every community in the world needs a plan for how it is going to transition away from fossil fuels, what the Transition Town movement calls an ‘energy descent action plan.’

It has been a consistent theme of mine, and of many others much more credentialed than me, that we are going to have to implement expansive and in some cases quite drastic plans in how we conduct our day-to-day affairs if we are to give ourselves the best chances of success as we adapt to the changes global warming and Peak Oil will impose. We can just wait until the last minute and then scramble around like hell to see what we can come up on the fly—only then realizing the scope of the problem—or we might consider something in advance. The Hirsch Report (here, and see related links in the Category sidebar) offers sound guidance on that score.

Last May, I offered this:

We need a better vision to guide us. And for those looking for reasons why a smaller role for government is what’s called for, I’ll save you the time and tell you this is not the place to be. As the main theme of this series expands in the months to come, I’ll discuss in greater detail why the libertarian/conservative-inspired vision of small government is completely inappropriate a strategy to pursue in light of the challenges we face. (How a bigger role for a better government with honest leadership takes shape will determine whether this ideology is valuable and a necessary pursuit.) Let’s begin with all that needs to be done, and then decide what role the various players will be required to fulfill….
The policies and guidelines supporting those objectives will require a focus on such policies and principles as smart growth, more transportation options, and more research and implementation of alternative energy strategies—while educating ourselves and others of the great changes that will and must take place across all levels of industry, production, commerce, and lifestyles. To that end, there will be a great deal of discussion on greater citizen involvement, energy and industrial policies, the political/partisan elements which too often hinder and harm much more than they assist, and a more detailed role for local governments.

There’s also this from the not-particularly-liberal NewGeography website:

[P]ublic policy can play a useful role in bolstering the long-term resilience of society in the face of the resource challenge, including taking measures to raise awareness about resource-related risks and opportunities, creating appropriate safety nets to mitigate the impact of these risks on the poorest members of society, educating consumers and businesses to adapt their behavior to the realities of today’s resource-constrained world, and increasing access to modern energy, so improving the economic capacity of the most vulnerable communities. [2]

Ms. Klein observed:

It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.

And in a terrific essay I’ve cited previously, James Quinn offered these related observations:

We need to prepare our society to become more local….If our society acted in a far sighted manner, we would be creating communities that could sustain themselves with local produce, local merchants, bike paths, walkable destinations, local light rail commuting, and local energy sources.

It’s not rocket science. We can either start taking into consideration essential advice from varied sources such as these and develop new ways of producing and transporting and all kinds of other “ing’s” we now do courtesy of decades upon decades of once-plentiful sources of affordable and highly-efficient energy on a planet once not so burdened with climate change; or we can just wait, hope, cross fingers and toes, and believe in the Magic Right-On-Time Technology Fairy.

Do we (and that includes—especially and significantly—those whom we currently identify as “leaders”) have a say in how this all unfolds? Or is the whole wait, hope … strategy the wiser course? Everyone will be affected; everyone should have a say in how plans develop. A more localized Everything will in due course become the dominant paradigm, and so the more who volunteer their insights, expertise, assistance, or whatever else might help make a difference, the better our chances.

Will we want these same leaders to assume those roles in whatever changed economic and cultural systems are ultimately fashioned? If they are unable or unwilling to assume responsibility now by first acknowledging some harsh realities and then contribute their considerable knowledge and expertise to the demands climate change and Peak Oil impose, why would want them to fill those roles later on?

Step up to the plate or sit on the bench.

More discussion on this topic is on the way….

Sources:

[1] http://www.sbnonline.com/2012/01/stephan-liozu-oil-dependence/?full=1; Oil dependence by Stephan Liozu [“President and CEO of Ardex America Inc. (www.ardex.com), an innovative and high-performance building materials company located in Pittsburgh”] – 01.03.12
[2] http://www.newgeography.com/content/002605-the-us-needs-look-inwards-solve-its-economy; The U.S. Needs to Look Inwards to Solve Its Economy by Adam Mayer – 01.03.12

[NOTE: This part of a developing series (which began here; see Category sidebar for other links) related to Peak Oil, but addressing the considerations and potential solutions from a different perspective than purely fact-based and/or he-said—she-said perspectives. With the caveat that I have NO professional expertise/training in psychology or its related fields, I’ll look at emotional and psychological “tricks” and traits we all use—Left, Right, and in-between—to bolster our beliefs and opinions as we do battle with our “opponents” in the increasingly polarized political forums which too-often dominate our culture.

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate
– Francis Bacon [courtesy of David McRaney]

As I observed in that first post of this Looking Left and Right series:

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?…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.
There is a great deal at stake for all us, and we might all be better served understanding not just what we do in asserting and defending our beliefs, policies, and opinions, but why. Appreciating that might make a world of difference … literally!]

Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger. [1]

It is societies such as ours, badly divided and obsessed with the present, that most need communal ties. But they are the least likely to produce them. Obama’s speeches have gestured at this problem but haven’t solved it. Indeed, in these circumstances, only a steady appeal to common sense and common decency has any hope of sustainably convincing American citizens to act in what Tocqueville called their self-interest, rightly understood. But it’s still an open question whether our leaders have the fortitude to make, and our citizens the disposition to hear, such an appeal. [2]

What’s the alternative if we don’t “hear such an appeal?” At some point, reality will intrude on the comfortable beliefs of those who deny that our planet is warming—dangerously so—and that the fossil fuel supply which powered us to this point in history with remarkable technological prowess will soon enough no longer be available to all of us as it has.

What kind of a nation do we choose to be?

Will we collectively make choices to adapt to the changes geology and Mother Nature are going to be impose on all of us—Left and Right—or are we going to resist change, preserve ideology at all costs, and then be forced to adapt? The end result will be the same. Do we make the choice to have a say, or is last-minute, unprepared panic the preference? Denying that there will be any significant changes at all is at this point delusional, dangerous, and several stages beyond foolish. How much and how “bad” remains to be seen, but none of us can afford to blithely pretend that all will continue to just fine and dandy in the years and decades to come.

There’s no solace in recognizing that the harsher consequences are probably still several years away. The process has already begun….

At the heart of resilience thinking is a very simple notion — things change — and to ignore or resist this change is to increase our vulnerability and forego emerging opportunities. In so doing, we limit our options. [3]

Who’s prepared to explain to our children that we chose to avoid and deny … at their expense, because we were … well, it was too uncomfortable or painful for us, and we just preferred to hope and pray instead. Plates were full; we were sure someone would do something somehow to fix it so we could continue to ignore it all; costs were too high; too much sacrifice … the excuses won’t be worth the paper they’re printed on, and as a result, problems several orders of magnitude beyond what we’ll most likely have to contend with as it is will be what’s left. Nice, huh?

Why would people who are politically conservative be more likely to deny the evidence about climate change? Well, conservatives are generally what Cultural Cognition theory calls Hierarchists. They like clear and fixed hierarchies of class and race and social structure, a rigid predictable ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ status quo. They don’t like government butting in trying to change things, and leveling the playing field, and taking from the haves who have earned it and giving to the have-nots who haven’t. Well, the solutions to climate change [and Peak Oil – my comment] are going to take all kinds of government ‘butting in’, all sorts of adjustments to the economic status quo, interventions that will mean new winners and losers, changes to who’s where on the economic and power ladder, and to a hierarchist (i.e. conservative), that means somebody else’s sort of society – the society of ‘Egalitarians’ who want things flexible and fair, not rigid and bound by class and hierarchy – is going to prevail. [4]

The challenge for those who choose to deny for whatever reasons* is to recognize—much sooner than they’re currently prepared to—that business as usual is not a viable option for the long-term. All the well-rehearsed ideological principles they’ve relied upon, the cherry-picked facts and assorted misrepresentations the well-oiled denial machine has cranked out**, the refusal to deal with facts … not a single one of those efforts, nor all combined, will prevent the consequences of a warming planet and diminished energy supplies from reaching those who have evaded the truths.

What happens then?

[W]hen faced with an ambiguous situation, conservatives would tend to process the information initially with a strong emotional response. This would make them less likely to lean towards change, and more likely to prefer stability. Stability means more predictability, which means more expected outcomes, and less of a trigger for anxiety. [5]

Perfectly understandable! But will it help?

“Expected outcomes” aren’t in the cards in the years to come, so the ideology/strategy is doomed to eventual failure. A risk worth taking, given what’s at stake?

How do we not accept change in all its variations? Where would we be if this nation made a collective decision in 1846 or 1903 or 1949 that we’re done: “We’ve gone as far as we care to go, we’re not going to do anything drastic; we’re just going to sit tight and make do with what we’ve got and where we are, because, quite frankly, imagining something different might be a bad thing, and we just can’t go there…?”

There’s nothing joyful or gratifying in discussing the consequences and impact of Peak Oil (and climate change). Being wrong would be fabulous! On purely selfish terms, my being wrong about all of this means my pleasant suburban life complete with a summer beach home and assorted gadgets and nice cars, etc., etc. could continue merrily along without interruption. I’m sure I would find something else to devote my efforts to, and I’m also certain I wouldn’t carry the weighty concerns which this endeavor burdens me with on a daily basis. There is little enjoyment in collecting facts on the subject of Peak Oil—recognizing what its impact means to and for all of us. But like my peers on this side of the discussion, denial is not an option. The message is too important.

Accepting the consequences is one thing. Accepting that we made no effort to inform when we knew is quite another. So onward and upward we go….

We often speak of ‘change’–as a potent political slogan, as a permanent feature of life, as a ‘good thing’–but we rarely speak of the often-wrenching process of change. I think the reason is self-evident: change often involves loss.
This is why Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief –denial, anger, bargaining, resignation and acceptance–have become an increasingly mainstream model of the process of coming to terms with the losses of declining asset valuations, a devolving economy and a lower standard of living…..
That the Status Quo–dependent on ever-rising debt and asset values, on cheap, abundant energy, food and other resources–is unsustainable, is self-evident to all not firmly lodged in the cocoon of self-deception and magical thinking known as denial. It follows that the Status Quo will devolve or implode within the next 10-15 years, and be replaced by some other arrangement….
Just like the ancient Romans, we cling to magical thinking, as if a glorious past will magically repeat itself without any effort or sacrifice on our part; rather than confidence about the future, our primary emotion is fear, and our primary defense is denial….
[W]e fear the process that will make us whole and bring us a grounded well-being because at the start of the process, the end result is unknown. The leap requires self-confidence and faith. The person–and the society–grounded in realistic appraisals and self-knowledge is not afraid of transformation or the stiff challenges of the future….
One of the key stages in the process of change is to accept responsibility for where we are right now, and fashion a realistic response. [6]

We still have choices. The steps we take individually and collectively matter … a lot. Making wise choices unencumbered by ideologies or “safe” tactics is an option worth considering.

* Sen. James Inhofe was kind enough to explain one of the real reasons for the Right’s denial of climate change in an unguarded moment when he wandered onto the dark side of truth, facts, and reality: “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost. [my emphasis]”

** [See this—the first link—to a four-part account of how that effort has manufactured doubt.]

Sources:

[1] http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/; How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains by Joe Keohane – 07.11.10
[2] http://www.tnr.com/article/the-vital-center/101057/obama-economic-doctrine-community-nationalism; Has Obama Convinced Americans About the Importance of Community? by William Galston – 02.25.12
[3] http://news.thomasnet.com/green_clean/2012/01/02/will-the-resilience-movement-help-the-world-cope-with-the-resource-crunch/; Will the Resilience Movement Help the World Cope With the Resource Crunch? by Al Bredenberg – 01.02.12
[4] http://bigthink.com/ideas/39500?page=all“Cool Dudes”, Hot Temps; The Climate Change Battle Will Get Us Nowhere by David Ropeik – 07.29.11
[5] http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/09/07/your-brain-on-politics-the-cognitive-neuroscience-of-liberals-and-conservatives/; Your Brain on Politics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Liberals and Conservatives by Chris Mooney (guest post by Andrea Kuszewski) – 09.07.11
[6] http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug11/process-of-change-8-11.html; Change and the Process of Transformation by Charles Hugh Smith – 08.15.11

Beginning today, and at the beginning of each month going forward, I thought it might be of benefit to pass along some useful/informative Peak Oil-related articles of note crossing my desk during the prior month … in case you missed these!

Enjoy.

~~~

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_DRILL_NOW_FACT_CHECK?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Seth Borenstein and Jack Gillum
03.21.12
FACT CHECK: More US drilling didn’t drop gas price


http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2012/03/26/setting-the-record-straight-on-u-s-oil-reserves/

Robert Rapier
03.26.12
Setting the Record Straight on U.S. Oil Reserves


http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-energy-deficit

Michael Spence [Nobel laureate in economics]
03.20.12
The Energy Deficit


http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175521/

Chip Ward
03.27.12
Apologies to the Next Generation for the Turmoil to Come


http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/03/toward-energy-literacy

Tam Hunt
03.12.12
Toward Energy Literacy: Our “Peak Oil” Reality


http://www.salon.com/2012/03/13/the_new_oil_reality/

Michael T. Klare
03.13.12
The new oil reality


http://c4ss.org/content/9933

Kevin Carson
03.18.12
Big Oil, Big Government, and Big Hypocrisy


http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2012/02/28/president-obamas-role-in-current-gas-prices/

Robert Rapier
02.28.12
Newt Gingrich — Gas Price Fairy


http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1935986

Dean Fantazzini, Mikael Höök, and André Angelantoni [Previously published in Energy Policy, Volume 39, Issue 12, December 2011, Pages 7865-7873.]
03.26.12
Global oil risks in the early 21st Century


http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/03/14/the-truth-about-obama-oil-and-the-gasoline-blame-game-part-i/

Rick Ungar
03.14.12
The Truth About Obama, Oil And The Gasoline Blame Game-Part I


http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/03/17/the-truth-about-obama-oil-and-the-gasoline-blame-game-part-two/

Rick Ungar
03.17.12
The Truth About Obama, Oil And The Gasoline Blame Game-Part Two


http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2109474,00.html

Bryan Walsh
03.20.12
Viewpoint: Gas Prices and the Big GOP Lie


http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/03/28/453894/debunking-american-petroleum-institute-claims-about-oil-issues/

Daniel J. Weiss, Rebecca Leber, and Jackie Weidman
03.28.12
Debunking American Petroleum Institute Claims About Oil Issues

http://grist.org/business-technology/earth-out-of-balance-the-challenge-of-controlling-corporate-greed/

Greg Hanscom
03.16.12
Earth out of balance: The challenge of controlling corporate greed


http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-story-behind-us-gas-price-pain

Tyler Durden
03.08.12
The Story Behind US Gas Price Pain


http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC120306-0000025/Peak-Oil-is-back-with-a-vengeance

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
03.06.12
‘Peak Oil’ is back with a vengeance


http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/03/16/445903/natural-born-drillers-krugman-explains-why-fossil-fuel-boom-doesnt-lower-prices-or-create-many-jobs/

Joe Romm
03.16.12
Natural Born Drillers: Krugman Explains Why Fossil Fuel Boom Doesn’t Lower Prices Or Create Many Jobs


[Second in a series]

[NOTE]: Back in November, Naomi Klein offered a fascinating and thought-provoking essay in Nation magazine entitled “Capitalism vs. the Climate” in which she discussed the transformative changes needed if we are to successfully (not a guarantee) and thoroughly address the challenges of our warming planet. Her insights and observations can easily be adapted to the similar considerations and challenges Peak Oil will extend to us as well. Taken together, the confluence of these looming impositions on our once-cozy ways of life mandate responses far more expansive than a policy here or a tweak there. Ms. Klein offers us all a well-reasoned approach for both how and why.

Every Monday (beginning last week here, and for five more weeks), I’ll take advantage of her arguably controversial yet well-reasoned assessments to elaborate and extend the thought process as it applies to Peak Oil.

[* Any quotes following are taken from Ms. Klein’s essay in Nation unless noted otherwise.]

Capitalism in its present form has been a great ride. The technological marvels alone are extraordinary to consider, to say nothing of the advances and opportunities created for most Americans for decades. Despite the snarky commentary from some with nothing better to offer, dispensing “gloom and doom” is not an objective for those of us concerned even just a little about climate change and Peak Oil.

There’s very little joy confronting the facts about these twin challenges. The truth is that nothing would please us more than to continue Business-As-Usual, expand the “pie”, and then carry on with no concerns about the world outside our door, awaiting only the next great technological trends.

But we socialist-marxist-nazi-commie-jovian-hippie-redistributist-taxaholic-liberals are willing to recognize the need for change in ways the Right is not: if more of us are to have the opportunity to restore some semblance of success and prosperity and comfort and economic well-being in the years to come rather than continuing to be at the mercy of systems and policies catering only to the well-off, then significant changes in those very systems are called for, painful and disruptive though they may be for the few.

One simple reason is sufficient: Peak Oil and climate change are going to cause painful and disruptive changes to all of us and for extended periods of time. The strategy of denial and dismissal of facts and evidence will run its course no matter how powerful a hold ideology may have on individuals from every political stripe. Why should we continue to advocate for policies which will protect only the few and widen the gaps even more?

Is this what all of our progress over decades has had as its ultimate aim: reward the few and allow them to survive while ever-larger groups among us suffer that much more?

What to do is itself a monumental challenge, given the rampant, take-no-prisoners partisanship dominating political discourse and policy-making. If you do not agree with me, you are automatically, 100% incorrect (and probably insane, too). Great sound bite; ignorant tactic.

Ms. Klein sets out the challenge:

There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.

~~~

As we move into an election year, in which U.S. residents will have prolonged debate over our collective priorities and values, we must pursue answers to a broader question. Since at least 1981, when the Reagan revolution overtook public policy, we have built an economy on two related fictions. The first is that boundless growth is sustainable. The second is that unrestrained capitalism, particularly in the financial sector, will create wealth for everyone. These are discredited ideas, and the question of 2012 must be how we begin building a society based on something different. [1]

Many Americans, including politicians, are under the impression that certain ‘isms’ are magic bullets for prosperity while other ‘isms’ hold prosperity back. For instance, conservatives like to use the talking point that ‘socialism’ will destroy America. Similarly, many of those on the left protest against as what they see as ‘capitalism’ leading to widening inequality. Being for or against a particular ‘ism’ does nothing to improve the economic situation but only serves to inflame rhetoric and kill policies that could potentially help the U.S. economy. [2]

… [I]n truth, the problem extends past the economy. Look around and you’ll find one broken institution after another, each of them buckling under the weight of the late 20th century consensus that greed is good, that a winner-takes-all individualism will somehow improve our collective endeavors….
Our chosen political leaders have tolerated all of this in order to maintain the fiction that our economic system still works, that the organizing principles of our society remain valid. So the central question of 2012’s likely all-consuming political debate must be simple: How do we acknowledge that our current economy is built on lies and then start erecting a new one based on equity and sustainability? [3]

How much longer should we wait before we begin having different discussions about the problems we face and the possibilities for addressing them? And what exactly are we waiting for?

You don’t have to be a rocket-scientist to appreciate the magnitude of changes which a decline in the availability of quality, affordable fossil fuel resources will force upon us across every facet of industry and society (while we patiently wait for Magic Technology or Fully Tested & Proven Alternatives to make their belated appearances).

… [T]he gravity of the climate crisis [and Peak Oil – my comment] cries out for a radically new conception of realism, as well as a very different understanding of limits. Government budget deficits are not nearly as dangerous as the deficits we have created in vital and complex natural systems. Changing our culture to respect those limits will require all of our collective muscle—to get ourselves off fossil fuels and to shore up communal infrastructure for the coming storms.

Just how quickly are we thinking these changes will fall neatly into place so that we can continue on with Business As Usual? What’s the plan, expectation, or hope for those who still insist on disputing every single bit of evidence that we are facing some constraints in the supply of the very resource which makes growth, progress, and economic prosperity possible? Just how well will life be for the deniers when Peak Oil (and irreversible climate change) are full upon us?

We’ll be dead by then….” Is that it? Is that good enough? Yikes! Sure hope not….

It’s not a problem for me now so it obviously won’t be a problem for me later” is likewise an interesting approach and absolutely the correct one to pursue … if one can also stop time simultaneously; otherwise, changes will continue apace, and soon enough that tactic will go the way of delusion and denial….A bet worth making?

Perhaps better notions about planning might be worth considering? I’ll turn to that topic in the next post in this series.

Sources:

[1] http://www.alternet.org/economy/153614/our_economy_has_failed_–_until_we_admit_that,_we%27re_screwed/; Our Economy Has Failed — Until We Admit That, We’re Screwed by Kai Wright – 12.30.11
[2] http://www.newgeography.com/content/002605-the-us-needs-look-inwards-solve-its-economy; The U.S. Needs to Look Inwards to Solve Its Economy by Adam Mayer – 01.03.12
[3] Our Economy Has Failed…. by Kai Wright