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Archive for September, 2012

 

 

 

An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Chris Martenson.

And so the fact that really caught me and made me sit up and take notice is this one: somebody who is 22 years old today has been alive since half of all the oil ever has been burned. So what happens in the next 22 years, and how about the 22 years after that? This is a story, if you’re thinking anywhere further than just the next month or the next quarter, if you’re in charge of endowments, pensions, if you’re a leader of a country, you’re a planner of a community, if you just happen to be a concerned individual. I think if you stretch your view out just into these next couple of decades, there’s enough there to make you say, OOH!, maybe there’s some risks here, maybe there’s some modifications, maybe there’s some things we can do, should be doing, consider doing, that would make a lot of sense in this environment….
Planning for the future … what a concept!

Let me try to understand this as it relates to oil production, just so I’m clear on this fascinating idea. (This is so exciting! )

My first thought is that we examine the facts about oil production: supply, demand, cost, accessibility, etc. I’ve got to believe that somewhere on the internet some person or group has put together facts and charts and numbers….I think it’s generally referred to as “substantiation.”

So what if all of the supply factors such as those mentioned above are a bit … lacking, shall we say? What if we assumed that everything was okay for at least the short term (a few months, perhaps a year or two, being generous, of course)?

What if the facts made it very clear that supply is not infinite, and that in fact (key word, which admittedly does screw up a lot of opinions that don’t like relying on reality) what we have left costs more; takes longer to extract and refine; requires more energy input; is harder to access; is of an inferior quality, and in general really isn’t much of an answer if you define long-term as extending beyond a couple of weeks? (Any similarity between this imagined scenario and reality is of course … intended.)

Would it be an added problem if, for example, prominent spokespeople decided that telling the entire truth (not just the feel-good, substance-free sound bites) might interfere with profits? Just a guess, but I’d have to say it would not help … just about everyone. I would also hazard a guess that if we restricted public investment on … say, um research into alternatives so that wealthy people could reduce their just-awful tax burdens of 13% or 19%, etc., those reductions in spending would probably not be helpful. That is just a guess, however.

And what if worldwide demand for this declining resource was instead increasing? What if a few billion people around the world actually had the audacity to want a better life, and needed oil to make that happen? That would suck, wouldn’t it?

I guess if something like this scenario were to ever be even a remote possibility, the “planning” Chris Martenson mentioned seems like it might have some value.

I’m delighted that we might possibly have the potential for some solutions to our energy challenges if certain things happen in such a way that they would lead to possible increases in oil production—a lot of oil production, too! What a relief that we won’t have to consider facts! (Imagine if we could cast votes for candidates who likewise preferred to avoid those pesky truths! That would be something!)

But rather than toss out that planning thing, let’s keep it in mind—an extra arrow in the quiver, just in case. You just never know when thinking about our children’s future (and our own) might call for something drastic like … planning.

NOTE: Traveling as of today; next post will be on October 4

* My Photo: Big Sur, CA 2004

 

 

 

 

An observation worth noting … and pondering, from James Gustave Speth:

High on any list of our duties to future generations must be the imperative to keep open for them as many options and choices as possible. That is our generation’s gift of freedom. Here, the first order of business is to preserve the possibility of a bright future by preventing any of today’s looming disasters from spinning out of control or otherwise becoming so overwhelming that they monopolize resources of time, energy, and money, thus foreclosing other options.

So as the Peak Oil denial machine chugs along, misrepresenting facts, cherry-picking small bits of the truth, or otherwise remaining afloat in the fact-free world too many inhabit, who is the lucky designee charged with explaining to their children why they found it preferable to completely discount a rather significant body of evidence suggesting the days of easily accessible, affordable, and readily available supplies of oil are just about over?

The related and probably more painfully embarrassing explanation comes immediately thereafter, when the logical follow-up question is asked: “Why didn’t you at least spend some time and some money planning for an energy-driven future which by all rational indications was going to be very different from the one you relied on?”

What’s the answer?

Does it really make sense to just ignore the growing body of evidence about conventional oil supplies; the unpleasant truths about the limits to unconventional alternatives; the simple fact that we’ve been drawing down a magnificent but finite resource for decades, and that decreasing supply matched against increasing demand and expectations is a fairly straightforward math computation with an equally obvious answer?

Is the urgent need to cling to ideology no matter what really that much more important than a stroll into reality now and then and recognize that the one and only agenda Peak Oil advocates pursue is to inform and heighten awareness that changes are inevitable, and that failure to plan is by far the costliest option? By what standard of common sense is it acceptable to assume that transitioning from personal, professional, industrial, commercial, economic, and political lives dependent in no small part on a finite resource will be quick, easy, inexpensive, and painless?

No planning at all … just “drill, baby, drill”? Seriously?

Peak Oil is not rocket science. It’s not even plastic model rocket science.

The effectiveness of ignoring reality has its limits as a strategy. Creating more problems that will be more costly, more time-consuming, less effective, more challenging, more contentious, more … everything because ignoring facts and starting to plan now was an unacceptable admission that the “other side” was right is a curious approach. Who needs plans when … uh, how does that work?

If facts don’t matter, I guess consequences shouldn’t either, Right?

* My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester MA July 2011

Not only is the business of big-time sports highly visible in our culture, but it also can use tremendous environmental resources and generate significant emissions (think lighting at night games, air conditioning in domed stadiums, high-volume traffic getting to and fro).  When teams, leagues, and stadiums make significant progress in improving their performance, they deserve our applause. [1]

In recent weeks, several articles and blog posts have been written about the commitment our major sports leagues and teams therein have made to sustainable, environmentally-aware practices. A related report by the NRDC provides a more detailed description of the greening and renewable energy efforts.

I’ve provided links * to those articles at the end of this post.

The various pieces describe an impressive range of responsibilities undertaken by our professional teams—a needless-to-say vital contribution to our future well-being, and a great example to the tens of millions of sports fan across the country. What if our political leaders were smart enough to suggest national efforts at conservation and sustainability? [Good to have dreams….]

You realize just how out-of-step anti-environmental lawmakers are when a $400 billion industry with hundreds of millions of fans is busy installing solar panels and expanding recycling programs. [2]

Baseball playoffs are just around the corner; college football and the NFL are now in full swing, and millions of fans are now and will be flocking to games around the country. Any and every effort favoring sustainable practices and energy conservation is a welcome bonus.

More than two years ago, I raised the specter of Peak Oil’s impact on sporting events.

A bigger question remains unanswered: when gas prices are so much higher because supplies are that much more difficult to come by because they are more difficult to access and thus costlier, take longer to get to market, are of an inferior quality, and thus of necessity are not as readily and immediately available to everyone all the time for all their needs, where do major (or minor) athletic competitions fall on the scale of prioritization? How much will fans continue to be willing to pay for the fuel needed to get from here to there?

And if our fossil fuel supplies are no longer as readily available and affordable, how will they get from here to there when the narrow-minded and shortsighted leaders from one of our major political parties (hint: begins with the letter “R”) see almost no reason to invest in alternative forms of transportation?

When the necessity of public transportation becomes vital to meeting everyone’s daily needs and challenges, just how quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively are we likely to create the infrastructure and mass transit systems needed to accommodate just about all of us?

Sure hope the Magic Technology Fairy doesn’t use up all of her pixie dust on shale oil and tar sand production.

* http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/how_sports_are_helping_to_gree.html
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/major_league_sports_show_ameri.html
http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24051
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/opinion/the-greening-of-professional-sports.html

* My Photo: N Y Jets at New England Patriots – Jan 2007

Sources:

[1] http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/how_sports_are_helping_to_gree.html; How pro sports are helping to green cities by Kaid Benfield – 09.12.12
[2] http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/major_league_sports_show_ameri.html; Major League Sports Show Americans–and Lawmakers–the Power of Sustainability by Frances Beinecke – 09.12.12

 

 

 

Optimism uninformed by realism will do us no good. [1]

The Peak Oil denial movement, as with its climate change denial kin, continues to chug along providing the public with half-truths and misleading arguments.

Why? What is the long term benefit in preventing millions from understanding and planning for an eventuality which will leave no one and no aspect of our daily lives untouched?

Porter Stansberry offered the most recent entry, and once again the same basic facts (remember those?) are contorted and cherry-picked just enough to offer a logical reason or two why no one should be bothered by any thoughts that our fossil fuel supplies are undergoing changes likely to create no small amount of adaptation and concern. No one wants to deliver that message, and surely no rational person wants to experience the changes and challenges of Peak Oil. But pretending it’s not a problem? Really?

If we aren’t properly informing our fellow citizens, we and they will have more problems than any of us need—plates being fairly full already. I realize that misleading and outright lying has become the unfortunately standard MO for one of our major political parties; they must be “succeeding” because they keep doing it and getting away with it—confirmation of the deceits notwithstanding. At some point I keep hoping that enough of us start to ask why we should be choosing our representatives based on how optimistic or nice their lies and deceptions sound. We reap what we sow, but I digress.

Mr. Stansberry begins his argument against Peak Oil by stating “I believe having a correct understanding of these issues is critical… perhaps the single most important economic issue of the next several decades.” He then he proceeds to demonstrate he does not understand, relying instead on the same worn-out, disingenuous arguments routinely offered by his peers. That some of the public continues to buy what they are selling doesn’t make any of it right or beneficial.

His premise centers around this tiresome argument: the mysterious and always unnamed Peak Oil advocates who raise alarms far and wide that we are “running out of oil” are wrong because the technological prowess and human ingenuity which mankind has relied upon for decades keeps finding more reserves. (I won’t go anywhere near his inference that how crude oil formed is subject to dispute. Even a hint that someone buys into the notion we may actually be replenishing our fossil fuel supplies courtesy of the Magic Underground Fairy should immediately disqualify that person from ever discussing energy supplies.)

No legitimate advocate of Peak Oil suggests we are running out of oil, but the Right, in keeping with their limited-fact playbook instruction to “keep repeating nonsense/half-truths and enough people out of the loop will continue to believe”, continues to insist that “running out of oil” is the position held by advocates of Peak Oil. In their fact-free world, sure, why not?

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, if the truth gets in the way of an ideological position, then get rid of the facts and keep the ideology. Wouldn’t want any slivers of integrity to creep into the discussions.

So by repeatedly raising Peak Oil advocates’ alleged doom and gloom position that we’re running out of oil, the deniers instantly create fear among those who rely on their “leadership.” Shameless, but give ‘em credit: it works—if misleading or lying is one’s preferred strategy. To what end is a different story, but deniers don’t seem terribly concerned with consequences so long as their interests are being protected today. Ugly, but that seems to be the primary rule.

With fear aroused, the smooth transition to the deniers’ preferred argument: “but we have several bazillion barrels of reserves that will last us for at least a kajillion years,” wipes away the concerns of the uninformed. Life goes on. One of two scenarios are likely: (1) They really don’t know what they are talking about, or (2) They do and realize that telling the truth and sharing all the facts is not in their best interests. Which is worse?

Of course, it is by now standard fare for the deniers to omit any discussion or explanation of factual consequences or even some basic facts about “reserves.” That would surely screw up everything for them, and we cannot have that! Nope. Just tell ‘em we’ve got vast quantities, and end the discussion there.

As I pointed out earlier this year (as have the advocates of Peak Oil for whom facts, reality, and evidence mean something):

‘Reserves’ do not equal available supply; not by a long shot. Quintuple the proved reserves figures if it floats your boat, but what might arguably be buried beneath the Earth’s surface offers exactly zero assurance it will in fact be produced economically, practically, or efficiently….And let’s not forget amid all of this great news the fact that we have been using for decades is being drawn down each and every day, and so much of what will be produced going forward will first have to match depletion rates before we marvel at their substitute potential … while billions around the world strive to improve their conditions … using more of the energy resources still available but depleting by the day.

As I’ve previously suggested, the fact that the banks within a ten-mile radius of my home have deposits totaling tens of millions of dollars is all fine and well. But until we start asking questions and getting answers about the availability of those funds and a host of other important considerations as to how they might benefit my community, only to then realize the totals are mostly for show, well—I’m not seeing that as any kind of solution to anyone’s financial concerns.

Likewise, cheerleading for impressive totals of “reserves” stops being impressive as soon as we start looking for answers about how we move from identifying those reserves to satisfying our needs and those of several billion others planning to improve their lives.

How easily are these reserves accessed? What’s involved in the exploration, production, refining, and delivery to my gas tank? How much effort and energy are we expending as compared to the conventional oil supplies we’ve been using for more than a century—the finite supplies that are … finite, and thus decreasing by the day? How much more does all of this cost us as compared to production and delivery of our conventional supplies? How much longer does it take from A to Z as compared to conventional supply? How does the efficiency and quality of the “reserves” compare to the wonderful conventional supplies we’ve been using for more than a century—the finite supplies that are … finite, and thus decreasing by the day?

Why is it okay to spend more and more money to find inferior substitutes with all the downsides, but not okay to spend money (yes, a lot) to start planning for a future relying on something other than the genuinely magnificent fossil fuels (the finite ones) we’ve been drawing down for decades. Who explains narrow-minded and shortsighted to the generations following us?

Get the picture? A lot more questions can be asked, but it’s probably not going to matter right now. Until we all become more educated about the challenges, we will not be seeing any answers from these desperate fans of the magic of increasing reserves. Providing answers won’t benefit them, so….

But let’s not get too concerned. After all, “Other supplies of energy will surely be discovered. Many already have been, like nuclear energy.” What a relief:  “surely” and “many” have arrived! No problems there….Can’t think of more than a few dozen questions, either.

Blind Faith is still and always a better rock band than energy policy.

* My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester MA 08.13.10

Sources:

[1] http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2011/08/02/one_thing_worse_than_living_in_fear_106294.html; One Thing Worse Than Living in Fear
by Rod Dreher – 08.02.11

 

 

 

 

 

An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Tom Murphy:

We built this world on fossil fuels. It is distressing to realize that our primary fuels will begin an inexorable decline this century. The result is that we will have difficulty even maintaining our current energy expenditure rate—let alone continuing our historical 3% annual energy growth rate. A major adjustment is in the offing.  Economic growth, look out!
Yes, we can re-purpose other fossil fuels (coal, gas, heavy oil/tar) to help plug the gap in liquid fuels, meanwhile accelerating their depletion. We can use liquid fuels more efficiently. We can try every trick to tease more oil out of depleted wells. All these things will happen. Their collective effort will ease the pain (and bring on new hurts), but it is not clear whether all efforts in tandem can arrest the decline, given practical, political, end economic realities. They are all more expensive, all lower EROEI, all harder, and with the exception of efficiency improvements keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Although the pain may be eased, the problem does not go away.

A fairly straightforward collection of facts, unpleasant though they may be. It’s the reality we’re going to be dealing with long before we’re even close to being fully-prepared unless we start getting leaders, media, and industry to tell everyone the truth (not just the preferred, “feels-good, sounds better” cherry-picked version). Then, we start planning and doing.

It doesn’t matter whether Peak Oil has arrived already, will do so “soon,” or might be several years into the future. Adapting … well, everything to a world no longer powered by plentiful, accessible, and affordable supplies of fossil fuels always at the ready is an almost incomprehensible undertaking, and there will be nothing quick or easy about any of it.

Waiting for the Technology Fairy to save us remains a strategy … it’s just one that gets worse every day that we don’t start recognizing some common-sense realities and start doing something about them.

Crisis … or opportunity?

* My Photo: 08.31.10 – Gloucester MA [Rocky Neck]

 

 

In fact, we will become more vulnerable over the long run, because the renewed embrace of fossil fuels will induce us to postpone the inevitable transition to a postcarbon economy. Sooner or later, the economic, environmental and climate consequences of intensive fossil fuel use will force everyone on the planet to abandon reliance on these fuels in favor of climate-friendly renewables. This is not a matter of if but of when. The  longer we wait, the more costly and traumatic the transition will be, and the greater the likelihood that our economy will fall behind those of other countries that undertake the transition sooner. [1]

In its continuing quest to fashion a vision for a great future (assuming your present is … say, 1831, and the “future” is an eleven-day period), the GOP platform is now calling for an end to funding for Amtrak and a renewed focus on highway spending at the expense of public transportation (and of course also at the expense of biking and pedestrian programs.) Who knew that narrow-mindedness was a virtue?

If that isn’t enough to convince one that the GOP’s pandering to right-wing nonsense is not a complete relinquishment of integrity and reason, the platform also asserts the Republican Party’s opposition to Agenda 21. That is a twenty-year old United Nations resolution encouraging sustainable development. (We cannot have intelligent planning with due consideration for the future. That would be … uh, I’ll get back to you on the rationale.)

Apparently, the fact that Agenda 21 is nonbinding, with no force of law here in America (as is repeated endlessly by those who enjoy facts, logic, reason, and reality) nonetheless both puzzles the Right and raises their Paranoid Meter to orange status. Would it not be cheaper to guarantee the wingnuts a lifetime supply of tin foil hats? True patriots, it seems, would at least offer a few hints to the rest of us about the Anti-Consequence Bubble they will apparently be occupying as Peak Oil, climate change, and various Screw-Everyone-But-The-1%ers economic policies gain a firm grip on our future. (Then again, outright lying as a strategy may continue to be “useful,” as does maintaining residence in a fact-free present.)

The snarky jabs are fun to toss about, but the reality (for those of us who think that matters) is that these incredibly short-sighted ideological positions actually affect us all. As purely academic discourse they may serve a purpose, but when those philosophies are turned into policies with present and long-lasting impacts, the snarky jabs take on more ominous shadings when reality starts poking holes in narrow-minded bubbles. Maybe the Right’s leaders don’t care about you (obviously) and surely they do not care about me and my family and my friends and my community … but I do!

At what point does a modicum of intelligence, integrity, and common sense start to factor into the Right’s expectations, hopes, and plans for America beyond a week from next Friday? The GOP’s transportation objectives and opposition to even consider some thoughtful guidelines to prepare us for a future with less energy sources at the ready is guaranteed to create only more problems for all of us in the years to come. But hey … if it gets votes today and protects the wealthy, who cares about the future, because … because, uh, why is that good?

* My Photo: Eastern Point, Gloucester MA 08.04.11

Sources:

[1] http://www.thenation.com/article/166521/americas-fossil-fuel-fever; America’s Fossil Fuel Fever by Michael T. Klare – 02.29.12

 

 

 

 

I’m passing along some useful/informative Peak Oil-related articles of note [and some political ones, too, which in one way or another will have considerable bearing on what we do and don’t do as Peak Oil makes its presence felt], all of which crossed my desk during the prior month … in case you missed them!

Enjoy.

~~~

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10661-stone-cold-sober-an-interview-with-mike-lofgren-author-of-the-party-is-over

Leslie Thatcher
08.03.12
An Interview With Mike Lofgren, Author of “The Party Is Over”

~~~

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/08/failure_supply_side_econ.html

Michael Ettlinger, Michael Linden
08.01.12
The Failure of Supply-Side Economics
Three Decades of Empirical Economic Data Shows That Supply-Side Economics Doesn’t Work

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http://www.salon.com/2012/08/05/republicans_slouching_toward_theocracy/

Mike Lofgren
08.05.12
GOP Insider: Religion destroyed my party

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-02/romney-tax-plan-on-table-debt-collapses-table-.html

Ezra Klein
08.02.12
Romney Tax Plan on Table. Debt Collapses Table.

~~~

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/opinion/sunday/romneys-tax-plan-defies-the-rules-of-math.html

David Firestone
08.11.12
A Tax Plan That Defies the Rules of Math

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-we-save-american-capitalism/2012/08/31/800de6be-f04e-11e1-ba17-c7bb037a1d5b_story.html

Steven Pearlstein
08.31.12
Can we save American capitalism?

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http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/energy-policy-follow-the-money/547?tag=nl.e662

Chris Nelder
08.08.12
Energy policy: Follow the money

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http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=154136

Brad DeLong
08.07.12
Things Wrong with Hassett, Hubbard, Mankiw, and Taylor “The Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs”

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http://www.tnr.com/article/magazine/politics/105740/republican-voter-suppression-pennsylvania-id?

Timothy Noah
08.02.12
Art of War: How Republicans mastered voter suppression.

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http://swampland.time.com/2012/08/07/another-bad-day-for-romney/

Joe Klein
08.07.12
Another Bad Day For Romney

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http://ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012083208/what-calculation-behind-romneys-campaign-lies

Dave Johnson
08.08.12
What Is The Calculation Behind Romney’s Campaign Of Lies?

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http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/08/07/13163204-the-scandal-behind-romneys-new-attack-ad?lite

Steve Benen
08.07.12
The scandal behind Romney’s new attack ad

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http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528786.300-were-still-on-the-slippery-slope-to-peak-oil.html?full=true

David Strahan
08.20.12
We’re still on the slippery slope to peak oil

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http://transitionvoice.com/2012/08/portrait-of-a-climate-science-denier-piers-corbyn/?

Erik Curren
08.20.12
Portrait of a climate science denier: Piers Corbyn

~~~

http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-08-23/end-industrial-revolution

Paul Gilding
08.23.12
The end of the Industrial Revolution
[Original article: http://paulgilding.com/cockatoo-chronicles/cc20120823endindustrialrevolution.html]

~~~

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/katrina-vanden-heuvel-stopping-the-gop-assault-on-democracy/2012/08/20/796742d2-eb04-11e1-b811-09036bcb182b_story.html

Katrina vanden Heuvel
08.21.12
Stopping the GOP assault on democracy

~~~

http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-08-23/building-resilience-changing-climate

by Richard Heinberg
08.21.12
Building resilience in a changing climate
[Original article: http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/1070682-building-resilience-in-a-changing-climate]

~~~

http://www.nationalmemo.com/the-big-lie-of-the-day-fabricating-a-failed-obama-presidency/

@LOLGOP
08.21.12
The Big Lie Of The Day: Fabricating A Failed Obama Presidency

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http://seekingalpha.com/article/832831-the-natural-gas-ponzi-scheme

Jonathan Verenger
08.28.12
The Natural Gas ‘Ponzi Scheme’

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http://robertreich.org/post/30413604638

Robert Reich
08.28.12
How Romney Keeps Lying Through His Big White Teeth

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http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012083529/hard-truth-about-romneys-republican-party

Robert Borosage
08.29.12
The Hard Truth about Romney’s Republican Party

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http://robertreich.org/post/30103417736

Robert Reich
08.24.12
Romney’s Lying Machine

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http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/george-lakoff-how-romney-ryans-budget-would-destroy-americas-soul

George Lakoff, Glenn W. Smith
08.22.12
How Romney-Ryan’s Budget Would Destroy America’s Soul

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9500667/Peak-cheap-oil-is-an-incontrovertible-fact.html

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
08.26.12
Peak cheap oil is an incontrovertible fact

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http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/08/peak-oil-light-sweet-crude-production-has-peaked-globally.html

Casey Research
08.29.12
Peak oil: light sweet crude production has peaked globally

~~~

http://www.fcnp.com/commentary/national/12495-the-peak-oil-crisis-summers-end.html

By Tom Whipple
08.29.12
The Peak Oil Crisis: Summer’s End

* My Photo: Crystal Cove State Park, CA Sept 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the course of conducting research for a book I’m now working on, I came across this post. After editing it to focus on just a few key issues, along with a tweak or two for clarity, I thought it might be worth another look.

What happens when the inevitability of declining resources begins to affect us all? How will an ongoing failure to inform—and the unnecessary and damaging delays that result—help anyone?

Peak Oil matters.

~ ~ ~

We are on the brink of a new energy order. Over the next few decades, our reserves of oil will start to run out and it is imperative that governments in both producing and consuming nations prepare now for that time. We should not cling to crude down to the last drop – we should leave oil before it leaves us. That means new approaches must be found soon….. The really important thing is that even though we are not yet running out of oil, we are running out of time.”  – Fatih Birol, Economist – International Energy Agency, 2008

With the IEA having now admitted Peak Oil occurred several years ago, the urgency of addressing the myriad impacts of having reached the summit of oil production is all the more pronounced. As I and others have discussed, it’s going to take many years for us to fully move away from our longstanding reliance on fossil fuels to power our economy and support our lifestyles. Unfortunately, we’re already years behind in preparing and doing.

I have on multiple occasions raised the issue that in order for us to have some hope of successfully transitioning away from fossil fuels (and despite continuing opposition in some quarters about the need of an active and involved federal government), it is only from strategies as created, directed, supported, and financed by our federal government that this hope can find fulfillment. To be sure, much of what needs to be done will be provided by the private sector—as shaped and guided more specifically by local or regional entities. One or two approaches aren’t the answer! But without a national strategy and framework for deciding on priorities, we’ll be confronted with a hopeless mix of ad hoc attempted solutions from literally thousands of directions. Chaos, anyone?

In short, 200 years of abundant energy have allowed us to build an extremely complex civilization based on dozens of interrelated systems without which we can no longer live – at least not in the style to which we have become accustomed. Food production and distribution, water, sewage, solid waste removal, communications, healthcare, transportation, public safety, education — the list of systems vital-to-life and general wellbeing goes on and on.
Those who believe that ten years from now we will be able to get along with much reduced government have little appreciation of how modern civilization works or how bad things are going to get as fossil fuel energy fades from our lives….
Whether one likes it or not, the size and complexity of the coming transition will be so great and unprecedented and there will be so much at stake that only governments will have the authority and power to cope with the multitude of problems that are about to emerge. Be it heresy in some as yet unknowing circles; all this is going to require a massive transfer of resources from private hands to public ones. [1]

That’s the reality. We can continue to debate it ad nauseum, but in the end, we will have no choice. How quickly can we muster the intelligence and courage and wisdom to understand what is at stake—and how widespread will be the changes—so that we take advantage of the resources we’ll need right now, rather than coming to the same conclusion only after needless ideological battles?

Thousands and thousands of items are made from and/or dependent on oil for their existence. When the true decline of oil sets in (many suggest we’re on a several years long “plateau” of production as the precursor to experiencing actual limitations in availability), which items should first be eliminated?

How do we make the assessment as to which products should no longer be produced? Who delivers that message to the designers and producers and shippers and end users? What’s their Plan B?

Or if doing away with product lines entirely is not the strategy, then what percentage of production should be curtailed? What criteria will be employed in making determinations that other products or services or consumers will have priority? Who among us will volunteer to make do without some items so as to permit others with the same needs to enjoy them instead? How well is that going to work if we’re all instead flying by the seat of our pants with no guidance whatsoever?

Where do we point fingers for the terrible short-sightedness in failing to invest in research, public transportation, and infrastructure now and how much will that help? What kind of costs will we all have to absorb and endure in years to come when the existing infrastructures will be inefficient and all but useless, and when even more will have to be done in a much shorter period of time to address even bigger problems?

We owe it to ourselves to commit to becoming better informed, because we are most definitely all in this together. My liberal philosophy will no more stave off the adverse impact of declining oil production and fossil fuel availability than will one’s Tea Party inclinations. We all need to move beyond that. Idealistic? Certainly! Necessary? Absolutely!

Of course everyone wants more of the same! Who in their right mind would voluntarily undertake or accept the massive changes Peak Oil suggests we’ll have to endure? But those changes are coming … perhaps not in the usual near future that most of us are limited to considering, but the changes will begin long, long before we’re ready for them. We have a choice to begin the occasionally painful process of adaptation and transition now when we can do so with far less pain than will surely be the case in the years to come, or we can sit tight and hope for the best.

That is a choice. It’s not a good one, but it is a choice.

Are we going to be content to let the marketplace sort all of this out? Do we think that unregulated industries will immediately step to the plate and direct all of this fairly and efficiently on their own? Can we expect that industry leaders will just band together across the nation and put together a coherent plan?

Are we willing to allow a thousand different voices to make decisions based on their own understandably narrower concerns and hope that everyone is coming to the same conclusions so as to maximize the efficacy of these choices? Piecemeal approaches that address some small aspect of need for some short period of time in some limited geographical area for just a few consumers is in the end a monumental waste of limited resources, time, and effort.

As I’ve repeatedly stated: there are no easy, quick, simple, or inexpensive solutions. So too are there no easy, quick, or simple approaches that lead us to the strategies and solutions we’ll have to rely upon. Can we recognize that a nation speaking with one voice in the face of these daunting challenges is indeed our best hope?

We’re going to have to attempt a lot of different solutions from many sources, but we will ultimately be best served if the efforts and strategies and inputs derive from a vision and from plans and determinations that have as their source an informed national agenda. We need to speak up, and we’ll need our national leaders in and out of government to listen and utilize their skills in ways they all too infrequently demonstrate. They too, must expand their vision and express far more courage and wisdom than they typically show us.

The process will take enough time as it is. Let’s not add more problems to the mix.

* My Photo: Tropical Storm Irene at Good Harbor Beach, MA 08.28.11

Sources:

[1] http://www.fcnp.com/commentary/national/7980-the-peak-oil-crisis-the-future-of-government.html; The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future of Government by Tom Whipple – 12.08.10