Last year, I posted a six-part series* here on Peak Oil Matters, discussing the liberal/progressive take on some of the more common and “curious” perspectives offered by some on the subjects of peak oil and U.S. energy policy in general. It was also a lament.

As I suggested back then:

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….
When ‘dialogue’ about a contentious topic features facts on one side [coupled with] a genuine desire to find solutions, and fear-based irrelevancies and/or half-truths and/or misrepresentations on the other side, how can anyone expect meaningful exchanges and acceptable solutions? What’s the benefit in not having solutions to urgent challenges because ideologies must be protected first…?

I’ll say again: I’m willing to wager that almost all Peak Oil proponents would be delighted to be proven wrong so that we don’t have to endure the inevitable magnitude of changes our beliefs suggest. As I have also expressed repeatedly, I’m not the poster child for Peak Oil. I take absolutely no delight at all that the comfortable lifestyle my family enjoys (7 bedroom second home by the ocean on Massachusetts’ North Shore, two luxury vehicles, lots of travel, lots of electronic toys) will be severely disrupted in the years to come. I like optimistic assessments! But there are other facts which must be taken into account, and there’s no reason why Peak Oil [and climate change] should be exempt from that fundamental concept.

I’d like to know that we’re all working together to find reasonable adaptations and develop sensible plans so all of us—and our children—can enjoy some semblance of prosperity and well-being in the days to come.

But what worries me and peers urging more awareness of Peak Oil is the fact that the problems will be of such scope, impact, and complexity that we feel an urgent need for planning to begin  now—by all of us, both Left and Right. We’re not seeing enough honest, intelligent, rational analysis from those whose contributions will be every bit as important and meaningful as our own. The ideology sponsoring practical and effective adaptations and solutions won’t matter to us if they work. We just don’t think it’s all that unreasonable to expect that the contributions are grounded in the realities of what we face. Optimism has a place, but it cannot be all that one side brings to the table.

To us, completely ignoring the great body of factual evidence about our fossil fuel supplies (and this warming planet, although I’ll leave that discussion to others) is like denying that oceans have water in them! How do you have a dialogue with someone unwilling to accept any facts on a subject?

What has prompted the newest additions to that series was an article in the Wall Street Journal last month (“The North American Gusher” – link updated), on production of and policies dealing with fossil fuels—specifically the shale/tight oil supplies here in America. I found the article to be another in a long list of writings cheerleading oil industry efforts while bypassing a healthy measure of information/facts which paint a very different story. The next three posts in this series will examine the Journal article at greater length.

I single this out strictly because it was so representative of a viewpoint which, from the progressive side of the divide, makes little sense and is a curious contribution to educating the public. Truthfully, nothing from that article cannot be found in any number of others on the same subject. That so many of the typical assessments from those denying we have fossil fuel supply problems appear in this piece—in a prominent national publication—coupled with the commentary offered by readers, makes it a terrific source to help “the other side” appreciate our concerns. I just hope it matters … soon.

The article’s exuberant assessments of an energy-independent future (which I have also discussed in other posts, as have others) is thus a perfect example of the cherry-picking utilized to embellish the story well beyond what the full scope of facts suggest—as seen from the progressive viewpoint. Accordingly, the article and comments served as an “ideal” display of the very reasons why (and how) our hyper-partisan political climate makes it almost impossible to engage in meaningful dialogue to address serious problems. That’s a problem for everyone.

I approach this series with the recognition that it may be a fool’s pursuit. Neither camp seems much interested in hearing about the perspective from the “other side”, having long been convinced that the opposition [evil incarnate] has taken leave of its senses and reality itself. But until we shed more light on not only our point of view but on how we react to and interpret observations and viewpoints from those with whom we disagree—giving them the opportunity to teach us—stalemate ensues. We’ve had more than enough of that, thank you very much. It’s becoming increasingly risky to rely on that “strategy” and/or accept it as status quo, given the challenges ahead.

We need to learn how to listen to others with different viewpoints, and we all need to consider that the mere possibility of diminishing energy supplies merit much more serious and honorable conversations than we’ve demonstrated to date. Solving them together is the only way problems of such scope can be solved. Different conversations with different ground rules might be worth considering.

Not addressing them at all really should not be an option.

~ My (wife’s) Photo: Long Beach, Rockport, MA – 09.29.07

* links: