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Mason Inman recently posted an excellent 2012 interview he conducted with James Schlesinger, our nation’s first Secretary of Energy, who passed away shortly before that posting. [Quotes here are from that interview.] There are some lessons available to all of us.

Mr. Schlesinger was a bit more direct than I and others have been in urging more effort from the public to recognize the challenges ahead. Sometimes the truth is just the truth, plain as can be. While we’d all like to believe/hope/wish that the bigger problems can be handled by others without our involvement, life tends not to work that way very often.

Reality is what it is, and if we are going to prepare ourselves for inevitable changes which will certainly affect each and every one of us even though that may not be at all clear today, then we all need to step up and learn just a little bit more about those challenges and why that matters so much right now.

As the interview makes clear, hardships and sacrifices aren’t usually the first (or thirtieth) message the public wants to hear from elected officials. Understandable, but of benefit usually in the moment only. Soothing words can only hold back inevitabilities for so long. The wisdom comes from recognizing that, and then having the courage to deal with it all.

The two men address this directly.

Mason Inman: So what do you think is the answer to that? Does it require a grassroots effort to get the politicians to change?
James Schlesinger: Well, if the public changed, the politicians would change. The problem is the public. The public does not want to hear about this—because this is an acknowledgement that prices are going to go up, and that they’re going to have more problems running their automobiles than they want….The political process is very sensitive to telling the people what they want to hear, right?…
Mason Inman: Do you have much hope that Americans might plan ahead for these problems you’ve been warning about the past several years?
James Schlesinger: No, nothing’s going to happen until reality hits them between the eyes like a two-by-four.

That’s one option of course. Delaying that seems wise, but only up until the moment one realizes that it might actually be the worst choice of all. Of course, awareness of that truth requires the proper dissemination of accurate and complete information. That’s been an ongoing problem—the primary motivation for this blog.

James Schlesinger: There is a difficulty for the public to distinguish between reality and what they are promised in political rhetoric.
Mason Inman: I think that’s the job of journalists to help with that, but I don’t think they’ve been doing a very good job on the issue of peak oil.
James Schlesinger: … the [fossil fuel] industry really does not want to publicize the fact that oil production is not going to be available in the future the way it has been in the past.  Even if we don’t have a peak, we have a plateau at some point. And a plateau, with the Chinese and Indians using more and more oil, and other developing nations using more oil, there will be less oil for the developed nations. So, the consequence is that you’re going to have to get by with less, even if you have a plateau.

Seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it?

While great effort is expended by too many to spin the facts and steer the public away from the logical and inevitable consequences of dealing with finite resources called upon to satisfy  greater demand by more people in a more technologically-advanced world, there’s an end-point to those tactics. And unfortunately, as unpleasant and harsh as acknowledging that may be, dealing with the realities of it all without having done much if any preparation or planning in advance will only make the unpleasant much worse.

A choice, of course. Not a a good one, but it’s available.

I’ll have a few more thoughts on Inman’s great piece the next time.

For more info on Mason Inman and his upcoming book, see this.

~ My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, MA – 08.22.09

 

* I invite you to enjoy my two new books [here and here], and to view my other work at richardturcotte.com :
 

       * Life Will Answer

Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name]

 

       * The Middle Age Follies

A column offering a slightly skewed look at life for those of us on the north side of 50.

 

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Peak Oil Matters is dedicated to informing others about the significance and impact of Peak Oil—while adding observations about politics, ideology, transportation, and smart growth.