This is a final look at one of this year’s better features on the subject of peak oil: an article by John Kaufmann entitled: The Energy Independence Illusion. It’s an excellent read [adapted from a presentation to the World Affairs Council of Oregon this past March] for anyone interested in this topic. [Any quotes here are from that article unless noted otherwise.]

Renewable energy is the other path to energy independence. Would renewables fare any better than fracking?…
Economically, renewable energy – like fracking – would keep dollars at home. In addition, like fracking, it wouldn’t be any cheaper for consumers – renewables tend to be dispersed resources that are relatively expensive to harness and consolidate into useful packets of energy.
However, renewable energy would have several other benefits. First, unlike fracking, it does hold the potential for energy independence in the long-term. Second, costs will only go down, whereas the cost of unconventional fuels will increase. Third, it creates a new growth industry for the long term, with local jobs as well as export opportunities. And fourth, it reduces carbon emissions instead of aggravating the problem.
However, renewables won’t get us to energy independence any time soon. It will take several decades to build them out, and we’re not exactly off to a fast start.…
They do not directly displace liquid fuels for transportation, which is precisely what imported oil provides….We need to re-invent a transportation infrastructure and technologies that begin to move us away from oil.  

Sounds easy enough, and it certainly makes a lot of sense, given the inherent drawback of continuing to rely on a depleting and more-expensive-by-the-day finite resource. If just saying made it so, we’d be all set! Facts tell us otherwise.

Every investment made to squeeze out just a bit more of those very same depleting and more-expensive-by-the-day finite resources is an investment we do not make in the options we need to develop starting right about a dozen years ago. Every phony reassurance offered by those who either know and choose not to share their knowledge, or don’t know and should stay far away from microphones and keyboards, is another wasted moment which could have otherwise been used to educate the public and increase both their awareness and the growing urgency to start doing things differently.

That knowledge might even lead to some planning and preparation. Such concepts!

The transition away from our reliance on fossil fuels to support our entire infrastructure and make possible our industrial and cultural way of life is at the moment unimaginably complex. Of course, it is that way because those in positions of leadership aren’t doing much, while too many others have decided that misleading and obstructing are the tactics of choice. That makes it a wee bit more difficult to plan or prepare.

Because it is incredibly complex, and will require substantial amounts of remaining fossil fuel resources to effect the transition, it’s not that difficult to appreciate that nothing about that will be quick, easy, inexpensive, or assured. It’s also not an effort the public can pass along to others. Assuming climate change doesn’t make all of these considerations moot to begin with, several decades worth of awe-inspiring reconfigurations of how we work, produce, associate, and transport ourselves suggests better efforts are needed.

I can’t imagine too many of us relish the thought of what’s at stake and what’s involved. Who among us thinks this is just great? It’s not, and we cannot pretend it is. But doing something or doing nothing are choices.

We can pretend, ignore, or deny the end results of doing nothing, but it will be difficult to keep up that charade for too long. Or we can decide that while challenges await, so do opportunities.

The better option seems clear. Is it clear enough now to start making changes?

~ My Photo: Zion National Park, UT – 08.25.07


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

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