Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Better Outcome

I just finished having lunch with Dick Gephardt, the former House leader in Congress, and Jim Woolsey, the former CIA director under Clinton.

I was amazed.

Excepting that Woolsey is a red tailed war hawk, he views the world pretty much the way I do. Gephardt talked about climate change as the "challenge of our time" and the single greatest political settlement in all of human history. He then threw Peak Oil into his remarks as if everybody knows about it.

In the room, 400 clean energy businessmen listened and nodded as these two talked about the need to unify the transportation sector with the electric sector. They talked about the need to place a premium on fuels that emit carbon. (the used the word tax) They talked about plug in hybrids and advanced photonic devices. We all talked about the Utility of the Future.

They talked about how we are currently financing both sides of the conflict in the mideast through our dependence on middle eastern oil.

And that brings me to this piece from Richard Heinberg in the Center for Ecoliteracy:

"The world is not about to run out of oil. There are still many hundreds of billions of barrels of petroleum that can be extracted from the Earth's crust. However, the rate at which oil can be extracted is subject to geological limits, and soon those limits will begin to constrain our ability to produce oil at the ever-expanding rates that growing economies demand.

If we are not already doing so, we soon will be entering the transition from a century-and-a-half during which the available supply of oil grew each year, to a future characterized by declining annual supplies.

This transition is commonly referred to as Peak Oil. (clip)

We don't know exactly when the global peak will happen, but it will almost certainly occur in the early part of this century, and possibly as soon as this year.

Leaders and policy makers in both government and industry would be making a fateful mistake by adopting a complacent attitude toward the inevitable world peak of oil production.

There is strong evidence for concluding that the global peak may occur sooner rather than later; and many years of hard, expensive work will be required to prepare for the peak: therefore, even if late-peak forecasts prove correct, efforts aimed at mitigating the impacts must begin immediately. (clip)

What must we do about Peak Oil?

Essentially, we must redesign our societies to operate without petroleum, and we must start the process right away. For example, modern agriculture's overwhelming dependence on petroleum constitutes one of the world's most important vulnerabilities to Peak Oil.

Most fossil fuel used in modern agriculture is not pumped into gas tanks, but instead sprayed onto fields in the form of water-soluble fertilizer. Organic agriculture, by contrast, clearly demonstrates that agriculture need not be dependent on fossil energy to provide good yields. As the energy to produce and transport food becomes more costly, small organic farms will serve more people more effectively. But agriculture will always require energy.

The overwhelmingly likely consequence is that it will be impossible to fully replace the energy from fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. We must instead adapt to a lower-energy way of life. It certainly can be done: we in industrialized nations use energy thoughtlessly and profligately, and could easily cut back substantially.

But doing so will still require coordinated effort on a scale not seen before in human history. This means reshaping transportation, agriculture, and urban design — just for starters.

Ecological thinkers have been proposing transformations along these lines for decades. Now such proposals are no longer just good ideas; they are survival strategies. Nature has given us two options: adapt or die.

The sooner we choose the former path, the better the outcome."

And this is where I disagree with Heinberg and his doomsters.

Nature rarely gives two options.

We can adapt, or we can die I suppose.

but we can also evolve.

Three out of ten Republicans may not believe in it,

but given the choices and challenges ahead,

it is clearly the better outcome.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the Jon Stewart clip!


4:09 PM  
Blogger Glycotech said...

wow saying we must reduce energy consumption reminds me of jimmy no leadership ability carter, who ran on that against america is the greatest nation in the world and can produce all we want teddy kennedy.
finally we are catching up thirty years later, hopefully not thirty years too late.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

....I always end up in such a good mood after I read your blog.....

8:00 AM  

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