Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are we in the long emergency?

I have been reading "The Long Emergency" by James Howard Kunstler. The basic premise is that the one constant in the world’s industrial expansion and all life as we currently know it (at least in the industrialized power countries) was possible only because it happened during the times of cheap oil. We are currently near or just past the maximum world production for oil, and there is only down-hill to go from here. Because production of cheap oil is past its maximum now, and demand is still there, we are rapidly going to be in dire straits. Look elsewhere for reviews. His prediction seems pretty cut and dried. We are doomed to be in the decline and he holds little hope for us to get out of the emergency in any form that is close to life as we currently know it.

He does make a few good points. It is true that there is a limited supply of finite resources. Maybe this means we should be going much more towards some other energy source than we have been in recent years. He does not think we should rely on letting technology come up with a solution, because any alternative that technology brings to light will require cheap oil to build to a point that it becomes a feasible alternative. And we no longer have the cheap oil.

Maybe it is a good thing that oil has jumped a bit in price recently, whatever the reasons except for oil company price fixing or speculators trying to manipulate the markets. Maybe we need the wakeup call that life as we know it needs to change. We need to start conserving a bit, and we need to institute some way to get away from oil, whoever is producing it. And we need to stick to that plan.

When Jimmy Carter was elected President he installed solar panels on the White House roof. At the time this was very experimental and expensive and few regular people could afford to even consider a move like this. He did it as an example of the spirit we need to adopt in order to get out of a potential energy shortfall. When the next president took over, the first energy related step he took was to remove the solar panels. If we had proceeded back in President Carter’s days and maintained that energy awareness, maybe Mr. Kunstler could have written a bit less scary book. If we start working in a concerted effort now, maybe we can get out of the emergency more or less intact.

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