Thursday, August 7, 2008

Truth or Dare

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to say. Especially if you are running for president.

We're addicted to oil. Pretty much everything in our economy is produced using what used to be cheap energy. Energy isn't cheap anymore. We have no alternative sources of energy available right now. The price of everything is going to go up. It isn't inflation, it's a lifestyle changing,paradigm busting,cataclysmic cultural event. We should prepare to be a part of it. We can reduce the pain but there will certainly be a good deal of pain involved.

I for one think that if this message were delivered honestly, Americans would respond positively to it. Fossil fuels are limited even if you don't believe in global warming. There are more people using larger amounts of them every day. Think of them as the batteries the planet came with. We've only got a little time to create a sustainable substitute. If we don't the consequences are really unthinkable, if not for us for some future humans.

Expensive energy really does have the ability to change people's choices. Witness Ford and GM shutting down truck assembly lines in a heartbeat. People respond when the truth is delivered in the market- with a price tag. A positive narrative does help to ease the pain. It can be our little project.

And we really have a vast reservoir of conservation that remains untapped. Here is a small chart of per capita energy use compiled by the World Resources Institute.

2003 Total energy consumption per capita
Units: Kilograms of oil equivalent (kgoe) per person

Brazil 1,067.6
China 1,138.3
Finland 7,218.1
France 4,518.4
Germany 4,203.1
India 512.4
Italy 3,127.2
United States 7,794.8

Somehow those damn Italians manage a modern lifestyle using less than half the energy of Americans. Even the relatively profligate French use just slightly more than half. The US has a lot of room for improvement. The longer we dawdle the more world resentment is likely to grow.

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