Friday, March 20, 2009

While We Were Sleeping

As the current economic realities continue to unfold, it is critically important that Americans understand that what we are experiencing is a global interrelated challenge.

Over the past year or so, while America slept, China went on a shopping spree. According to the March 17th issue of the Washington Post,

Even as global financial flows have slowed sharply overall, China has dramatically stepped up its outbound investment. In 2008, its overseas mergers and acquisitions were worth $52.1 billion -- a record, according to the research firm Dealogic. In January and February of this year, Chinese companies invested $16.3 billion abroad, meaning that if the pace holds, the total for 2009 could be nearly double last year's.

On Feb. 12, China's state-owned metals giant Chinalco signed a $19.5 billion deal with Australia's Rio Tinto that will eventually double its stake in the world's second-largest mining company.

China is now actively in the process of insuring their future by buying up mineral and oils rights all across the planet. They are moving down the path of material abundance which we have been modeling for the past 30 years; and very little we say or do is going to change this anytime soon. The challenge for us is that with 1.3 billion people in China if they want to play the consumption game, that will put unimaginable stress on our ability to do the same.

Americans will be faced with the necessity of a different sort of future when it comes to energy. As these massive Asian countries lock up resources for their future, we will be forced to either fight them... which is not very realistic, or seriously begin to re-organize our energy demands so we are not as effected by these huge global shifts in control of resources.

If we can be successful in building the systems to provide for our needs much closer to home, we can help assure a less stressful transition from an oil dependent society to one with built-in resilience from the coming environmental and financial shocks.

For cities and states who enact legislation to encourage these changes, they will find themselves in a far better position than those who doggedly hold to the fading dream of ever growing economies full of more and more stuff.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Reading Anything Good Lately?

Over the past month or so I have found myself engrossed reading a number of very interesting books. While they are all quite different, they all fall under the overarching heading of resource depletion.

The first book, Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate by Pat Murphy, describes in great detail a wide variety of actions we can do as individuals and as communities to deal with the coming challenges posed by the twin issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change. This book is packed full of information and should be required reading for any serious student of resource trends.

The second book which I suspect will become one of my favorites of all time is World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler. This near-future fictional depiction of life after the end of the oil age is both touching and disturbing. Because it takes place in the not-to-distant future, the remnants of our overly consumerist society are still very present. His attention to detail brings the challenges and success for the characters right into our hearts.

The third book, and one that is receiving a great deal of coverage these days, is Jeff Rubin's Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization. Jeff is the chief economist and chief strategist at CIBC World Markets and was one of the first economists to accurately predict soaring oil prices back in 2000 and is now one of the world’s most sought-after energy experts. Jeff clearly lays out his decades of experience and makes an extremely convincing argument why importing plastic toilet seats from China and caesar salads from across the continent, will be totally uneconomical in the not too distant future.