Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recreating Local Economies

With the growing expectation that abundant and inexpensive fossil fuels are quickly becoming a thing of the past, there is increasing talk about the need to recreate local economies. However, one of the largest challenges facing Americans, is that for almost anyone now alive, understanding exactly what that means is far from clear. We have grown up under the creation of global networks that bring us almost everything from baby bottles to toilet seats from across the globe. A growing circle of experts are sowing doubt about the feasibility of keeping 13,000 mile supply chains strong and financially competitive in the absence of inexpensive oil.

I do want to be clear that creating local economies which supply us with everything we need is both impossible and unnecessary. But shifting the current balance from 95% non-local to more like 75% local is worth the effort and would have a tremendous positive reduction on our usage of non-renewable liquid fuels like oil and natural gas.

The task of first re-imaging and then taking the necessary steps to implement a local economy, is both a necessary and imposing task. Because this is such an important topic these days, I feel a need to begin a series of posts which focus on how this kind of local economy would work and what would be the most critical elements to begin the process.

A concept of this magnitude needs a framework within which to help organize a coherent response. It feels obvious to me that I must lay out what elements are the most important and then drill down into each area over time. The areas I see as most critical include, food, energy, shelter, and clothing. By designing re-localized economies that can consistently provide us with these basics, I believe we can lay the foundation for resilient local economies.

Stay tuned...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Put GM to Good Use

Now that General Motors has successfully hidden under the protection of Chapter 11, closed thousands of its dealerships and laid off tens of thousands of it loyal employees, it is high time we make them accountable to their new owners - us! If the car companies have any future at all, it should be based on making products we urgently need - starting with public transit. Let the car era wind down gracefully. I project that the program to offer "cash for clunkers" will have a negligible effect on domestic car sales and even less impact on our national carbon emissions.

It is becoming ever clearer that the "Happy Motoring" era is over and we need to rapidly devote our remaining resources to re-localization, walkable communities, and public transit. It obviously requires a very drastic revision of our current collective self-image, of what we aspire to and who we are.

Instead of spending tens of billions of hard-to-justify dollars studying how to implement a high-speed railroad system, the most intelligent choice for us is to fix the existing passenger railroad lines and start cranking out ultra modern passenger cars that will be a joy to ride. We need to prioritize the highway maintenance agenda. Since we will not be able to afford to repave the whole existing system -- and let other nations meet our diminishing demand for cars in the USA.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Preparing for Coming Changes - LEARN

For those who understand where American's energy use is heading, here is a list five actions which will be necessary to help us prepare for the imminent decline of finite fossil fuels.

Source: www.solarcarandtractor.com
(L)OCALIZE agriculture, energy production, social services, essential manufacturing, etc. All will have to regress to a limited “twenty-mile radius” community. This will not be a choice. The inevitable curtailment of transportation fuel will reduce future travel. Intercity light rail will be impossible without energy. www.postcarbon.org.
(E)DUCATE yourself and others. We passed peak oil in late 2008. Natural gas, coal, and fissionable uranium are not far behind. Without ever-increasing energy, real growth, including a debt-based financial system based on future principal plus interest, cannot continue. Recognize the fallacies of bogus solutions like: “There’s plenty left”; “The scientists will save us”; “We can efficiency our way out of our dilemma (not if we don’t reduce consumption)”; “Biofuels, including waste, cellulosic ethanol, and grease will suffice” (at the expense of food). The honest facts must reach the public, the media, and decision-makers even in the midst of denial. Start with www.peakoil.net, www.theoildrum.com, www.321energy.com, etc.
(A)DAPT to a very limited solar-electric future as our only hope of perpetuating any semblance of the brief fossil-fuel age. This vision could be sustainable, clean, and far superior to our ancestor’s harsh existence. A solar-electric sequel could integrate with waning fossil fuels and all other energy sources such as limited hydro or geothermal into a modern electrically-based system and allow individuals to take control of their own production with PV. Also included are wind and concentrated solar.
(R)ATION all fossil fuels starting immediately with gasoline. This is the only way we can reduce consumption on a controlled basis without increasing price-competition and conflict over the remains. Rationing is probably our best chance to buy time for mitigation and give our kids a chance for the remnants of the party.
(N)EGATIVE population growth. This is the toughest and most critical issue. With peak oil we have passed peak growth. Our short cornucopia of excess resources (including fossil fuels and all natural resources) has ended. We have far too many people in the US and the world for a sustainable civilization. If we don’t get the correct facts out and convince people to begin negative population growth, mother nature will reduce population in her own cruel ways. See www.npg.org, www.optimumpopulation.org, www.worldpopulationbalance.org and others.
L.E.A.R.N. - We all need to understand and project this acronym.