We are grossly wasting our energy resources . as though their supply was infinite. We must even face the prospect of changing our basic ways of living. This change will either be made on our own initiative in a planned and rational way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature.
We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.
— President George W. Bush, 200238
There is no need to belabor the point: the people of this world whose opinions count the most — the people with the power to command armies, economics, and governments — have already made up their minds. The cards are dealt and the bets are on the table. For them, the coming decades will constitute a fatal game of Last One Standing, a brutal contest for the world's remaining resources.
To the interested observer, this may seem patently insane. Even the nation that 'wins' the game will be utterly devastated. In the end, oil, natural gas, and even coal will run out, and not even the wealthy will be able to maintain their current way of life. And in the meantime, hundreds of millions — perhaps billions — will have violently perished. Why would anyone choose this path ?
— Richard Heinberg, Powerdown: Options and Actions for a
Post-Carbon World, 200439
Peak Oil is the greatest challenge modern man has faced. Citizens of the world community, especially Americans, must come to accept the fundamental principles of Peak Oil and the fact that energy resource limitations will become evident by 2010. Once this psychological barrier is breached, we must ask, what kind of future do we want, and what are our options?
It is beyond the scope of this book to fully analyze various alternative energy sources and technologies, but more appropriately, it explores the expediency under which this must be pursued.
The US, as the most voracious energy consumer, is the only nation that could provide global leadership in pursuing the development and implementation of energy alternatives. Along with a rejection of the "preventative war" or "Bush doctrine," this would do much to repair its international image. Ideally, such efforts should begin immediately. Robert Freeman eloquently wrote that only "energy reconfiguration" can save America from devolving into despotism. His essay, "Will the End of Oil Mean the End of America?" offered several specific policy recommendations that symbolized the sacrifices we must soon undertake if America is to pursue a concerted effort to enhance our national security, and preserve our freedom:
Energy reconfiguration means retrofitting all of the nation's buildings, both commercial and residential, to double their energy efficiency. It means a crash program to shift the transportation system — cars, trucks — to a basis that uses perhaps half as much oil per year. This is well within reach of current technology It means refitting industrial and commercial processes — lighting, heating, appliances, automation, etc. — so that they, too, consume far less energy than they do today. It means increasing efficiency, reducing consumption, and building sustainable, long-term alternatives in every arena in which the economy uses oil.40
Freeman found optimism in China's 1980s nationwide program to adopt energy efficiency that resulted in a 50 percent reduction in energy intensity while maintaining economic growth. Furthermore, in the 1980s Denmark began a "crash program" in wind-generated electricity that now provides 10 percent of its electrical power, and India's Renewable Energy Development Agency began a program in 1987 to reduce oil-based electricity usage by becoming the largest user of photovoltaic systems in the world.41 Another renewable energy technology that should be pursued is OTEC. In 2002 the Natural Energy Laboratory in Hawaii successfully deployed a 9,000-foot ocean pipeline that researchers predict will make this electrical production process "far more efficient than previously used technologies."42 This abundant renewable technology warrants a massive increase in research and development on a global scale.
As for the US, an aggressive 7-year roll-out of 35 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for all automobiles (including light trucks) would be a tremendous investment enhancing its national security. Writing for the Austin Chronicle, Michael Ventura advocated transitioning to a rail-based system, and made the astute observation that our ability — or inability — to quickly dismantle our military empire in exchange for enacting energy reconfiguration, will likely determine the fate of the US dollar in the new century.
One key to America's future will be: How quickly can we build or rebuild heavy and light rail? And where will we get the money to do it? Railroads are the cheapest transport, the easiest to sustain There's only one section of our economy that has that kind of money: the military budget. The U.S. now spends more on its military than all other nations combined. A sane transit to a post-automobile America will require a massive shift from military to infrastructure spending. That shift would be supported by our bankers in China and Europe (that is, they would continue to finance our debt) because it's in their interest that we regain economic viability. What's not in their interests is that we remain a military superpower. 43
Americans should harbor no illusions that, with the current campaign finance structure, it will be exceedingly difficult to enhance national security, given the powerful military and energy conglomerates who "invest" hundreds of millions in cash to political campaigns every election in order to purchase politicians in both parties. This system will have to yield to a more workable system that places humanity above political ideology and power. Considering all suppliers report that current oil production is running "flat out," the world may have arrived at a plateau. Neither the US nor the global community is prepared for such a reality.
Following the peaking of domestic oil production in 1971 and the oil shocks of the 1970s, the US should have spent much of the past 25 years preparing for global Peak Oil. A second historic opportunity was lost in the aftermath of 9/11, when, if under real leadership, the American people could have become united in the patriotic pursuit of conserving energy and seeking energy alternatives to strengthen our national security. Unfortunately that tragedy was exploited to introduce another upon the world — the unprovoked invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.
Despite this substantial setback, Americans must have realistic faith in ourselves and believe that we can adjust to the challenges of Peak Oil, or we will certainly fail. We need a visionary leader to define America's new role and work together toward realizing that vision. Multilateralism and extraordinary international energy reform in the post-Peak Oil era is the key to global stability in the 21st century. In his book on Peak Oil, Kenneth S. Deffeyes warned his readers:
This much is certain: no initiative put in place starting today can have a substantial effect on the peak production year. No Caspian Sea exploration, no drilling in the South China Sea, no SUV replacements, no renewable energy projects can be brought on at a sufficient rate to avoid a bidding war for the remaining oil. At least, let's hope that the war is waged with cash instead of with nuclear warheads.
— Kenneth S. Deffeyes, retired oil geologist and author, Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, 200144
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