Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Peak Oil & Public Health

Here is one response to the issue of peak oil and how it may impact public health services.

1 comment:

Paradise said...

Thank you for the link to the download.

Not only is the Public Health Dept of Indianapolis taking Peak Oil seriously, but so are many business leaders, notably the managment of many utilities, who are considering building solar power plants and who are otherwise investing in solar on a major scale. I've never seen this level of commitment to alternative energy on such a large scale.

On one hand, that is wonderful. On the other, it is a tipoff that the situation is truly grave. You can figure that utility and high-tech managers have more access to reliable information than most people, and if they are worried, then we should be.

It leads us to wonder if Chicago's leadership is properly clued in. Chicago has the reputation as the nation's 'greenest' major city, yet our mayor seems more interested in environmental 'window dressing' than in taking serious measures to ensure that the city has the services and redundancy it needs to function in the event of disruptions in the fuel and power supply.

For starters, Daley's cavalier attitude toward public transit worries me. Our public transit is not up to speed for a city of Chicago's size and density, yet Daley was heard to ask, about ten years back, why trains and buses needed to run after midnight. SAY WHAT??? His administration has been very stingy in funding CTA and rapid transit service falls way short of meeting Chicago's current needs, let alone the needs of a future that may mean a quarter as many people owning cars as do currently.

Unfortunately, there is similar 'cognitive dissonance' among the general population, which you can tell from reading the comments on the Hellhole regarding parking and the need for more transit- the consensus seems to be that parking and cars are non-negotiable needs but transit is a waste of money and a peripheral concern at best.

There are also other, larger, concerns, like our power grid. The nationwide grid is badly maintained, and ComEd is a notoriously incompetent utility? What is their Plan B? Whether some environmentalists like it or not, nuclear power is the only alternative to burning coal, which is massively destructive to the environment, and it sounds like ComEd's Plan B is to burn coal. We have enough of that, the experts say, to last 250 years, if the species can survive that many years of living under a blanket of coal soot. I visualize numerous air pollution disasters like that in 1952, in London, as we become poorer and more desperate, and pollution controls are phased out in order to accomodate the need for heat and power that people can afford.

Then there is the matter of communications. There was, a while back, some loose talk about the city possibly putting a wireless network in place that would provide everyone who wanted it with wireless high speed internet for less than $10 a month, but it has been shelved because of legal problems. It seems that the city cannot provide a service that is offered by private carriers, yet no private internet provider yet offers a truly reliable, inexpensive wireless hookup that is available everywhere, without 'hotspots'. Yet we will, in the event of rolling blackouts and the increasing costs of cable and landlines, be more dependent upon really elegant technologies such as wireless communications.

It's ironic that a handful of highly intelligent and farsighted people in the public health department of a small city are leading the way while the leadership and citizenry of one of the country's two most important cities are asleep at the wheel.