Sunday, December 17, 2006

One Mayor's Answer

It's not the perfect solution, but at least New York's Mayor Bloomberg sees the problem. Now why can't our Mayor, or for that matter our Alderman, take on Peak Oil? It's not as catchy as foie gras, or as immediate as Big Box stores, but it sure as hell will affect the issue of Living Wages. Who's going to worry about living wages when the lights go out.

Honestly, the myopia and lack of courage exhibited by our elected representatives is breathtaking. Of course if this is the Machine at work, that explains it. Machines have no soul and certainly have no interest in the people's needs.


Paradise said...

What explains it is that Daley is much more interested in image-building and 'feel goods' that take no real work or commitment, and that don't require confronting some basic home truths.

Look at all the 'green' initiatives here in Chicago. The ridiculous, now defunct blue bag program. The emphasis on ' green roofs' and other things that have more symbolic value than real utility, while steadfastly ignoring and starving the services that we need in order to make a real dent in the energy consumed in this city.

For starters, if Daley were truly engaged in the issue, we would be swifty repairing and greatly expanding our decrepit transit system. At this time, CTA is underfunded by the city, while Hizzoner tries to think of ways to sneak more furniture for autos, such as the outer drive extension no one wants and that will destroy our beach, in on us.

A 'crash' program to make serious reductions in energy consumption would expand our rail system to serve areas that currently are unserved here in the city, and where traffic congestion is the worst, like the east-west streets on the north side. I'm sure you know what it is like to get across town over Chicago, Belmont, Lawrence, or Touhy Ave, yet there is no consideration of building train lines over these heavily congested streets, which would make transit attractive to denizens of outer neighborhoods, who are now steeply underserved and very car dependent. Lines over these streets would also make it possible for city denizens who now must own cars to drive to jobs at O'Hare, or in the suburbs, to take transit to work or dispose of their cars all together. Many people have told me they would happily ditch their cars were it not for the fact that a long east-west commute to places like Des Plaines, O'Hare, or Oak Park is just too grueling on public transit and takes too much time.
Or, often, is just plain impossible.

Another thing hizzoner could be doing is sponsoring a system of energy taxation that assess much higher taxes for large, gaz-guzzling cars AND oversized dwellings. Not only should things like Ford Excursions and Corvettes and other such gazguzzlers pay steeply higher taxes, but so should dwellings with more than 2500 sq. ft.; and it goes without saying that energy-intensive motor boats, all-terrain vehicles, and other non-utilitarian vehicles should pay a prohibitive 'luxury' energy tax. Measures such as these would spare the poor who must own cars, and who live in dwellings with bad, inefficient old furnaces and no insulation, that these people cannot afford to improve, while hitting our affluent classes, who are by and large the biggest energy wasters.

Another measure would be to offer MEANINGFUL tax breaks to property owners who install energy saving features in their homes, such as green roofs, SOLAR PANELS AND GENERATORS, or new insulation. Right now, there are incentives, but they are tiny, and meaningless beside the steep costs involved in upgrading a property to be energy-efficient.

Paradise said...

I could add that not only is the issue of PO 'not catchy' like fois gras, but it is something that fills most people with FEAR AND LOATHING.

There's nothing most people would less rather confront.

Notice how even the "green" crowd would rather talk about global warming and issues purely environmental than talk about PO. It's hard to predict just what the impact of global warming could be, and since it's arguable, the whole subject can be talked around and pushed to the back burner.

However, with Peak Oil, you have to face the fact of RUNNING OUT OF THE STUFF, which would have a direct and dramatic impact on the way we live in the very near term. For example, what Kunstler refers to as 'mild deviations' in supply and price would immediately translate to catostrophic shortages, meaning that large numbers of us could be living without light, heat, or transportation. It would also mean the complete collapse of the economy, and worse, of our food supply.

In other words, the country could quickly become a complete disaster area, replete with power failures lasting months, dire shortages of food, and the complete breakdown in civil order in combination with the complete inability of local or national authorities to deal with the situation effectively.

I can see why no one wants to discuss it.

Kheris said...

I suspect GW and PO will hit about the same time. The PeakOilers at TOD are trying to read the sand dunes in the KSA so they can decipher what the latest OPEC cuts are really about. They are a tad confused, but leaning towards ongoing cuts in order to keep the price propped at $60bbl minimum.

Russia and KSA are both in the driver's seat right now as oil exporters, with China ready to arm wrestle anyone to the ground so they can ensure a secure oil supply. China is flashing enough cash and "no-strings attached" support to be taken seriously by many, including our own Defense Department. The new Secy participated in some exercises involving energy supply issues. He actually gets PO. Meanwhile Dick Cheney fiddles, probably because of the oil law passed in Iraq, which will practically guarantee access to American companies, unless the country goes totally up in flames. And you wondered why the Bushmeister was being obstinate about winning and wanting to send over more troops. The answer is as plain as the noses on our faces. But who notices their nose?

Meanwhile, there are media reports that the Arctic Ocean will be mostly ice-free in summer by 2040, or earlier. The idea of all that freshwater moving into the ocean chills me. Add the impact of that to whatever is going in the ME and the oil markets in general, and I start wishing the Starship Enterprise would come beam me up.

Paradise said...

My belief is that what the recent OPEC cuts are really all about is that the Gawahr fields have peaked and are in drastic depletion, and that more cuts are on the way. But Saudi Aramco has nothing to gain by telling everyone that their only stock in trade, their oil, may be seriously depleted in another 10-20 years, and the Saudi government, which is already very threatened, really doesn't want to talk about it.

Worse, they probably peaked years ago, because it has been well known for years that it has been increasingly difficult to maintain pressure in those fields and that the 'water cut' has steeply increased.

But these are things that the OPEC doesn't want to talk about. Now, if you have the world's most prominant and respected oil geologists, men like Matt Simmons and Colin Campbell, stating that oil production has most likely peaked; and, on the other hand, a gaggle of politicians and newspaper pundits telling you that we have virtually unlimited supplies of easily accessible crude, who would you believe? More to the point, why would anyone believe the CEO of Saudi Aramco when he states, without blinking and without irony, that there remain 5.7 Trillion barrels of crude still to be tapped, of which 3 trillion is liquid crude? Saudi Aramco is not bound to American laws like Sarbanes-Oxley, or to the SEC,in fact are under no obligation to make any kind of disclosure to use, so they can say whatever it serves them for us to believe. And our leaders badly want to believe that there are unlimited quantities of oil to be had given the technical ingenutity, that the right tecnology can solve every problem, not mentioning, of course, the Energy Returned on Energy Invested, or that we might have to expend 2 barrels of oil for every barrel extracted, which of course is insanity.

Which means that there might be no technological solution. In the meantime, the Hydrogen Economy does not look feasible, because there seem to be huge technical and physical obstacles to utilizing hydrogen, which would make it 3X as costly as oil.

But it's more pleasant for our leaders to talk about the upcoming hydrogen paradise. It sure gets more votes. That's the real reason most of our leaders don't even want to contemplate PO, because nobody ever got elected in America by preaching austerity and extreme conservation.