Climate Change and Peak Oil consequences are going
to impact before we can re-tool.
The crisis may be as far away as 26 years. It
could happen tomorrow. Most likely, it will crash on us in three to six
years. Action this morning will mitigate some consequences; action this
afternoon will mitigate fewer consequences. The Internet as take 37
years to reach its current level of access; re-tooling sustainable
transportation will likely take 50 years.
We can build great and lasting cities. Please
consider and ask others to consider the following taken from the
book,"Good to Great." It is an abridged conversation between the
author Jim Collins and Admiral Jim Stockdale (imprisoned in the
“Hanoi Hilton” from 1965 to 1973). This book is a profound
insight into the making of great organizations:
In preparation, I read In Love and War, the book Stockdale and his wife
had written in alternating chapters, chronicling their experiences
during those eight years.
As I moved through the book, I found
myself getting depressed. It seemed so bleak – the uncertainty of
his fate, the brutality of his captors, and so forth. And then, it
dawned on me: “I am getting depressed reading this and I know the
end of the story! I know he gets out, reunites with his family, and
becomes a national hero. How on earth did he deal with it when he was
actually there and did not know the end of the story?”
Stockdale: I never lost faith. I never doubted not only that I would
get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the
experience into the defining event of my life.”
Collins: Who did not make it out?
Stockdale: Oh that’s easy. The optimists.
Collins: The optimists? I don’t understand.
Stockdale: The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said,
‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas
would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say
‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would
come and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be
Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.
After a long pause, Stockdale stopped and turned to face Collins:
Stockdale: This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse
faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never
afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal
facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
We cannot afford to be optimistic; that
energy on which life depends will be available from oil or that the use
of oil will not affect climate balance. We cannot hope that more of
what is not working will suddenly start working. We cannot be
optimistic that we have time before action is required.
We must face the Brutal Facts of our current
- Oil prices are unstable. Any one of many
actions can instantly disrupt our oil based economy, force massive
lay-offs and preempt farmers’ ability to plant and harvest food:
- Terrorist attacks on multiple pipelines or
- Iran or Venezuela oil embargo.
- Further civil deterioration in Iraq.
- A Hurricane or other natural disaster.
- No subsidies. Taxes that subsidize light rail
and buses will disappear as increasing oil prices drive workers out of
- Neither bio-fuel cars nor hybrids will solve
congestion problems. Typical worker loses 43 hours, a workweek, per
year to congestion.
- Automobiles are unsafe. Cars kill 14 of every
100,000 Americans each year.
- Car accidents cost Americans about $150 billion
- Personal mobility is essential to our economies
and cannot be replaced by mass transit. Approximately 97% of trips in
the US and 80% of trips in Europe are by car. Cars are the right
answer; they are just the wrong mass and randomness of behavior for
- Costly and relatively dense train systems in
New York and Washington DC have not solved their congestion or oil
- Light rail projects planned will not match the
capacity of New York, Washington DC; they will not solve congestion or
- Productivity gains in manufacturing’s
shift from Mass Production to Just-in-Time, focusing on the quality of
the process can be applied to Mass Transportation.
- Two wars in 16 years. Troops are deployed and
being killed as we spend capital dollars to expand highways and our
dependence on foreign oil. Personally, I think these expenditures are
obscene; the cost of war should be part of every environmental impact
statement; $.30 should be added to the price of every gallon of
gasoline to pay for wars that protect access to foreign oil. This is
not soft thinking; I volunteered and went to Iraq because I believe
contributing to world liberty is our best defense.
- Peak Oil. By all estimates (OPEC, IEA, EIA, PB,
EXXON, ...), the maximum rate at which oil can be extract from the
earth has peaked or will peak within 26 years. At Peak Oil, oil prices
are expected to triple each year (they tripled in the last 6 years).
Farmers and truckers are most at risk from unstable oil prices. But
everyone is at risk; we cannot eat food that could not be planted,
harvested and delivered. Please watch the documentary at:
- After Peak Oil, oil based economies and
populations will be forced to decrease 5-15% every year; death on a
biblical scale, downward sloping curves (above).
- Re-tooling. It will take longer than 26 years
to re-tool transportation to be independent of oil. Failure to act in
advance of Peak Oil will exacerbate hardships.
Warming (adapted from NOAA, Sterns Review and Impacts of Climate Change
on Washington's Economy
- Forest fire loses will increase by 50% by
- West Nile virus, asthma and other health
costs will rise.
- Snowfall loses will affect lakes, streams and
- Farmers will have longer growing seasons but
will face reduced water supplies, increased demand, changes in pests,
weeds, and crop diseases.
- Higher temperatures will affect dairy
- Regulations intended to protect the public good
have institutionalized oil addiction, pollution and the path to war.
- We must deregulate, open opportunities for
Optimism that market forces can compensate for
required foresight and action is a terribly dangerous gamble. It
accounts for our current discomfort and commitment of troops.
The good news is that we can act in advance of
events. There is an incredible $billion a day profit to be harvested by
preempting current waste. And there is a great model to follow; nearly
all other organisms on earth live within a solar budget; there is
enough energy in sunshine.