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Peak Oil, Global Warming & Coal.

by ericy Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 08:05:41 AM EST

I have been long interested in questions of sustainability and the environment, and the global warming problem is one that has concerned me for some time.  The scientists say that we don't have long to get our act together, or we will set changes in motion that we will be helpless to stop.

Sustainability and resource exhaustion is also an interesting topic - the question of oil depletion is one that comes up frequently under the heading "peak oil".   We have choices in terms of how we deal with this issue - some options will help with global warming, others will probably make it worse.

The question I have had for some time though is whether Peak Oil will force us to act before it is too late to begin action on global warming.   In theory, oil scarcity and the higher prices that seem inevitable may have the side effect of reducing carbon emissions, but will it be enough??

It was with these questions in mind that I attended the "Sustainable Energy Forum 2006" conference a few weeks ago.  There were a number of speakers that many of you have heard of.  Governor Brian Schweitzer spoke on energy issues and coal liquefaction.   James Hansen (NASA scientist who has studied global climate change) spoke on the very question of whether or not peak oil will help force us to solve global warming, and Lester Brown (World Watch Institute) spoke about the need to restructure the global economy.

Many of these talks are now available for MP3 download, as are PDF files that contain the powerpoint slides (for those speakers that used them).

More after the flip....

I am going to focus on just a few of the talks here - you are of course free to look at the others.  This is a huge subject, and there are many aspects to it.  My own belief is that we must consider all of these questions together at the same time and not focus on quick fixes that may buy us some time from Peak Oil.  In fact, I believe that this is one of the first conferences that I have seen that has taken a multi-disciplinary look at these questions.

I should start by saying that the audio quality for many of the talks is only mediocre - the organizers of the conference are aware of the problem, and they say that they have other sources that may be available in the future.   There may be downloadable video at some point in the near future in fact.  I should add that they do not yet have downloadable audio for the 2nd day on the website, but it should be available at some point in the future.  In any event, the audio that is available is generally intelligible enough for my purposes, so I decided to go ahead right now.


Let me start with James Hansen.  As many of you know, he is the NASA scientist who has studied global warming for many years, and the Bush administration has tried to muzzle him - trying to prevent him from speaking out, and trying to 'fudge' his reports by editing his conclusions.  

I should mention that none of this is new - this past weekend I saw "An Inconvenient Truth", and there was a short section where a much younger Senator Gore was 'grilling' none other than this same James Hansen.  In this case it wasn't that Gore took issue with what Hansen was saying - it was that at the time some political hack in the Reagan administration had edited the conclusions in a scientific paper that Hansen had written to make it seem like there was more uncertainty about global warming:


When James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science, topped the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post earlier this year by describing Bush administration attempts to muzzle government scientists' attempts to convey their findings on global warming to the public, he may have experienced some deja vu. Almost exactly a quarter century earlier, a landmark paper in the journal Science by Hansen and colleagues at G.I.S.S. provoked a Reagan Administration attempt to shut down the institute. In the meantime, temperatures have risen steadily, along with the political heat.

And for those of you that have seen "An Inconvenient Truth", the CO2 level and temperature data that Gore presents is Hansen's.  In fact, that movie is probably a better reference to the question of what the actual evidence is for global warming, so I will limit my comments here to have to do with the question of how does Peak Oil play into all of this.

Now, on to what he actually had to say on the subject.  Audio quality starts out quite poor, and the first few minutes are missing, but you can listen here (once you get to about the 1 minute mark, the sound improves considerably to the point where it is intelligible).  His slides can be viewed as a PDF here.

I should also add that he spent a lot of time talking about various levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature rise that he would expect, and the effect on sea levels.  He defines a 'safe' threshold that if we were to exceed it, then it is likely that we would lose the ability to stop melting and sea level rise, so essentially the objective is to keep the CO2 level below that threshold.

Note: This quote is my transcription from the audio, and is rather ambiguous without looking at the slides - look for slide 51 for the start point.

Now what is the impact of peak oil?

The bottom sections are the fossil fuels that have already been used and emitted to the atmosphere in units of giga-tons or CO2 PPM, and the EIA estimates for proven reserves would put you up to this level, and with their estimates for reserve growth to this additional level.  

Now if we use those amounts, and use the simplest carbon cycle model - just take the bare model - published in the IPCC report, then those emissions - the fossil fuel use -  would give you this increase in CO2.  The observed increase in CO2 is this, and presumably the difference is the fact that the preceding fuel use was wood and deforestation, which is now getting to be a relatively small difference relative to the total.

Then using for this standard calculation, assume that we are going to use all of the oil and gas, and the coal with the IPCC estimate for the amount of coal, then that would end up doubling CO2, which would get you clearly into the dangerous level.  This is assuming 2% per year growth up to the peak, and then when you hit the peak you have a decrease of 2% per year after that.

On the other hand, we said, "Let's phase out coal" - you keep coal use constant up to 2020, and then we begin a phase out by 2040, which doesn't mean you stop using coal, but means you use it only where you capture it and sequester it.  And that would mean that you were really going to phase out by 2040 that those power plants that would live past 2040 you would need to replace with CO2 capture or some other power plant.  That would keep CO2 slightly less than what we require for the alternative scenario.  And even if we doubled the estimate for the reserve growth, it would still be at a reasonable level of CO2.

Now some people think there is still lots and lots of gas and oil to be discovered....

Conclusions: If these peaks are really at this level, which is about 3 times what has been used so far in oil, and about 4 times what has been used so far in gas, then you could afford to use these and still keep CO2 at the low 400ppm.  But this scenario assumes that we are not going to then go from these to something like shale oil or tar sands, or something that's really hard to get at.  It also assumes that there are no big feedbacks that we don't know about - for example permafrost melting and beginning to yield a lot of CO2.  Based on the Earth's history, if we keep warming to less than one degree Celsius, we probably won't get a big feedback as we didn't see any in the last several hundred thousand years.

To get this to work, you are going to have to have something after the present fossil fuel use, and that's going to take decades - that argues that you had better emphasize energy efficiency in the near term to give you time to develop the replacement approach for energy use.

And it also assumes that we will want to keep the warming to less than 1 degree Celsius, we will also pursue the non-CO2 forcings which would require some additional effort.


Next let me go to Lester Brown.  Here we get the core of the issue of sustainable use of resources, and the reason I include him in the list here is mainly to highlight the fact that we heading in an unsustainable direction.   The real elephant in the room here is human population - there are many who believe that the human population currently exceeds the 'carrying capacity' of the earth (he also has a new book out - "Plan B, 2.0: rescuing a planet under stress and a civilization in trouble").

And Brown considers the question of China, and speaks to the need to restructure the global economy (transcribed from the audio - if there is an error, it is my fault.  Audio downloadable here - he didn't use powerpoint):

Those of us who have been working on Environmental issues for many years, and in some cases decades, including many of us in this room, have been saying that we need to restructure the global economy for environmental reasons.  We look at the environmental trends, whether it shrinking forests, expanding deserts, collapsing fisheries, eroding soils, rising sea level, ice melting, dying coral reefs..  You can go down the list, and it has been clear that we could not continue on this path and would have to restructure the economy.  And while many of us were convinced, most of the rest of the world has not been convinced.  And certainly most of the economists were not convinced.  But what is happening in China now may being to convince economists as well, that we do need, indeed, to restructure the global economy.

Almost ever since I can remember, we have been saying that with the United States with 5% of the world's people consumes 33% to 40% of the world's resources.  That was true.  It is no longer true.  China now consumes more of most basic resources than does the United States.

We look at the agricultural sector - grain and meat.  The energy sector - oil and coal.  The industrial sector - steel.  Of those 5 basic commodities, China now consumes more than the United States of all except oil.  And even here, China's oil use is growing much, much faster, than that of the United States.

Now that China has overtaken the U.S., and more than overtaken us in some cases - meat consumption in China is now nearly double that in the United States.  Steel consumption is more than double 258 million tons to 104 million tons.  It's not even close any more.

But now that China has overtaken the United States in the consumption of many basic resources, we have license to ask the next question, which is 'what happens if China catches up with the United States in consumption per person?'.  And if we project the growth in the Chinese economy at 8% a year, down from the 9-10% in the last few years, at 8% a year, in 2031 income per person in China would be the same as that the United States today.

If we further assume that the Chinese will spend their money in more or less the same way we do, that is that they have similar consumption patterns, then we can begin to see what this means in total consumption.

It means, for example, that grain consumption in China, in 2031, 1.45 billion people, will be equal to 2/3 of the current world grain harvest.  Look at paper consumption.  At the U.S. per-capita level, then China in 2031 consumes twice as much paper as the world currently produces.  There go the world's forests.

Or consider cars - 3 cars for every 4 people.  In China, in 2031, then you have 1.1 billion cars.  The current global fleet is 800 million cars.  China would have to pave an area in roads, highways, parking lots, comparable to the area now planted in rice.

Oil consumption.  99 million barrels a day.  As referred a number of times, beginning last night, we are currently producing 84 million barrels a day, and we may never produce much more than that.

What China is teaching us, is that the western economic model, the fossil-fuel based, automobile centered, throw-away economy, is not going to work for China.  If it doesn't work for China, it will not work for India.  Nor will it work for the other 3 billion people in the developing countries who are also dreaming the American dream.  And in some ways, most importantly, in an increasingly integrated global economy, where we all depend upon the same oil, grain, steel, it won't work for us either.

Emphasis mine.


Finally, Brian Schweitzer.  In the context of the conference, his talk came after Lester Brown and James Hansen, and thoughts from those talks were still bouncing around in my head as Schweitzer was speaking.   Schweitzer does talk a good talk though.

You can hear Schweitzer here: http://www.beyondpeak.org/files/SEF06_Schweitzer.MP3.  Audio quality for this one is pretty decent.  He spoke without powerpoint slides, so this is audio-only.  The focus of his talk was to find ways to eliminate oil imports (he actually had a diary on the subject here).

I cannot be too hard on him - he really does get most of it, and so many politicians have their heads completely in the sand.  He not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk.  And he really understands the stuff.  He spoke of the Carter 'sweater' speech:

What are some of the solutions?

Let's talk about energy conservation.  Let's start there.  We could, in my opinion, decrease consumption by 20% in the next 5 years.  But it starts by making conservation cool.  The mistake that Jimmy Carter had was that he asked for only sacrifice.  He didn't talk about the potential.  He didn't talk about the business opportunities.  And he didn't talk about making conservation cool.  He wore a sweater, he looked frumpy.  He turned down the thermostat.  He drove an ugly vehicle.  Let's make conservation cool.  I drive a Volkswagen Jetta, and I run it 100% on synthetic fuel, and it's cool.  It will go very fast, and it will run on used oil coming from french fries, it will run on synthetic fuels, and we do.

But more than just the fuels we burn in our cars, let's make it cool to wear clothes that have used less energy input and less carbon into the atmosphere.  Let us have more sustainable chairs that we sit on.  let us have more sustainable homes that we build.  Let us find out how low can you go.  Like limbo.  Let's challenge each other, so Nancy and I at a dinner party say "We drive a Volkswagen Jetta with all synthetic fuel, and we get 45 miles to the gallon".  The next couple says, "that's cool, but we drive a Prius, get 51, and we only drive it 2 days a week.".  The next one says "We have converted our bicycles to a family bicycle, and all 4 of us can ride together".  How low can you go?

That part is fine, of course.  In the end, he outlines 3 components for making the U.S. energy independent, and this is the first one.  The 2nd one is biofuels, but these two alone in his view are insufficient to get us all the way.  The 3rd one is coal liquefaction.  On the surface it sounds good - we don't have to worry about fuel shortages, but the underlying assumption behind all of this is that we are using coal as a bridge until we figure out what the 'next' fuel for our cars is - hydrogen, fusion, or something.

Only one problem with this.  This assumes that one of these things will actually come through for us before we run out of coal.  There is the real possibility that there is no scalable and sustainable 'fuel' that will allow us to perpetuate today's car culture in the future (especially when you consider Lester Brown and the ever increasing numbers of people in the planet who desire to live the car culture), in which case all we will have done is dug ourselves even deeper in a hole, and mankind will have an even harder time digging itself out.

And then there is the question of CO2.  Coal liquefaction only partially deals with the CO2 issue - he talks about sequestration of CO2, but that is only the CO2 created in the process of making the synthetic fuel.  Here I was reminded of what James Hansen had to say and I could only wonder whether this is a wise course of action.


So what should we really do?  My gut tells me that coal liquefaction is really more of a band-aid - a way to keep the status quo functioning a few more years in the hopes that we will find a better solution.  But questions of resource exhaustion lead me to believe that no such better solution will be found, and if you accept that there are limits to what the earth will support, then perhaps a more productive approach for moving forward would be to reexamine aspects of our society that cause us to overconsume in the first place.

And for the coal in Montana?  Schweitzer spoke of how various Native American nations in Montana are viewing the coal that lies beneath their lands.   One of them - the Crow - is ready to start digging.  Another of them - the Cheyenne - have considered whether they should mine the coal beneath their lands (and become obscenely wealthy in the process), but their view is that perhaps the coal should be left in the ground for future generations.   It will still be there.   Perhaps it is best left where it is.

And perhaps that is how we should view it too.

I won't try and argue that it will be a painless transition.  But the status quo, or even the attempt to maintain the status quo seems to be a questionable endeavor, and if we are going to have to make radical changes anyways, then sooner we get started, the better.  The challenge of course is that most people are just barely aware of the seriousness of the situation.


Some of the other speakers were Joseph Tainter (author "Collapse of Complex Societies"), William Catton (author "Overshoot"), Richard Heinberg & Kenneth Deffeyes (frequent speakers on the subject of Peak Oil), and David Pimintel (Cornell ecologist, and frequent ethanol critic).

Downloadable notes for all speakers can be found here: http://www.beyondpeak.org/Register.html

Downloadable MP3 audio for half of the speakers (other half hopefully coming soon) can be found here: http://www.beyondpeak.org/Agenda.html

I should add that for pure entertainment value, the Deffeyes and Schweitzer talks are worthwhile.

Thanks for the detailed report. Very interesting.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 08:12:32 AM EST
There was a lot of information from this conference that I am still trying to process.  For the purposes of writing diaries, I really do need the downloadable audio though.  During the conference, they assured us that it would be available fairly soon, so instead of trying to take detailed notes, I listened more closely to what the speakers actually had to say.

There are probably a couple more diaries I can get out of this, but again - I need the audio for the 2nd day :-).

I ended up buying both Catton's and Tainter's books.  I may bring one of them with me to Las Vegas - something to read on the plane.

by ericy on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 08:52:44 AM EST

Heh.  Half of the audio for the 2nd day has now appeared.  Only about 20% of it is missing now...
by ericy on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 12:04:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China has already started to run into serious growth issues. Not only are they searching the world for stable supplies of raw materials, but they are having internal problems as well.

The two most pressing are clean water and arable land. Both are in short supply and getting shorter. Many people, including me, have warned of China's rising economic power and the threat it will be to the industrialized economies as well as to the global ecology.

It now seems more probable that growth will continue at a fairly good pace for perhaps as long as another ten or twenty years, but then raw material issues will become the limiting factor.

It was not too long ago that China had mass starvation and almost complete economic collapse (1970's). The fact that this was brought on by poor central planning just shows how easy it would be for this to happen again. There is still no rational social policy in place. Just this morning the BBC reported that the banking industry in China is technically in default due to the large number of uncollectible loans being kept on the books.

Some problems are just too big to be solved painlessly and world overpopulation is one of them.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 09:57:57 AM EST
By uncollectible loans, do you mean loans internal to China, or are you also counting U.S. T-notes??

I have been aware of these concerns about the banking system myself.  In those respects, it starts to remind me of what happened in Japan in the 1990s.  For the time being, they have managed keep it all propped up - kind of like a giant Ponzi scheme.

Things are starting to slowly unwind in the U.S.  The housing bubble is popping, and people who work in the real estate business, mortgage banking, home construction, and other such fields are already starting to experience a slowdown.  People not in these fields are being hit with higher gas prices and adjustable mortgages for which the rates are going up.  It seems logical that at some point there will be a reduction in orders from Chinese factories.

by ericy on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 10:14:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China is creating strains for every conceivable resource around...

China struggles to overcome shortage of good accountants

From 1949 to 1966, and for 15 more years after the launch of economic reforms in 1978, Chinese accountants used a Soviet book-keeping system designed for a centrally planned economy - a world apart from western accounting. The result: a void where China is desperate for senior accountants with know-how relevant to its modern economy.

Stephen Taylor, a partner at Deloitte, one of the big four international accountancy groups, in Hong Kong, says: "Do we lack experienced, grey-haired people [in mainland China]? Yes. One of the biggest challenges we have is getting the right level of experience and oversight."


The shortage is more than a personnel headache for the big four firms and their smaller local rivals. It has the potential to slow down - or even trip up - China's integration into the system of global capital markets.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 11:20:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oil consumption.  99 million barrels a day.  As referred a number of times, beginning last night, we are currently producing 84 million barrels a day, and we may never produce much more than that.
Is that right? Are we consuming 118% of our production?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 10:09:55 AM EST
Sorry, 99 mdb is supposed to be the projected Chinese consumption in 2031 assuming sustained 8% growth.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 10:12:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for the report, hope to hear about the rest of it.

"But it starts by making conservation cool."

 Schweitzer is absolutely right on this. And conservation was cool once before, until the Ronald Reagan backlash against all the advances of the 60's and 70's threw us off course. I once worked as a biological environmental consultant to a California power company in the 70's, mostly fossil fuel plants (they had a bad habit of building nuclear plants on earthquake faults back then, so they weren't operational). I went back to do a bit of work for them in the early 90's and they were still running the same number of  plants, even though CA's economy had doubled over the 20 year period. The guys at the company told me the new demand had been met through 1) conservation and 2) alternative energy- wind, waste-to-energy, geo, solar. It can be done again because it has already been done, and this time maybe it will stick.      

by dorothy in oz on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 12:53:58 PM EST
I recently attended a lecture by Caltech Professor Nathan Lewis regarding energy supplies, projected global demand, and global warming. His argues is that there is plenty of cheap fossil fuel (there is little argument here about coal), and that owing to carbon emissions, this abundance and low cost is an enormous problem. He reviews carbon sequestration schemes, and rejects them as unworkable or inadequate. He considers biomass, hydroelectric, and wind energy, and argues that they are quantitatively inadequate. Nuclear he rejects as too capital intensive.

He argues that solar power is the only quantitatively adequate and sustainable energy source, and that the chief challenge is making it cheap enough to compete with and displace fossil fuels.

Powerpoint, transcript, and audio of a version of this presentation are available from his website.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 12:03:49 AM EST
...what schemes of carbon sequesteration he talked about?

I know people (in fact, talked to one yesterday) who are studying methods of carbon sequesteration and they tell me that the research is still in its infancy. Very little has been done and most of what has been done is linked to computer models that use a framework based on theoretical calculations (which often do not make any sense generating Garbage In, Garbage Out) and not on actual measurements. Rejecting sequesteration methods because they are inadequate or unworkable now is not convincing to me.

Lewis argues along similar lines of Denis Hayes, CEO of Earth Day.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 06:43:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Without knowing the details I am not sure on what grounds Lewis rejected sequesteration, but I suspect technical unworkability wasn't the main problem. Nazi Germany already applied the method on a large scale during WWII.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 06:59:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I should use a dictionary more often. Sequesteration <> liquefaction.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 02:19:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I recall correctly, he rejected ocean-based schemes on grounds of pH effects, and rejected injection into gas fields on grounds of potential long-term leakage (on a scale of centuries). I don't recall the rest.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 01:58:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...Lewis is using scare tactics.

1)pH effects matter very little deep underground.

2)Long term leakage is not a reason to not do it. The biosphere is capable to buffer long-term leakage, unless leakage occurs catastrophically, which would be a point of concern.

3)Leakage is less of a problem if you manage to convert CO2 gas into a more stable form once you've pumped it underground. There is research going on to see if CO2 sequesteration could be done by creating gypsum minerals underground which would lock CO2 up in a more stable, solid form.

That said, sequesteration is not an end-all. But it should belong to the palette of solutions that should be pursued.

But my thanks, of course, for the update.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 08:44:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I only now clicked on your weblink and had a bash at the presentation and the transcript. I'm a little more mild on Lewis now: it's unwise to put all the CO2 within the oceans, because it would indeed affect pH. We might already be there. See here. And he does suggest in the transcript that sequestration should be pursued. I am pretty much in agreement with what the transcript reads on CO2 sequestration.
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 09:04:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am a long time member of the choir you're preaching to :-)  but thanks for the reiteration.  it needs to be said many many times.

while we're still in the fantasyland of searching around desperately (think:  addict ransacking house for last dose, nearly out of money) for the substitute fuel that will keep the car culture running, no progress is being made on the real solution:  retooling away from the car culture, away from the longhaul-everything trade paradigm, away from energy squandering and towards an ethic of frugality.

how to make frugality cool is a big serious question.  though it seems incredibly stupid that people would spend 2 seconds caring about "what's cool" when civilisational collapse is on the menu, as Jared D points out, our attachment to cultural norms can be so fierce that it leads to collective suicide (I like the phrase "suicide economics" btw).  and cool/uncool is just one way of labelling powerful cultural norms.

the connection between profligacy and status is wired very deep in our nasty little monkey brains, and people respond with kneejerk resentment and denial when told they should economise, live more frugally, etc. -- it feels like a demotion in status.  seems to me that people in the recently colonised areas of N Am, Oz, NZ (lower population densities and less thoroughly looted bioregions -- and hyperconsumers) tend to respond with even more outrage and denial because of being used to a national mythology of frontiers, abundant resources, "growth", "personal freedom" (meaning freedom to consume), and "progress" (meaning each generation squanders more energy per capita than the last, and enjoys a "higher standard of living" than the last).  people in more crowded, poorer, and more environmentally degraded countries have less unrealistic expectations (though China's feverish boomtown economy is certainly creating first-worldish suicide-economics fantasies among urban elites);  Curitiba looks like Paradise by third world standards, and Curitiba might just be sustainable.

powerful memes that need to be undermined and got out of the way in the hyperconsumer cultures include (this is hardly an exhaustive list):

people who ride the bus are losers
bicycles are terribly dangerous
bicycles are toys for children
bicycles are "sporting goods" for fit young daredevils
public space is dangerous:  fear all strangers
giant urban assault vehicles are Safer
bigger is better
faster is better
I'm entitled to more of everything than my parents had
my children are entitled to more of everything than I had
sharing is for losers
only poor people re-use or fix things
small houses are for losers
eating meat every day is absolutely necessary
life without jet travel would not be worth living
the population problem = poor people overbreeding
we must outbreed those other racial groups or be overwhelmed by them
the economy must grow
efficiency means minimising labour inputs
privatisation = efficiency

and so on.  endless lists of ingrained memes, a catechism of received opinion that militates powerfully against a change of paradigm.  some will yield more easily than others;  rising petrol prices are already reviving intereset in utility cycling.

others are harder to tackle.

I have been trying to think of powerful countermemes that would appeal to people in the critical age range -- K-12 through mid twenties.  one is the evergreen hope of youth that they are smarter than their parents;  the necessary retooling in face of climate destabilisation and peak oil offers an opportunity for a younger generation to be exactly that -- smarter than their stupid grandparents and parents who laid waste to the resources of millennia in an orgy of trivial self-indulgence.  "we're smarter than that" could be a powerful -- if irritating to some of us more clueful old fogeys -- slogan for energy saving technologies.

emphasising the clunkiness of energy waste is another possibility...  I could imagine an ad campaign comparing SUVs to vacuum tubes:  large, impressive, and totally archaic, primitive and inelegant.  a bicycle or superlight EV or pedalmobile might be compared to an iPod -- sleek, light, small, efficient, elegant.  contrasting the sleek elegance of a wind turbine to the sooty, pipe-encrusted, old-fashioned industrial jungle gym of a fossil fuel power plant might be effective.

a powerful negative meme that makes people lash out in fear and denial against conservation and frugality (of energy or any other resource) is the notion that this means "going backwards" to a more "primitive" way of life.  accusations that Greens "want to force us back to the Stone Age" or "want us to live in thatched cottages reading by candlelight" are fairly common.  a countermeme showing that energy-wasteful technologies -- hot, heavy, clunky and clumsy -- are old-fashioned and that futurism looks iPod-like, LED-like, solarpanel and wind turbine like (sleek, minimalist, light/cool/elegant/small-footprint) might help in this tug-of-war.

the scale of meme warfare already being waged by the Filth Industries to undermine conservation or paradigm change is of course major -- huge fortunes depend on continuing on the present insane path.  Their latest denial campaign is unintentionally hilarious but they have enormous cultural inertia on their side.  As Maarten van Mourik memorably said at ASPO, "It may not be profitable to slow the decline [of oil production and reserves]."  in fact it will be more profitable in the short term (the only term that counts with the corporadoes) not to slow the decline, but to create a crisis and get in some bigtime price-gouging on the old fuel stock, then be in position to charge crisis rates and fees for "emergency" retooling.  so there is, crazily enough, a powerful faction with a vested interest in not doing the sensible thing but rather running into the brick wall at full speed...

this means that the work of 'cooling' frugality and "selling" paradigm shift to the electorates is not only urgent but -- like all major social changes -- contested and opposed.  sigh.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 03:40:46 AM EST
(think:  addict ransacking house for last dose, nearly out of money)

yup, my meme for the iraq war since the buildup has been a gang of junkies on a midnight raid on the pharmacy...

great diary, great comments...

we need sustainable, cool models for modern living that turn on youngsters, and i think it's within reach...

we need to promote a future existence that gets 'elegance' points for a small footprint, and yet pushes the envelope in being 'new' and 'rad'.

artist/farmers with solar rooves, digi-contadino works for me....busy trying to use rock'n'roll and massage as medium and message.

just heard through the grapevine that italy -and possibly all europe - will be paying 3times the going selling rate to buy solar panel-powered juice, as i heard already happens in spain.

this is great news, tho' being italy you have to have some fancy (armani) suit come out and be your consulente for E500!!!

the other good news, and i hope jerome will comment on this, is that my friend is getting a loan from the bank to buy E250,000 woth of panels. he will use half the power and sell the rest.

in the loan agreement, the bank will get paid direct from enel, if he can't make the payments....lol!

so the money goes around and around, but basically they'll be paying him to stay home, nurture his family, organic farm and animals.

i play gigs at his bio restaurant, and he's the local green party candidate, so i trust him.


revitalise the countryside, less food and health bills, cleaner environment, reverse the country-to-slum exodus, ALL IN ONE!!!!

right now it's the opposite, my dial-up connection costs way more than cityfolks pay for b/band, i'm subsidising them.

their higher energy footprint will subsidise me, once this panel thing starts popping...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 06:34:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This just in from the Texas Bicycle Coalition:
"In fall 2005, it was brought to the attention of Texas Bicycle Coalition that two communities in north Texas had posted bicycle bans. The ban in Keller (Tarrant County) was temporary, due to construction on Keller-Smithfield Road, near FM 1709. Bike ban signs in Keller were removed once the construction was completed.

The bike ban in Anna (Collin County) on FM 455, however, remains posted despite requests to the City of Anna from local cyclists and Texas Bicycle Coalition that the city repeal the bike ban. Texas Bicycle Coalition is working with local bicycle advocates to resolve the bike ban issue.

In a disappointing and major reversal, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) lawyers have re-interpreted the Texas Attorney General's 1989 opinion (Opinion No. JM-1109) to say it could imply that municipalities may ban bicycles on any roadway. The re-interpretation by TxDOT and the ambiguous wording of the Attorney General's opinion make this particular bike ban a much more serious threat to Texas cycling."

Visit http://www.biketexas.org to read more. More information is also available at http://www/bikedfw.org

see what I mean?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 07:10:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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