Thursday, December 29, 2005

gas tax increase

At the end of 2004 North Carolinians were paying $1.78 per gallon of gas. As we say goodbye to 2005 we're paying $2.19 per gallon. That's an increase of 23%.

A look at this graph shows a steady increase in gasoline prices since late 2003. There's an obvious spike in price after hurricane Katrina which is followed by a correction and then a return to rising prices. Let's take that 23% increase for 2005 and do some projection for the next three years shall we?

2006 $2.69 per gallon

2007 $3.31 per gallon

2008 $4.07 per gallon

For all you non-math majors out there a 23% annual increase means the price will double every 3 years. Still worried about North Carolina's planned gas tax increase of $0.03 per gallon next year?

Ladies and gentlemen we have a larger problem.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

what did you get for christmas?

The quantity and quality of the Christmas gifts I received this year illustrate just how blessed my family really is. I’m not sure I could write down all the presents I received without getting up from the computer and making a list out in the living room where this year’s offerings are waiting to be put away. One in particular stands out. I received the gift from a co-worker at our annual Christmas party. She gave me a card and wrote in it to …"remember these two things: think globally and act locally". There were two gifts attached. The first was labeled, Think Globally. It was an announcement that she had purchased baby chicks through Heifer International. For almost 60 years this organization has offered a way for individuals to purchase a source of food for a family in need. My gift was a flock of chickens given to a poor family to raise as a source of eggs and more chickens to sell and share with others in need. The second gift was labeled, Act Locally. It was a gift certificate to Heirloom Seeds. For the past three years I’ve been growing more and more of my own food on our ¼ acre lot. My co-worker knows this and was kind enough to give me the power to continue to provide for myself and my family in this way. I actually only received a card and a few slips of paper. The power of her gift though is profound. I am helping a feed a family in need and my family as well. No trinkets, no knick-knacks, no gadgets, just the power to take care of myself and others by feeding them.

I believe that over the next few years it will become evident that George Monbiot is right when he says we, are the most fortunate generations that have ever lived. Ours are the most fortunate generations that ever will. As our incredible sources of energy embodied in fossil fuels reach a maximum rate of extraction, I think we will have to begin again to do with less. I do not think this reduction will be unwelcome by many. I think many Americans have begun to ask themselves, “How much is enough?” Just how big a house do I really need? 2,000 square feet? 4,000 square feet? 10,000? How much food can I eat? How many showers can I take? How big does my vehicle really need to be? My television? My dinning room table? When will I purchase enough to be happy? And I would argue that many Americans are beginning to understand the words I first learn from a plaque on my Grandmother’s wall. It read, Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want but the realization of what you already have. It may prove that the greatest gift she ever gave me was an understanding of the great power that I have within me and you have within you. We are all capable of taking care of ourselves and those around us. We do not need more “things” to make us happy, just the utilization of what we already have.

George Monbiot went on to say, And we find ourselves in an extraordinary position. This is the first mass political movement to demand less, not more. The first to take to the streets in pursuit of austerity. The first to demand that our luxuries, even our comforts, are curtailed.”
We cannot call on others to stop flying if we still fly. We cannot ask the government to force us to change if we are not ready to change. The greatest fight of our lives will be fought not just out there, but also in here.

Over the next few months I’m going to discuss in more detail the actions we can all take in order to provide for ourselves what we have until recently relied upon others to provide. I also plan to sprinkle in more links to the writings of others on topics I think important. All this against the backdrop of an understanding that maybe less, not more, means better. Please be apart of the discussion. Feel free to request that I research certain topics concerning personal freedom through rejection of the bonds of materialism and greed or maybe just a better way of gardening. Please forward links you think I might be interested in. Thanks as always for listening.

Check out George Monbiot and his article in its entirety.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

high gas prices vs. the epa

Who wants to bet on how fast environmental regulations reducing sulfur content and carcinogenic additives in gasoline get tossed out the window on our way over the peak? The following came from an article on MSNBC.

The introduction of lower sulfur requirements for gasoline and diesel combined with a shift in gasoline additives could reduce supplies and create problems for refineries trying to produce fuel to meet the new specifications, according to analyst Trilby Lundberg.

"In 2006, the EPA could well cost gasoline consumers more than Hurricane Katrina did."

"This supply loss is permanent, unlike a storm idling refining capacity, even one as horrendous as Katrina. While some of the supply loss will be made up by ethanol, the rest must come from greater gasoline imports," Lundberg said.

Entire Article Here

Place your bets...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

does government get it?

Those who understand resource depletion and the coming crisis that will be created by surging energy prices have a topic they like to argue about. Does the government know about Peak Oil and if so, how much has it shaped government policy? Some say no, how could they? They would be doing something to prevent what will be a very unhappy period in the history of humankind. Others say yes, of course they know. Jimmy Carter didn’t put on a sweater and tell the American public to turn down their thermostats for the good of his political career. A 1982 State Department report and a 1977 CIA report show pretty strong support for the latter.

Earlier this month The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce met specifically to discuss Peak Oil. The audio is available by clicking here. Back in March Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican from Maryland, gave the first of several special order speeches to the House of Representative on the topic. I’ve seen video of one of the speeches. It was late in the evening and almost no one was present to here him. Now it seems that the issue is getting more formal attention in Washington. Representative Bartlett was present at the above mentioned committee meeting and gave remarks. Also in attendance was Robert Hirsch. Dr. Hirsch was the project leader for a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy entitled, “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management”. Interestingly the report was released with almost no coverage by the media. I find this strange because the report states, “Dealing with world oil production peaking will be extremely complex, involve literally trillions of dollars and require many years of intense effort.” It goes on to say, “… the problem of the peaking of world conventional oil production is unlike any yet faced by modern industrial society.” If you haven’t read it you should. I would like to think all of our representatives have read this very important government commissioned report. And then I get this.

It was recently mailed to my home. Representative Robin Hayes is my local congressman. He was invited by fax to attend my screening of The End of Suburbia earlier this year. It took place 2 blocks from his Concord Office. I must defend his absence as his representation of the 8th Congressional District of North Carolina means he spends quite a bit of time in Washington. I do wish he would have sent someone though. I can not however, defend overly simplistic publications such as this one. After spending quite a bit of time blaming high energy prices on “our narrow refining capacity” he misses the point. Why haven’t oil companies built a new refinery on U.S. soil in almost 30 years he asks? Because they know global oil production will soon peak just like many in the Federal Government have known for years. He goes on to tout his defense of energy assets against aggression by “the Chinese Communist government.” He failed to mention 70% of the products in Wal-Mart stores were made in China and shipped to this country- an operation made possible by cheap fuel prices- an operation that won’t be possible when fuel prices reach a certain point. He also failed to mention that China buys American debt to the tune of almost 1/2 billon dollars a day. I wonder what will happen when China gets unhappy about not begin able to spend its debt dollars in the global free market? But I digress. My Representative went on to briefly mention biofuels, hydrogen cells, and conservation. He did so though in ways that made me unsure as to whether or not he even understands them. “Fuel cells which use hydrogen can power homes and automobiles with virtually no emissions.” He leaves out the fact that Hydrogen fuel cells require energy to split water into hydrogen. They’re batteries that store power not energy sources in and of themselves. The front cover was the most disappointing though. The first thing he wanted the reader to see was a number to call to report possible price gouging violations. It was discouraging to see this sort of pandering to the public’s baseless suspicions. As fuel prices rise many will believe they’re being ripped off by the big bad oil companies. The leaders of our nation are happy to let them believe this as long as it takes the heat off of our representatives. It also avoids tackling the real reason prices are on the rise. I hope Representative Hayes gets a chance to read the Hirsch report and spend a little time with fellow Republican Roscoe Bartlett. I’d like some thoughtful representation in Washington when it comes to Peak Oil and I don’t want to have to move to Maryland to get it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

awareness and preparation part II

So you're terrified of the future described by those who are warning of the coming peak in global oil production and the effects it will have on your life. You can't imagine a rewarding and fulfilling lifetime during which consumption decreases- a lifetime during which in fact all human activity declines. Maybe you've had a sneaking suspicion that despite what Dick Cheney says, our way of life is unsustainable. But you were able to convince yourself we could postpone payment for a bit longer and now you see we can't.

Thousands of Americans are becoming aware of the fact that our way of life is predicated on an energy source that will be entering a permanent phase of production decline in the near future. Some of our older citizens might escape the impact but anyone in their 40's or younger will surely see what it feels like to live with less than their parents did. And if you have children the conversations you carry on in your own head might be even more frightening. No one can tell us exactly what will happen. The future is by definition undefinable. It's not a stretch though to say that Peak Oil will be the single largest event in our lifetimes if not in all of human history.

As people begin to understand our situation as it exists outside of pop media culture coverage, many are having trouble mentally dealing with their epiphanies. It isn't uncommon to see these individuals grappling with the 5 classic stages of grieving. First there's Denial of the problem. We live in an age of affluence, in a country flush with material wealth. The idea that life won't continue as it has to date during our lifetime is tough to admit. Then there's Anger. Once someone has faced the problem and its possible effects he or she tends to get angry. The individual feels cheated or tricked and will blame anyone around: the oil companies, the government, the Middle East, even previous generations of wasteful Americans. Next up is the Bargaining stage. We've lived during an age of incredible technological advancement. Because of this we've developed an unhealthy faith in technology and its ability to continue to make life better. Many believe that because we've been able to do such wonderful things in the past we'll be able to figure something out concerning energy problem in the future. This is a sticking point for most people. Many have yet to get past it. They are willing to switch to a hybrid car or to reinsulated their attic as long as they are still able to drive where they please and walk around at home in their underwear. For those who don't worship technology and are willing to examine its limitation as described by the laws of physics, it becomes painfully clear that there are no comparable substitutes for oil and that change is coming in our lifetimes. Then Depression often sets in. Stable happiness is hard to imagine as any individual completely recreates his or her future based not on the lie of endless growth but on the reality of resource depletion and the limits to growth. For me this lasted about three months. Finally though there is Acceptance. Being constantly sad and upset about something you can't sit down and fix is frustrating. Most people eventually wake up to the fact that life won't stop because you've acquired an understanding of Peak Oil. The world will not come to an end tomorrow. The Peak does not signal the end of the age of mankind. The uncertain future will be full of problems but you now have a way of understanding them. You have the proper perspective with which to comprehend our era. And you have time yet to prepare yourself and your family and your friends and maybe even your community for the coming events. So now what do you do?

I have previously posted about three online resources for personal preparation. I believe this sort of preperation is extremely important. Here are four members of the movement of Peak Oil community planning. Some say you're only as prepared as your neighbor is. I kinda agree.

First up we have Rob Hopkins and Transition Culture. He has produced a road map of sorts and describes it this way. This plan was produced at Kinsale FEC by myself and the college’s second year students, and was, as far as we know, the first attempt by a community to design an intentionally designed way down from the oil peak.

Here in the United States we see the community of Willits, Ca and the WELL organization (Willits Economic LocaLization) Here's a community serious about addressing the issues of Peak Oil through relocalization.

The Community Solution is an organization dedicated to the development, growth and enhancement of small local communities. They have a proposal for a Post-Peak Oil Community called Agraria in Yellow Spring, Ohio. Incidentally Yellow Springs hosted this year's Second Conference of Peak Oil and the Community Solution this past September.

Lastly I wanted to mention the Unplanner formerly of Southern California recently relocated(for reasons you might guess) to Lincoln County, Oregon. I find his articles insightful, especially his idea for beginningng the process of planning for the post-petroleum era.

Never has it been more important to think globally and act locally.