Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ad hoc isn't the way to go.

Now, while gasoline and diesel prices are in a temporary trough, is the time for communities to bite the bullet and implement mass-transit strategies for when gasoline gets up to and over $10.00/gallon (that is, by 2015 or before, if you recall Matthew Simmons analyses. Matt Simmons is a CFR member, oil industry analyst and expert on the peak-oil related decline in production.).

This article presumes, apparently, that it is too late for most communities to begin implementing electric mass transit - but I am not 100% convinced that is the case. He also seems to worry about a semi-permanent power grid failure, which I think is unlikely in most parts of the country. Solar, wind, nuclear and coal (short term) should be able to provide plenty of electricity. I do not think the government intends to allow the electric power to go out - since if they do so, they lose their ability to monitor what you're doing 24/7. I think that's far more important to them than he probably realizes. Private automobiles may eventually be outlawed to keep gasoline available for government use, but they will never let go of their electronics systems unless it really is Armageddon.

Archived Dec 15 2008
Towns and cities should prepare for the peak oil energy crisis
by Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D.

This article has a lengthy first section which covers information that you, my intelligent, educated and informed readers, ought to already know - production decline percentages, non-viability of alternatives, etc. I thought I'd skip to the later sections.

...Problems Facing the Towns and Cities

Local governments face the following problems from Peak Oil impacts: (1) declining revenues due to declining property values and declining family incomes; (2) increasing costs for gasoline, diesel, and heating oil; (3) inflation in the costs of equipment, materials, products, services, and electric power; (4) increasing unemployment and homelessness; (5) increasing crime; and (6) resource constraints in providing basic services, social services, and emergency services. As needs and problems expand the resources available to state and local governments will shrink.

We already saw that from other articles, too.

What Can Towns and Cities Do?

...All government officials should be informed so that they can begin planning and so that they are able to respond to questions from constituents and the press about what their government is doing to plan for Peak Oil impacts... Local governments should establish a Peak Oil committee in their government to provide advice regarding Peak Oil risk management and contingency planning. This committee should concentrate on what the town or city can do to address the problems that the town or city faces... People with general knowledge and community service experience are preferable to those who might want to work to solve national energy problems, instead of focusing on the problems facing the town, city, county, and state.

There is also a tendency to focus on energy conservation to plan for Peak Oil. Conservation of individual and local government resources is important, especially if it saves town resources, but local conservation is not a solution to most problems that communities face. Similarly, there is a tendency to focus on ways of generating energy, such as purchasing expensive solar panels or wind turbines. In general, these are not solutions. When the power grid fails, local electric power is not very useful, and it will be useful only as long as storage batteries last. A focus on risk management and contingency planning must be maintained.

Some Ideas for Risk Management and Contingency Planning

1. Studying Peak Oil impacts carefully will enable sensible risk management and contingency planning. The Peak Oil Report provides an excellent review of Peak Oil impacts.

2. Develop contingency plans for a power grid failure, which can occur at anytime (the possibility of a power grid failure is discussed in the Peak Oil Report in the section “Multiple Crises and a Gridlock of Crises” toward the end of the report).

3. Plan for government revenue reductions.

4. Guard financial resources.

5. Review the capital budget for possible cuts. For example, some state and local governments are widening highways, although traffic on these highways will decline in the future.

6. Plan ahead for very expensive oil and natural gas in the future. For example, many town or city offices may have to reduce operations to 3 or 4 days a week to cut costs in heating and transportation. Public schools use much heating oil (or natural gas) and diesel for transportation. Should the school calendar be adjusted to avoid the most expensive months: December, January, and February? Should classes meet 3 or 4 days a week? These changes require action by state board of education and changes in union contracts, etc. This example shows that government officials and the public need to be informed about Peak Oil now so that they can plan ahead. The pressure for changes in the school calendar would have to come from the local level, as there are no signs that state governments are planning for Peak Oil impacts.

7. Plans should be made for reductions in the personnel budget, as choices will have to be made between reductions-in-force and across the board reductions-in-pay.

8. Develop an extensive library of books that will provide useful technology for after the time when the power grid has failed permanently. Although this time is years away, these books could be sold out quickly following a national energy related emergency, and then the books may not be available later. An example: penicillin is not difficult to make, if you know how; but if you don’t know, it would be very difficult to invent the process for making penicillin.

9. Certain hand tools should be purchased and stored in quantities. Today they are inexpensive and plentiful, but in the future, they won’t be available, for example: 2 man wood saws, bow saws, and axes.

Notice he says in point number six that there are "no signs state governments are planning for peak oil impacts." I can't stress this enough - nobody is going to solve your community's problems for you, especially when the price of gasoline is already starting to shoot up again. Your community will be at the mercy of it's own lack of creativity, lack of planning, lack of electric mass transit, and lack of relocalized industry and lack of relocalized farming when push comes to shove.

The reason your community lacks all these things is because you and the people of your community lack the willingness to adjust your standard of living down to the level of being able to live within your means - not to mention lack forming co-ops and unpaid service societies to take care of needs that will no longer be taken care of by the paid economy. By refusing to learn the skills, arts and crafts necessary to make your community self-sufficient, by refusing to plan for the inevitable, you have left your fate to outsiders who don't give a hoot about you at best and at worst will consider themselves better off if you and your children die - that way they don't have to share any food or fuel with you.

Waiting on other people to solve your problems is simply not a viable option here, class. Your community is going to have to plan NOW how to deal with issues when people have no means of driving to work, to school, or to the stores. If you fail to do this, you will be left sitting there with no food and no transportation, waiting on a "government bailout" of your situation that will NEVER be forthcoming.

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