From the "I hope it doesn't happen but wouldn't be surprised if it did" department, I have some predictions and scenarios to throw out there about stuff that could happen sometime in the rest of 2008. I suppose this is mostly just a mental exercise for me, but maybe it'll spark some interesting comments/responses:
The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. will hit $6 a gallon sometime this Summer, and perhaps $10/gallon or more by the end of the year. Measures will be taken by the federal and state governments to temporarily alleviate the financial burden on some people, but nothing sustainable. Some people will not be able to get to work at all, while others will have to carpool more, take the bus, ride their bikes, and walk.
The U.S. will initiate military action against Iran, probably in the form of heavy air-strikes. There will be no clear notion of victory or desired outcome other than to significantly destroy the country's own infrastructure, especially targets related to nuclear facilities. This action might be justified to the American people by...
An apparent attack on one or more U.S. locations, resulting in significant loss of life or infrastructure.
The U.S. airline industry will significantly cut back or even cease flight schedules as we've known them, and air travel will (once again) become a privilege reserved for the rich and famous who can afford private flights. Any frequent flier miles you've accumulated will become worth near nothing.
Most grocery stores will significantly scale back their inventories and restocking schedules, and significantly raise prices on what remains. Obtaining food from non-local sources, even basic staples, will be difficult at best, and most communities will begin to take emergency steps to feed their residents.
Hey, look, I don't like the thought of these things happening any more than the next person, but perhaps there's some value in naming what might be, even if it seems a bit outlandish or gruesome. Maybe if we believe these things are possible, we might feel more prepared to prevent or deal with them if they do happen.
What do you think? Too cynical? Worse? What are some other scenarios?
I'm so glad that the Chamber is focusing on the relationship between agribusiness and the energy crisis that we face as a nation and as a planet. I'm also glad that the solutions we're talking about are keeping in mind a systems approach - how the inputs and outputs from a particular industrial or energy-generating process can be used as efficiently as possible.
But I hope that whatever solutions we pursue take into account that there is a tremendous amount of energy that goes into making our agricultural system work, and so any energy solutions derived from it must take that cost into account. The USDA recently noted that ethanol generates little more energy than it takes to produce. Some scientists have shown that ethanol production consumes 6 units of energy for every 1 it produces. Continue reading "Ethanol as a local, national energy solution?"→
I'm writing tonight from the Third U.S. Conference on "Peak Oil" and Community Solutions. You may recall that I attended the same event last year, and it's been an amazing time again so far. It's also appropriate that I mention from this context my involvement in a new non-profit called Sustainable Indiana, Inc, founded by my friend Frank Cicela (who also hosted the Indiana Energy Conference earlier this year). We're constructing it as an umbrella organization to facilitate building community resources related to sustainable living in Crawfordsville, and then making the process and "kit" from our efforts available to help other Indiana communities (and beyond) recreate the same kinds of resources in their area. Of course, I'll be working on trying out a few particular projects in Richmond as well. And we've already got some press coverage, a front page article in today's Crawfordsville Journal Review...yay. More soon on these important topics.
Well, in case you hadn't noticed, it's taking me a while longer than I'd thought it would to synthesize my notes from the Peak Oil conference into blog postings. In the interest of getting them done and published at all, this entry will be much less detailed than my others, and hopefully you can check out the DVD of the conference (not yet available) if you want to learn more. You can start with my introduction if you're just joining us. Continue reading "Peak Oil Conference: Sunday and Conclusions"→
This post summarizes the events of the first part of the second day of the Second U.S. Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions. You can read my introduction and my summary from the first day. As you'll note, there's quite a lot there, I hope it's not too discombobulated to be useful. I should note that the conference organizers are planning to produce a DVD of the various sessions held here, so if you're at all interested in seeing some of this stuff for yourself (and without my filters/bias), stay tuned to the conference website for details. Continue reading "Peak Oil Conference: Saturday Morning"→
I have the privilege to be headed to the second U.S. conference on "Peak Oil and Community Solutions" this weekend in Ohio. I've mentioned Peak Oil here before, and so I'm excited to be joining some folks who I already know think about this stuff on a trip to meet new people and explore this "issue" further. It seems to come at an especially relevant time, where energy concerns and oil production are tied in to most every headline, public policy decision, financial planning fear - even weather pattern! - that we hear about (and many we don't). Continue reading "Headed to Peak Oil Conference"→
I called Vectren Energy Delivery (a.k.a. the gas company) the other day with a question about my bill, and was pleasantly surprised by a customer service measure they've implemented. When I had made my way through the phone tree to the point where I start to sit on hold, the system said "we'll call you back within the same period of time you might wait on hold - 47 minutes." Then they let me enter a phone number and record my name. Indeed, about 30 minutes later, I got a call back from an automated voice saying "please press 1 when Chris Hardie is on the line", and was then connected to a real person who promptly addressed my concern.
While I sort of question 47 minutes as a reasonable hold time (there was no known natural disaster occurring at the time of my call), I really appreciated having the option of making it their responsibility to follow up, instead of my responsibility to sit on hold. It also means they don't have to keep as many phone lines and support staff active, which theoretically reduces costs. I hope other call centers consider similar measures!