Simply a Lack of Imagination?
Not only our nation but the whole planet seems to be in dire straits, and I keep wondering how this came about. Today Iâ€™m thinking itâ€™s just a colossal failure of imagination.
One aspect of our common problem is peak oil, or in other words, the moment when worldwide oil production tops out and begins to decline. It seems to coincide with the point at which we have used about half of all the oil that exists, including that in hard to reach places (like under the oceans) and that which will be difficult and expensive to produce (like from Canadaâ€™s oil sands).
I want to talk at another time about what our dependence on this finite resource means for Americans, but today Iâ€™m just thinking about what it has done for us and what it could do for future Americans if we don’t use the last drop (besides saving them from the worst of climate change).
The myriad of petroleum products â€“ from plastics to fertilizers to fuel â€“ have created modern life as we know it. It will be very difficult to produce even things that arenâ€™t directly made of oil-based materials without the energy to run factories and fuel to distribute products. Â Some are just wishful thinking, like bio-fuels or hydrogen.
Alternative energy ideas are often highly reliant on the existence of enough oil: to build and run nuclear plants, to build and distribute batteries, solar panels and wind generators, etc.
I can easily imagine a not-too-distant future for my grandchildren where oil is scarce and expensive, and life is very, very different. What is harder for me to imagine is what Iâ€™m going to say to them to explain why I and my fellow Americans didnâ€™t foresee this disaster and seriously curtail our use of fossil fuels.
Will â€œI couldnâ€™t,â€ or â€œIâ€™m just wasnâ€™t ready,â€ or â€œIt would have hurt the economyâ€ stand up to their scrutiny as acceptable excuses for our lack of commitment now before itâ€™s too late. Or will we just have to drag out that old saw, â€œI didnâ€™t know this would happen.â€
What will you say?