Monday, July 07, 2008

Asleep at the Spigot

The NYTimes made another incremental disclosure in the direction of peak oil yesterday;
Over the last 25 years, opportunities to head off the current crisis were ignored, missed or deliberately blocked, according to analysts, politicians and veterans of the oil and automobile industries. What’s more, for all the surprise at just how high oil prices have climbed, and fears for the future, this is one crisis we were warned about. Ever since the oil shortages of the 1970s, one report after another has cautioned against America’s oil addiction.

Even as politicians heatedly debate opening new regions to drilling, corralling energy speculators, or starting an Apollo-like effort to find renewable energy supplies, analysts say the real source of the problem is closer to home. In fact, it’s parked in our driveways.

Nearly 70 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States consumes every day goes for transportation, with the bulk of that burned by individual drivers, according to the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan research group that advises Congress.

SO despite the fierce debate over what’s behind the recent spike in prices, no one differs on what’s really responsible for all that underlying demand here for black gold: the automobile, fueled not only by gasoline but also by Americans’ famous propensity for voracious consumption.
Beginning with the indictment of our way of life - and sequeing into the fundamental complicity of our political processes in service to this way of life.
According to energy policy experts, it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s — during the administrations of President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that things began to go wrong.

Before that point, the country reaped the benefits of the first fuel-economy standards, passed in 1975, known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE. Between 1974 and 1989, the efficiency of a typical car sold in the United States almost doubled, to 27.5 miles per gallon from 13.8.
Bringing us back full circle to Mark Whitaker's notion about the political barriers to sustainable living;

He proposes that instead of sustainability being an issue of population scale, managerial economics, or technocratic planning, an overhaul of formal democratic institutions is required. This is because environmental degradation has more to do with the biased interactions of formal institutions and informal corruption. Because of corruption, we have environmental degradation. Current formal democratic institutions of states are forms of informal gatekeeping, and as such, intentionally maintain democracy as ecologically “out of sync”. He argues that we are unable to reach sustainability without a host of additional ecological checks and balances. These ecological checks and balances would demote corrupt uses of formal institutions by removing capacities for gatekeeping against democratic feedback. Sustainability is a politics that is already here—only waiting to be formally organized.
Should be interesting to hear what the man of the moment has in mind for addressing the sociopolitical Great Filter that we're presently up against? I can't find it in his position statements, and I don't see it in the coalition he's built. Maybe I should just join the faithful and "believe" - confident that when wishes become horses, all we beggars will ride...,