Friday, November 07, 2008

Memo to President-Elect Obama

Falls Church News Press | Sometime during your first year in office, your new Secretary of Energy is likely to come by and lay out the problem for you - world oil production is going down - perhaps faster than imagined; world oil exports are dropping even faster; prices are rising; and new domestic supplies will never make up the difference. The bottom line will be that the country is going to have to get along with steadily decreasing amounts of oil each year for the foreseeable future and that much will have to change if the economy is to continue to function.

It may take some time before you appreciate all the consequences of oil depletion. They will be everywhere. Transportation costs will go much higher. The GDP will slide. Jobs will disappear, and shortages will develop. At some point there will be a general agreement that looking for more fossil fuels or that a large scale effort to convert coal to liquid fuel is hopeless. A massive overhaul of the U.S. economy including transportation, lifestyles, jobs, agriculture, and industrial production will be necessary if we are going to continue running a civilization with declining quantities of fossil fuel.

This national epiphany will be the beginning of the great transition that will dominate the U.S. government and the world for many decades. New governmental organizations, policies, and procedures will be necessary to effect the transition for it will involve nearly every aspect of modern life. Do not be tempted by the notion that the markets alone can deal with this transition. A few minutes' reflection on what will be involved in forced reductions in the use of fossil fuels while still maintaining social order and some semblance of 20th century lifestyles will lead to the realization that this can only be accomplished by government coordination. We are no longer in the 19th century living on scattered self-sufficient farms. There are 300 million of us in the United States today, and we are totally, utterly, completely dependent on fossil fuels for our being.

The challenge just ahead is going to be the greatest since the Republic was founded. It will dwarf the challenges of the War Between the States, the Great Depression and World War II and will test your leadership to the utmost.