"What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so." -- Mark Twain

The Well-Planned Disaster

Bill James | JPods

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"What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so." -- Mark Twain
The Well-Planned Disaster
Bill James www.jpods.com

The Titanic was known to be safe. We know for sure, and have built vast infrastructure to make cheap oil the lifeblood of our economy. And like the Titanic, our economy has too few lifeboats.

The objectives of this paper are:

1. Well-Planned Disaster.
Infrastructure built by government monopolies is the cause of Climate Change, Peak Oil and host of other problems. Using examples of Peak Oil, mobility and German “feed in tariffs” to illustrate how de-monopolizing might mitigate the worst consequences.

2. Lifeboats.
If we cannot prevent a disaster, encourage those willing to act, to build economic lifeboats.

3. Arks.
Combine lifeboats into arks within the time we have to act, now to 2010.

1. Well-Planned Disaster

Our current infrastructure, planned, legislated, taxed and built at great expense is the cause of Global Warming and Peak Oil. Leveraged by this infrastructure and fueled by cheap oil, we exponentially expanded population into overshoot while changing the climates ability to support life. We have created the small pox of our time, a civilization killer.

We have faced civilization killers before. We have driven them from the face of the Earth and they have been defeated, sinking into dark ages.

As hard as it seems, we are responsible. The Dust Bowl, DDT, green house gases, moving full speed ahead, waiting proof of disaster, geological events to sneak-up on us just as a slow moving iceberg hunted the Titanic.

Our roads, need for oil, debt, lack of military/social service, social welfare, declining education, globalization are all results of systems we organized, legislated, taxed, and with great celebrations and fanfare built and implemented. These efforts directly resulted in Peak Oil, Global Warming, debt, dependence, political instability and lack shared social experience. We are moving down an evolutionary, ecological and economic cul de sac. Focus on just one threat, Peak Oil and its impact on Mobility.

1.a. Peak Oil

We have harvested about half the world’s oil supply. The big, easy fields have been found; new discoveries peaked in 1964. Harvesting the easiest fields first all large reservoirs are declining in output. Time and effort to bring on smaller pools is slow. The result is a peak or plateau in production matched with escalating prices. The following graph (www.theoildrum.com, Nov 19, 2007) illustrates how we have been in this plateau since 2005. Soon declines will out pace declines and there will be severe price shocks. Oil doubled in price in 2007 because escalating demand exceeded flat production.

1.b. Mobility

Consider the impact of oil on mobility. Oil powers 97% of transportation. Cheap oil is the lifeblood of our economy. Yet the age of cheap oil is gone.

Unlike adaptive free-market features of much of our economy, mobility, access to rights of way, is centrally planned by a maze of government monopolies. Facing unaffordable oil, more roads are planned.

There are alternatives. After the 1973 Oil Embargo the US Senate asked DOT how to prevent future embargoes. The answer in Study PB-244854 was Automated Guideways and Personal Rapid Transit.

Morgantown WV, was built to this concept under a government contract by Boeing. It has since delivered 110 million injury free passenger miles. Once the contract was complete and there were no more government contracts, Boeing abandoned further innovations. Skyweb, JPods, Skytran and other US manufacturers with next generation systems are still blocked from building by the network of government monopolies.

That is about to change but in very small ways. In 2008 about 5 networks will open. Several will be solar powered and provide true economic lifeboats for the communities in which they are deployed; mobility independent of oil. Hopefully these first modern mobility networks will result in a general de-monopolization of transportation, an explosion of innovation will follow.

2. Lifeboats

2.a. German Solar Lifeboats

Germany provides a model of benefits from de-monopolizing. Like transportation, power generation is monopolized by utilities and government regulators. Germany broke this mold. In Germany anyone can be a power company, selling solar generated electricity to the grid at 20% over costs. Not huge margins but enough to create 250,000 jobs in the solar industry, generate $12 billion in German export in 2007 and build 300,000 economic lifeboats (solar distributed power generation sites).

Governments pass non-binding resolutions against climate change and Peak Oil. Then fund the building of more roads to add to the consequences. It may not be possible to avoid severe consequences.

Fortunately the solution is local. Survival is local and personal. Seize responsibility and build economic lifeboats.

Self-reliance, personal durability in a time of fundamental change will facilitate the coming transition and mitigating the worst of the consequences all will face. Please do and add to this list:

  • Grow a garden that provides 1/3rd your own food. It will take several years to become a competent gardener.
  • Install solar collectors and wind generators.
    • Thomas Edison, 1910: "Sunshine is spread out thin and so is electricity. Perhaps they are the same, Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy.”

      “Do we use them? Oh, no! We burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.

      “There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces. Electricity ought to be as cheap as oxygen.”
  • Buy locally. Ramp up the local economy.
  • It may be too late, but I would encourage young people to join the military for 2 years. I am a West Point graduate and am strongly influenced by the ethics taught there. Here is my synopsis:
    • duty; do the greatest practical good
    • honor: do the least practical harm
    • country: for the whole before ourselves

Self-reliance and Yankee ingenuity is something we can build on, “the more you know the less you carry” (Infantry saying). We will have to know a lot to navigate our current situation.

3. Build Arks.

Extend your individual efforts to your economic community. Abandon central planning for free market innovation.

We can change the lifeblood of our economy from oil to ingenuity.

We are on a clock. Please act personally and in your community.

 

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