Sunday, February 21, 2010

Soccer and Energy Policy: We Need to Approach Energy Like a Well-Coached Team, Not Little Leaguers

Our current lack of a coherent strategic energy policy looks pathetically akin to the chaos of a pee-wee league soccer game, says Chris Nelder over at GetRealList.

What we really need is to approach energy more like the way a winning professional sports team approaches a playoff game:

A Playbook for Team America

It’s time for us to grow up and learn to play this game for real.

We need to gather in the locker room to watch some films of older, more mature players and try to copy their moves.

We’d take note of China’s long-term rail construction plan, instead of arguing that an abortion like Amtrak doesn’t pay for itself right this minute.

We’d plan to manage our resources for the long term health of our society, like Norway and Saudi Arabia do.

We might form an Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security like the UK has, to advise and prepare industry and policymakers for the decline of oil, instead of writing sunny official reports that completely fail to recognize reality.

We’d copy the proven successes of long-lived, stable feed-in tariffs in Germany and Japan instead of inventing complex, corruptible mechanisms like cap and trade.

We’d formulate and then execute 20- and 30-year plans to reduce our need for fossil fuels, instead of watching incentives come and go with every turnover of a Congressional seat.

Our playbook would begin with some rough milestones:
  • Oil has peaked. Supply will be flattish for the next 2-4 years, then begin a long decline.
  • We will lose 25% of our oil supply in 25 years, 50% in 50 years, and 100% in 100 years.
  • To compensate for the decline of oil with renewables, the world would need to build the equivalent of all the world’s existing renewable energy capacity, every year.
  • Since that is impossible, efficiency and energy transition must make up the shortfall.
  • We will also see the peaks of natural gas and coal in the next 20 years. Hydropower and nuclear will do little more than hold their current market share.
  • The days of economic growth may be gone forever for import-dependent developed countries like the U.S.
  • The least painful path is to downsize, economize, and relocalize.
  • By the end of the century, nearly everything will have to be powered by renewably-generated electricity, not liquids or gases.
Then we might draw up some plays, and practice them.

Well done -- a fun, yet jarringly effective analogy.  Getting our acts together on climate and energy policy is the most important bold step that America can take right now to address so many of our other societal problems -- from the economy to health care to terrorism and global warming.

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