Monday, May 17, 2010

After the Three Mile Island of the Oil Industry, Time for a Solid Plan for Freedom From Oil

As I continue to watch BP and Halliburton's Gulf of Mexico oil disaster unfold, I am doing my best to focus constructively on the question of "What next?"

What I keep coming back to is the feeling that, as people like Jerome Ringo are saying, this catastrophe absolutely must serve as a catalyst that helps accelerate our transition to clean energy.  Coming from the Gulf Coast, himself, Ringo writes eloquently of the lesson before us, which can become a silver lining to the darkening cloud of oil spreading across the Gulf:

Now, as more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil pour into the Gulf of Mexico each day, I see the jobs that will be lost, the families and communities that will suffer and the impending devastation of our $2 billion seafood industry.
Think about the fishermen, the truck drivers, the restaurant owners and so many others who depend on this industry. Think also about the fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine life whose ecosystem has just been turned on its head.
There is a better way: clean energy.
While many countries have already embraced clean energy and adopted national policies to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewables, the United States continues to suffer from a reactive, outdated energy strategy. It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. House of Representatives passed its energy and climate bill (the American Clean Energy and Security Act), but the Senate has yet to begin serious debate on its own legislation.
Our policymakers are fiddling while Rome burns – or rather, while oil rigs burn and pollute our oceans and coasts.
Not only is America’s refusal to embrace clean energy endangering human health and wildlife, it is also costing us jobs, which are precious commodities in this time of economic hardship. Several energy companies, including GE and BP Solar, recently announced plans to invest millions of dollars to develop and expand clean energy facilities – not in the United States, where such investments and the jobs they bring are desperately needed – but in Europe and China. We need incentives for green energy jobs here at home.
Now is the time for the Senate to act. With photos of the oil spill on the front pages of newspapers across the country, Americans are starting to grasp the dangers of our country’s dependence on oil and other dirty sources of energy, and this awareness is being transformed into support for a new energy direction for our country.
While our unfortunate energy reality right now is that we need to continue to drill for oil, including to power our transition to renewable energy, we need to do so in a manner guided by a bold, long-term plan to achieve freedom from oil.

Between the high costs of our oil dependence (which we are reminded of daily by updates on the underwater oil volcano that BP and Halliburton have created) and the looming threat of Peak Oil, we must get a move on before we are forced to get a move on.

We have a choice.

Perhaps, it's the most urgent choice that humanity has ever faced, as the transport and food supplies of billions hang in the balance if we don't start acting with focused, inspired urgency to transition to clean energy and vehicles.

Climate Progress offered a good update on the Peak Oil situation this past weekend:
A storm is quickly approaching, and the world is not ready for it.

The permanent end of the era of cheap oil is coming as soon as next year, according to a raft of official reports that have made their way into energy media over the last few months.  Governments are now beginning to acknowledge the looming crisis. Yet, perhaps because they waited too long to prevent it, leaders are not yet alerting the public.

The entire world economy is built on cheap oil,  A permanent oil production shortage will thus lead to The End of The World (As We Know It).  What will come on the other side of this — will it be good or bad?

Public Unaware. Except for a few stories in financial pages such as London’s Financial Times, this earth-shaking news has yet to reach the Mainstream Media.  While “Peak Oil” researchers have long warned of approaching oil shortages, the difference now is these dire warnings are being validated by the highest government and oil company officials.  Yet, no political leader has had the courage to make a major announcement to prepare the public for what lies ahead.

This public blindness is tantamount to the isolationism that gripped the U.S. in the years preceding WWII.  While the highest government leaders did their best to prepare for inevitable war, they were hamstrung by the resistance of a public unable to accept what really lay ahead.  Similar to today, some politicians advanced their own careers by feeding on the public’s desire to believe no coming storm could ever reach them.  Yet, the storm came anyway.

The Limits of Oil. The looming crisis we now face is often referred to as “Peak Oil” — a status where global oil production will reach a plateau, then begin its irreversible decline.

We Can Do It. Though Americans resisted the recognition that WWII was coming, once it came they rose valiantly to the call to action. A similar can-do spirit is needed now for the transition to a post-oil world.

This crisis is coming soon.  It is too late to prevent it, so we simply need to get used to it.  Peak Oil is happening.

We will need to adapt – but we can do that.
The good news, which I emphasize on this blog time and again, is that the solutions to Peak Oil and climate change overlap in many ways, and both overlap with the solutions to our economic crisis, jobs crisis, and crisis of skyrocketing health care costs.

It is time for us to rise up as citizens and inspire Congress and the President to take bold action by passing an American Power Act that incorporates the lessons we are learning each and every day as we watch this Gulf of Mexico oil disaster unfold.  Click here for a fun way to write to your Senators, President Obama, and even your local newspaper.

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