THE BLOG
05/19/2008 09:36 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Progressive Crises: Global Warming and Peak Oil

Every Progressive should recognize and incorporate, deep in their soul, the plain fact: Peak and Global Warming are the most serious threats to Progressive ideals, concepts, policies, and aspirations through the 21st century ... AND today.

These are not just let's wait until tomorrow issues, that should be put in the back of the line to deal with after other issues, we must address them with urgency today if we hope for a progressive world tomorrow. Energize America bumpersticker

Without better energy policies starting now, the future could be bleak economically for decades to come with the impending strike of Peak Oil. Amid recessions and depressions, what happens to mental health programs? What happens to music in the classrooms? Training programs for economically disadvantaged among us? Will there be funding for these and other progressive causes? I doubt it. Don't you?

With ever-increasing environmental stresses, global refugee and food crises, multiple-Katrina-like challenges and choices over whether to protect or abandon America's coastal infrastructure, will Head Start funding be secure? Will Americans focus on expanding GLBT rights? Will there these and other progressive concerns be the top of the agenda?

I doubt it.

Don't you?

Arriving at understanding ...

Energy Blogger Jerome a Paris (Oil Drum, EuroTribune, etc ...) has written eloquently and passionately about his son"s illness. He has discussed how this illness drives his passionate concern about energy and global warming issues. Jerome has written how desiring a world where his son (and others similarly challenged) can have a fruitful life drove him to a fundamental realism about the criticality of turning the world toward a better path in the face of Peak Oil. He brought me (and many others) along with him.

From another perspective, NNadir, one of the most passionate proponents of nuclear power in the blogging world, has expressed how having children drives his passionate advocacy of what he views as a key tool for carving a survivable path to a better future.

So I'm writing all about nuclear power for a wholly selfish reason, to protect my own. More nuclear reactors in my view will give everybody's children, including my own, their best shot.

They are not alone. So many others are driven to change by their desire to foster a better (or less worse?) life for their children. And, by extension, this extends to others' children.

I share their passion.

As for me, well, staring one's children in the eyes and considering the world that we are creating should be enough to motivate any of us toward change.

And, they motivate me to fight for a better world for me, for you, for my children, for yours, for all of us; for US and the world.

The more I learn about the economic implications of society not taking mitigation action in the face of impending peak oil, the more terrified I become. A good place to start, to become concerned (if not scared), is the Hirsch report on Peak Oil mitigation:

The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.

A small problem: Many of the best analyses of Peak Oil place this well within the next decade (if it has not already occurred, as stated last year by oil financial analyst Matt Simmons). And, even in the face of $4 gallon oil, do we see any serious action within the United States (led by the Bush-Cheney Administration) toward mitigation, toward ending America's "oil addiction"? What a joke? For too many, ignoring the realities of Peak Oil and global demand increases, the "right response" to $4 gallon gasoline seems to be: DRILL! DRILL! DRILL!

Facing Peak Oil does not represent simply a question of paying a few dollars more for fuel, but decades of economic tensions and problems globally. And, in the face of recessions and depressions, with constrained oil resources, what might happen to the potential for conflict?

This passionate concern driving Jerome, myself, and others engaged with Energize America 2020 nearly three years ago led to many 3 am internet interactions as we sought to develop a set of policies to help turn us (both US and, as well, the world) toward an energy future to mitigate Peak Oil's most serious challenges.

If it were only Peak Oil ...

And, along with the (potentially) imminent economic challenges (if not catastrophes) associated with Peak Oil, we all recognized the ever mounting reality of Global Warming and how this could even overshadow Peak Oil as a challenge. Considering the potential implications for feeding an ever-growing population amid increasingly disrupted weather conditions does not make me sleep easily at night.

When a key scientist from the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change tells me that, if things go well, that we might lose only 50 percent of the world's biodiversity by 2050 (and that we could lose 50% of the globe's species), I listen.

And, I tremble.

And, I think of my (and your) children.

We (collectively) have created and are creating a world that will be radically different for our children than what we enjoyed.

50% of biodiversity gone by 2050? 50% of species extinct by 2050??? What a catastrophe. There is a reason to call it Catastrophic Climate Change. 50% by 2050 ... that is, I was told, if things go well.

And, these crises interconnect.

Some of the paths toward Peak Oil mitigation, to solving potential oil challenges, could greatly exacerbate Global Warming challenges. Making liquid fuel from tar sands, heavy oil, shale oil, and coal will put (far) more carbon into the atmosphere to get that gallon of fuel into a Hummer than would be the case for Texas sweet crude.

But, the opportunity exist, the opportunities exist to enable us (US and all of us) to turn aside from our headlong rush into economic disaster of Peak Oil and massive destruction of Global Warming.

Now, dealing competently with these challenges is neither an easy task nor a quickly resolved one. And, navigating a path through the Peak Oil minefield while charting (and sailing) a course through the turbulent seas of Global Warming is critical for ensuring a decent future for us all (US and the world).

Al Gore speaks of the calling of a generation. Gore calls on the nation (the globe) to realize that this is beyond politics and partisanship, that this is the moral and ethical challenge for this generation. And that we must rise to the challenge as did The Greatest Generation in World War II.

For those focused on "national security", they must realize the 'security' implications of an economically disrupted world experiencing weather/climate conditions increasing refugee movements and driving natural disasters. For those most concerned with traditional economic measures, they must realize that Peak Oil threatens decades of negative GDP growth and that Global Warming is already hurting the economy. (Tried to get insurance for a beach home recently?)

While these are challenges for us (US) all, progressives should realize the particular criticality of dealing effectively with Peak Oil and Global Warming. Without resolving (mitigating) these challenges, Progressive dreams for a better tomorrow risk becoming dim memories rather than reality of daily life.

Richard Smalley conceived of the Terrawatt Challenge (pdf) (see also).

Energy is not just "any old issue." Most people, in fact, understand its importance very well. When I have given talks on this subject before, I have often asked people in the audience to name the most critical problems we will have to confront as we go through this century. In every case, after a bit of discussion, the audiences have agreed that energy is the single most important issue we face.

Why is energy always preeminent?

When we look at a prioritized list of the top 10 problems, with energy at the top, ... energy is the key to solving all of the rest of the problems

And, if you care about the potential for achieving a better future, a future in line with Progressive values, finding a path toward a prosperous and sustainable energy future must be part of your agenda ... or else you risk achieving none of your other priorities.

Our concerns, collectively, drive us in our desire to Energize America, to work to turn America and the world from our blind, headlong path over the dual cliffs of Peak Oil and Global Warming.

Join us in our efforts to Energize America toward a prosperous and sustainable energy future.

Ask yourself: Are you doing your part to ENERGIZE AMERICA?

Are you ready to do your part?

Your voice can ... and will make a difference.

So ... SPEAK UP ... NOW!!!

PS: And, support Energy Smart candidates