Monday, August 6, 2007

What Was Your Favorite "Oil" Moment?

Six years ago on a trip to Seattle, I sat at the Bumbershoot Music Festival and imagined a plane flying into the Space Needle. That was on Labor Day weekend, 2001. We all know what happened a week later.

Two weeks ago, I was imagining a world where politicians decide that rather than let Lake Superior just evaporate over the next 100 years, we might as well start siphoning it off to Phoenix and L.A so they can flush their toilets.

One week ago, I did a Uey at the 35W bridge, imagining it collapsing onto West River Parkway.

Paranoia is one of my strong suits, so The End of Oil was the perfect gift to myself. For the last three weeks, I've been envisioning a moment in my son's lifetime when he learns that 100 elites have taken off to live in a secret space station, Dr. Strangelove-style, while the rest are left to deal with permanent summers, no electricity, massive food shortages and millions of "water refugees" spilling into the Upper Midwest.

The most terrifying thing about Paul Roberts' book is that it's not the least bit paranoid. For something written by a contributor to Harper's (one of my favorite magazines, but one whose editorial calendar seems beholden to a doomsday quota), it's surprisingly rational, measured and even at times optimistic.

In all seriousness, this is one of the most interesting things I've ever read, and in terms of timeliness, I can't imagine a more important book. Yes, our infrastructure is stressed, we need universal health care, Social Security and Medicare are in trouble, our educational system is underfunded, the bees are disappearing and Osama bin Laden is planning to kill 15 million Americans while we're in Iraq.

But the most immediate, most serious problem the world faces (in the humble opinion of this far-removed creative director in Minnesota) is the catastrophic relationship between population, energy and climate. Period. We can bankrupt ourselves fighting on any number of fronts. If I had to pick one, I would pick this one.

Allow me to summarize this 350-page book in a series of grammatically incorrect sentence fragments. Oil. Running out. Will run out in our lifetimes. Thirty years max for most. Climate change bad. Can't go over 550 ppm CO2 in the next 100 years. Hydrogen good. By end of century, must be hydrogen-heavy. Must find alternative to platinum. Coal bad. Worst fossil fuel. Also most plentiful. China building 60 dirty coal plants a year to make plastic crap for Americans. Very bad. 360 degrees of bad. Natural gas good. Bridge fuel. Need more short term. Must tax carbon. Must allow carbon trading. Public and private sector must work on all cylinders (powered by hydrogen cell). Need to raise CAFE standards and help car companies survive. Must change power grid. Must give China clean coal technology. Must allow localized power generation in U.S. Renewables not a panacea, but good, especially wind. Nuclear good. Has saved ass so far. Must increase safely. Must rebrand "conservation" as "efficiency."

Must send any politician who does not acknowledge the above packing.

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