Peak Oil News: Out of gas? What can be done?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Out of gas? What can be done?

Winona Daily News

By Ken Geiger Winona
Part 2 of 3

Yesterday, I tried to define peak oil, and make the case that we are at or near the worldwide production peak. Today, I will present a specific legislative example and general legislative options available primarily at the federal level to minimize or delay the consequences that inevitably follow peak oil.

I believe the scenarios that result from post peak oil range from moderate to severe depending on how coherently we act as a nation. Based on what I've seen from both the Democratic and Republican parties, I'm not optimistic. The mainstream media also seems clueless.

A specific piece of legislation would be the imposition of a $1000/mile per gallon surcharge to be levied for each mpg under 40 mpg. This surcharge would be paid by the purchasers of new vehicles. For example, a new Ford F150 pickup would cost approximately $44,000 instead of the $20,000 that such a vehicle costs today. This bill could provide commercial exemptions and be phased in over several years. Today, such a piece of legislation, which is market based, would be laughed out of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

I believe the following pieces of legislation are absolutely necessary:

# A Manhattan-like project to develop controllable nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is clean, plentiful and extremely difficult to control. Currently, nuclear fusion technology is limited to Hydrogen bombs.

# Monies be made available to develop better battery technology, with a focus on larger scale batteries. Discoveries resulting from these funds would be considered general knowledge, and be ineligible for patenting. The effective storage of electricity will be essential once oil becomes expensive.

# Monies be made available to the auto industry for the explicit purpose of developing true, road worthy electric cars with battery ranges exceeding 250 miles per charge. Also included would be funds for plug-in hybrids.

# A massive program to modernize our rail system. High-speed rail is the only viable alternative to air travel and will not replace coast to coast air transport but at least it would enable people living in Winona to get to as far as Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Winnipeg within a few hours.

# A massive program to upgrade the speed and efficiency of barge traffic. Barges are an extremely resource efficient transportation method.

# A massive program to develop solar, wind and hydro power and to modernize our electric grid, which is severely stressed. While these "alternatives" will be unable to replace fossil fuels, they are environmental and functional necessities and need to be rapidly phased in. As for the electrical grid, do we need another 2003 blackout to bring this to our attention?

# A massive program to distribute contraception world-wide, free and without strings. A dirty little secret of peak oil is the necessary return of the world's population to the maximum solar carrying capacity, which is somewhere between 2 and 3 billion people, and that's a generous estimate. The current global population is about 6.5 billion. I believe it's far better to eliminate future life via contraception than to eliminate current life by war, famine and disease.

# A program to standardize nuclear power plants. Ornery as it may seem, we need nuclear (fission) power as a bridge. Remember, uranium which is the base resource for our current nuclear fission plants is itself a limited resource. I do not know when "peak uranium" will occur. We should expand nuclear now with concerns for safety and standardization while the resources are still here.

# A program to place oil extraction facilities where deposits are known to exist. The underlying oil need not be extracted, but it's a good idea to get these facilities in place before our search for oil becomes desperate and environmental concerns count for nothing. To put this in contemporary terms, I believe we should get the extraction infrastructure in place in ANWAR with a minimum of extraction.

Tomorrow: The consequences of inaction.

Ken Geiger, Winona, is the owner of a small software company called the CoPOS Company that provides Point of Sales (POS) systems to food co-ops—yes Bluff Country is using our system.


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