Friday, March 30, 2007

The State of Our Psyches: Chaos Makes a Suggestion

Recently, Chaos started thinking about what, in someone else's words, a "sane and sober nation" would do in response to peak oil...not the most drastic, expensive, iffy, or politically inexpedient actions, mind you, but in fact the opposite: the quickest,easiest, cheapest, most innocuous, and least controversial moves the most wasteful nation on earth could make. Chaos' response was this: lower speed limits to 55 mph. Seems like a no-brainer, no? By simply driving slower, the Empire could save probably 5-15% of gasoline usage without further discomfort (estimates are mostly Chaos' semi-wild-ass guesses, backed up by cursory internet research...). In fact, this action has been tried before, back in the energy-constrained 1970s. Yes, yes, people hated to drive slower, but it worked anyway (also saved many lives, but this is not in itself an argument for the implementation) so the effects are already known. In order to further this thought experiment, Chaos posted this suggestion on the premier site for the study of Peak Oil, the Oil Drum (the thread entitled H2Car: Another Blind Alley) and awaited response. Among the most energy-enlightened individuals on the net, quite a lot of resistance emerged to this idea. Posters challenged how much conservation would result, stated that people would not obey the limit, thus leading to more accidents, invoked Jevon's Paradox (more savings would drive the price down, leading to more consumption), and questioned whether in fact such an idea would ever be politically viable since people have such a "visceral reaction" to the previous 55 mph speed limit. To this, Chaos can only say: wow. The levels of denial here in the Matrix are much deeper than
even a slow-crash doomer like Chaos had even suspected. Read the thread and ponder the cacaphony that will surely ensue once the world starts down the slope of declining oil production. It won't be pretty, and it may be ugliest right here in the richest nation on earth. For a fine example of same, check out this article in the paper of record on how residents of the Empire are shrugging off recent gasoline price increases (the comments by the woman at the end are particularly striking).


PeakEngineer said...

Even among the most enlightened as to the problems we face there is a shocking lack of realization that the only proven solutions consist of conservation. Jevon's paradox is not "Jevon's Law" and I think your wild-ass guess is about right from my own estimations. Many among the Peak Oil-aware have been paralyzed into inaction (in a different way from those without knowledge of the approaching major crises) and are allowing their apathy to diminish the hope of helping the rest of the world ease into a energy-deprived existence.

Chaos said...

Chaos believes there are many many ways of "mitigating" the coming converging crises...but all depend on the will to respond, which, it can be concluded from many sources, is sorely lacking. In essence, this is the heart of the matter...the US public does not possess the psychological ability to respond effectively. Examples abound, chiefly the looming Social Security/Medicare crises, a problem whose dimensions are known in detail, and which, in common with peak oil and resource depletion, gets worse every day. Nevertheless, nothing is done. In these circumstances, hope that people will "wake up" is so unrealistic as to be delusional.