Critical path to problem solving requires facing the facts. We face three civilization killers, two (Peak Oil and Global Warming) can be solve by engineering.
Civilization killers are just that, a 80-90% die-off. Serious enough to really pay attention:
- Population overshoot: god and human nature will have to solve this one.
- Peak Oil: Can be solved with a 10x improvement in efficiency, creating about 5 million jobs paid for by oil savings. This requires changing the lifeblood of our economy from oil to ingenuity:
- Per capital energy peaked in 1979. Since life requires energy, this is significant.
- Oil extraction quality dropped from extracting 100 barrels for every one consumed in 1930 to new oil fields consuming one barrel for every three extracted.
- Economic growth depends on energy growth or efficiency growth. Oil extraction stopped growing in 2005. Efficiency has improved slightly as consumers slash spending/activity and the economy shrinks.
- Economic survival depends on energy stability or efficiency growth, oil extraction began its relentless decline in 2008. Efficiency is what the rest of this blog is about.
- Global Warming: Can be solved by re-tooling power generation and transportation infrastructure to approach railroad efficiency (CSX achieves 423 ton-miles per gallon). There is a century of pent-up innovation that labor can apply if the government monopoly of infrastructure design changes to management by performance standards:
- If you have a really big well, you can pee in it with relatively little consequence. If 6 billion people pee in the well and the water starts tasting bad, it might be wise to be conservative.
- If not 100% confident of the consequences, we can and should engineer waste treatment to secure life's fundamental requirements of clean air, clean water, sustainable energy and balance. Currently, I believe, we are failing in the all of these Big 4.
Labor is the ultimate currency; the economic work laborers produce is the ultimate value that measures an economy. Perhaps this is a simplistic view, but as a bee keeper, farmer, infrantryman and entrepreneur, I learned that simplicity is the path I can manage towards achievement. Labor is tied to available energy, the ability to apply time to accomplish economic work.
Is a claim on labor. Borrowing money we that cannot, with confidence, pay back in 30 years, enslaves our children or is preditorial on our creditors. Since we have not paid back debt accumulated in the last 30 years and are accumulating $1.8 billion in additional debt in 2009, it looks like we are unkind on both accounts.
Which brings us to the title of this blog, deceit and energy fundamentals. National debt is tied directly to available energy or the ability to apply labor to create economic work and value.
Government transit authorities often advertise "take the buse because it is green." Yet, according to DOE's data buses use 25% more energy per passenger mile than cars; 1,242 watt-hours per passenger-miles (whppm) versus cars at 1,033 whppm. Buses accomplish the economic work at a fraction of the quality or cars traveling at 8-12 mph versus cars at 24 mph.
GM, now owned by the government, is expanding this deceit by claiming it can achieve 230 miles per gallon while not counting the electricity it will use. Batteries are not charged by fairy dust but by coal and natural gas power plants. BTW, studies indicate that electric cars have twice the carbon foot-print of modern deisel cars.
Electric cars do not improve the energy use, do not solve congestion, do not solve accidents, do not create American jobs. Electric cars do require consumers to increase their debt if they buy one.
Power generation and transportation infrastructure can be re-tooled just as communications infrastructure was re-tooled by de-monopolizing that sector. Mobilizing to fight World War I infrastructure management was monopolized under government bureaucracies that locked in the great innovations at their founding of Ford, Edison, Bell and the Wright Brothers. For a century innovation has been siffled.
De-monopolizing AT&T in 1984 exposed Bell's analog networks to competion. Much of the economic boom of the past 25 years is attributable to labor being applied to re-tool from analog to digital to wireless communications infrastructure.
T. Boone Pickens is calling for the de-monopolization of the power distributiion grid. I briefed Senator Obama's staff in July 2008 that shifting from government management of infrastructure design to management by performance standards (communication infrastructure practice since 1984) will result in the creation of millions of jobs paid for in oil savings as a century of pent-up innovation is applied to re-tool transportation and power infrastructure.
Disclosure: Author is the founder of JPods LLC, a Personal Rapid Transit company attempting to displace the highway networks in cities with solar-powered ultra-light rail networks.