Year 3, Month 9, Day 18: The Ladies Call Me ” ‘lectric Maaaan! “

The Washington Post notes that our grid is not really robust:

BOULDER CITY, NEV. — Drought and rising temperatures are forcing water managers across the country to scramble for ways to produce the same amount of power from the hydroelectric grid with less water, including from behemoths such as the Hoover Dam.

Hydropower is not the only part of the nation’s energy system that appears increasingly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as low water levels affect coal-fired and nuclear power plants’ operations and impede the passage of coal barges along the Mississippi River.

“We’re trying to manage a changing climate, its impact on water supplies and our ability to generate power, all at once,” said Michael L. Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s water-management agency. Producing electricity accounts for at least 40 percent of water use in the United States.

If you plug me in your socket, I’ll charge you like no man can. Sent September 11:

If America really believed in preparing for the future, we’d be scrambling right now to reimagine our crumbling electrical grid, for increasing demand and deteriorating infrastructure, combined with the likely consequences of the next century’s worth of catastrophic climate change, put both the integrity of the system and the safety of the nation at risk.

Our old power distribution system was predicated on the false notion that energy from fossil fuels is cheap and effectively infinite. Once we count externalities like public health and environmental impacts, oil and coal are surprisingly costly — and the double whammy of Peak Oil and a need to reduce greenhouse emissions means they cannot be the energy sources for an American future. It should be obvious: we’re going to have to rebuild the system from the bottom up, focusing on efficiency, flexibility, and decentralization. Doing it now will save us trillions of dollars later.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 5: You Can’t Get There From Here

The San Francisco Bay Area would seem to need an upgraded regional public transportation system (San Jose Mercury-News):

“We want to get a sense of whether the public wants this region to continue growing in a way it has for several decades, or whether the public is ready for a change,” said Lisa Klein, a senior transportation planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are jointly developing the plan.

Denser development with more homes per acre near transit centers reduces people’s need to drive to work, school, stores and play, planners say.

But some critics are uncomfortable with the trend they see as heavy-handed pressure to push residents into “stack and pack” housing.

“They base their utopian model on high-density housing with shops underneath, no parking, but a lot of cycling and walking,” said Heather Gass, an Alamo real estate saleswoman, in a blog post critical of the growth plan. “What these people don’t seem to understand is that people move to the suburbs to get away from this type of urban lifestyle.”

Assholes. Sent January 1:

While people may indeed be moving to the suburbs to escape a bike-and-walk urban lifestyle, as a real estate spokeswoman suggests, there is another sort of escape happening in the dispute over increased public transportation in the Bay Area. Simply put, that is the desire to continue convenient amenities while ignoring inconvenient facts.

Like it or not, the next twenty years will see a transformation of American transportation that will outdo the introduction of the automobile in the previous century. As fossil fuels become more expensive in the short term (due to burgeoning extraction costs) we’ll become increasingly aware of how expensive they are in the long term (what with cleanup costs, health impacts, resource wars and the impact of global climate change). And it will become obvious that a car-based economy is no longer sustainable.

Cities and regions that prepare intelligently for this crisis will prosper in the ensuing decades.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 26: You Get What You Pay For.

I synthesized two separate articles in this one, which goes out to John Kerry and Harry Reid. Subtext: Fix The Damned Filibuster, You Twits!

Dear Senators Kerry and Reid,

While it may not be obvious to your Republican colleagues, it is crystal clear to anyone who’s paying attention that oil and coal are hugely more expensive than renewable energy sources.

Once we learn to count disasters, health effects, long-term environmental degradation, expensive wars and catastrophic global warming as inherent costs of fossil fuels, it’s obvious: we can no longer afford to keep burning.

Right now the B.P. disaster is threatening the native sperm whales, already an endangered species. Scientists say that it would only take a few deaths to condemn the entire Gulf population to extinction. How can we put a price on a sperm whale (ironically, an animal once almost hunted to extinction for its utility as an energy source)?

How can we put prices on the countless human communities along the Gulf coast — communities with unique customs, traditions and ways of life that are now facing similar fates? How expensive is the canary in the coal mine? And how many more canaries are going to die before we notice?

The oil advocates’ crazed eagerness to drill more and deeper sounds desperate at best and well-nigh pornographic at worst. Their insistence on expansion of oil sources regardless of the consequences is revealing: they know that Peak Oil has arrived, and they’re desperate. From now on, oil is never going to get cheaper. A rig like the Deepwater Horizon is incredibly expensive to operate, probably costing millions of dollars a year; Peak Oil means peak operating cost, which is why rig operators routinely ignore safety procedures.

We can either make a switchover to renewable energy sources swiftly, with the full support of the government and the world’s industrial base — or we can make the same switchover after the world’s energy economy has collapsed and the planetary ecosystem has been gravely damaged. Either way, the bill for our fossil foolishness has come due, and it’s time to tell the American people that the days of cheap hydrocarbon energy are officially over.

The crafting of the Kerry-Lieberman bill demonstrated the extent to which political expediency is a determining factor in the content of legislation. Alas, the country can no longer afford political expediency either. We need to get off fossil fuels, and soon.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders
629 Fellsway West
Medford, MA 02155