Megan Quinn Bachman has a fabulous piece on the problem of net energy ignorance. Megan followed a group of ASPO attendees who visited congressional offices to talk about peak oil, and found pretty much what you’d expect – but what you’d expect has serious consequences:
During our congressional briefings, it felt like we were the ones slamming our heads against the wall. We were told that:
-Ethanol could free America from its dependence upon foreign oil (while at the conference chemical engineer and energy analyst Robert Rapier noted that turning all arable land in the world into biofuels would replace only 40 percent of global oil).
– Oil companies (while not acknowledging the growth killing potential of declining conventional oil production) are using the peak oil argument to speed development of unconventional fuels.
-We will always need to build more roads for more vehicles, that shale gas and “clean” coal will power America (and pollute the climate) for centuries, and that the strategic petroleum reserve is more than adequate to handle oil shortages, including if the strategically vital Straight of Hormuz leading into the Persian Gulf was blocked. In sum, there is no short-term oil supply problem, and there will be no long-term one.
It is not surprising that those in the seat of power won’t touch peak oil. After all, as the energy available to our society diminishes year after year, collapse is inevitable. And collapse runs contrary to the story of American ingenuity and triumph. As retired CIA analyst and now journalist Tom Whipple pointed out at the conference, America’s most dominant religion is not Christianity but the belief in economic growth, and those who contradict that core belief are heretics.
I’m not sure that it isn’t that politicians won’t touch peak oil – I think a compelling narrative can be built around peak oil, but it has yet to be coherently fashioned. But right now, the idea that if you aren’t headed to utopia, the only other place to go is the apocalypse has so much currency (what I’ve called the Klingons/Cylons dilemma) that we have to build the intellectual space that allows for a future reality. That’s a hard job, and frankly, I don’t think it starts in Congress.