So I realize my viewpoint here puts me in the general minority, and maybe even qualifies me for some sort of <gasp> ’special interest group’, but I feel very strongly our society at large has missed the key issue we’re facing in Election 2008, and beyond.
The greatest challenge we, the current generation of the American people, will face over our lifetimes is not Iraq. It is not the economy. It is not terrorism. It is not global warming! (that will hit the third world much harder) It is… oil.
Over the last 20 years, the concept of Global Peak Oil has evolved from a bunch of hippie BS to the real deal. The question is no longer if, it’s when.
My uniformed and amorphous intuition based on what people who study these things for a living are saying, and considering their (sometimes alternative) motivations, is that total global crude production will keep bouncing around within a couple percent of its current plateau for another 5-7 years, before heading cleanly southward between 2013 and 2015. At which point, there will be a ridiculous amount of press, concern, name calling, recession, and we will be paying $10-15 for gallon for gasoline. Maybe we’ll start another war or two to try to blame someone.
So, over the next 20 years the entire global community will learn to deal with much more costly oil. The question is, who will come out of top? Will this alter the global balance of power? Well, the societies that will be least affected will be those whose economies don’t already depend on oil for the majority of daily life. Meaning, this will have minimal affect on the third world. Those currently in the process of industrializing will find themselves changing their building patterns and industrial organization to use other sources of energy (yum, dirt that burns!), thus adapting to the changing market conditions.
Who’s going to feel it the hardest? Those societies that have already invested trillions and trillions of dollars into a built environment that depends on cheap oil to function effectively. Of those societies, one stands out as significantly more vulnerable than the others. A product of our own global economic dominance over the last 60 years, the US of A has a problem. Our economy is approximately twice as dependent on cheap oil as Canada or Australia, and more than three times that of your average western European fruity nation.
If the US of A is to remain on top of the world economy in 2030, we need to be addressing our ingrained oil dependence now. By 2014, it will be too late.
Of the three major candidates running for MVP of The World, only one has managed to not make the problem worse. But even he has given this, the most important long-term issue facing our society today, only lip service.
We don’t need more fuzzy talk about ideas, concerns, feel-good legislation dictating fuel economy standards, or what could be done. We need forceful leadership pulling money away from the sinkhole that is our sprawling, unsustainable, and dare I say – unAmerican – exurban land use patterns and pushing it directly into our core cities. Specifically, this means – stop this sh*t. Pay for this sh*t. If we, the American people, continue to lead the world through the 21st century, it will be because we successfully refocused our powerful investment on our core cities – and we did so before it was too late.