Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Talkin Bout Your Peak Oil Blues

When I was a little (reluctant) girl I used to love the smell of the gasoline pump. I may have been gender confused, but I had no qualms about the vaporliciousness of the gasoline pump. Yumtown.

Twenty-odd years later, my previous overwhelming fears of nuclear war, arriving to school without any pants on inside my snowpants, wetting the bed, and the discovery of my overwhelming academic idiocy have been usurped by that of climate change and peak oil. Those of you who know me slightly well will find no new news with this climate change worry business. It is a tired topic with me already. Peak oil happens to coincide with all of the climate change garbage. While the use of petroleum products for such fun stuff as taking decadent cross-country road trips or getting the kiddees to school has made our climate's greenhouse effect go all wonky (greenhouse gasses, when regulated are actually a good thing), the end of oil will, in all likelihood, make our "civilized" lives go totally nuts-o.

Some countries are choosing to grab the bull by the balls on this one, and avoid the chaos and potential voilence of no gas for cars, no heat for homes, and no power for schools or medical facilities by opting to become a nation dependent fully on renewable energy in the next 20 years.

Yeah, those Swedes totally rock.

Others, like the United States, are so slow on the go that they virtually ignore climate change and peak oil predictions and instead cut the FY07 budget for renewable energy r&d and energy efficiency measures by millions of dollars.

Yeah, this administration sucks eggs. Cage-raised, chemical-pumped ones at that.

Energy efficiency measures are the most cost-effective way to cut energy use. Art Rosenfeld, who in my mind is a fucking god of energy use (as well as the commissioner for the California Energy Commission, and just turned 80, and is perhaps one of the most energetic people I have had the pleasure of being in the same room with), told a great little anecdote at an energy conference I attended last year. During a presentation he gave on the improved energy efficiency of consumers and their appliances, he told us that due to energy efficiency improvements alone California has managed to avoid a whole squadron of nuclear power plants dotting the coast between SF and LA. Which had been proposed and close to approval before ol' Art got in on the game during the 1970s.

Thanks, Art.

In a recent flawed yet compelling study by Sustainlane.com, the preparedness for peak oil potential hoo-haw by 50 U.S. cities was compared and contrasted. Here are the 50 cities, in descending order of preparedness:

My chosen city ranks #10, while that showy overachiever across the bay ranks #3. While the study definitely underestimated heating oil importance, its consideration of walkability, local food access, wireless capabilities (for working from home), and other factors are worth serious consideration. And though SF may be a little better than Oakland in terms of peak oil preparedness my personal factors (such as being able to grow a small amount of my own food, bike to my job, and visit several farmers' markets by bike) really outweigh things personally for me.

This is all a bit dreary, I know. But, truly, I don't feel dreary. I know that the planet will eventually be destroyed, and my personal little human self will go much more quickly than that. But things seem...more navigable...somehow right now. Maybe because my artichokes are growing so dang well. Or because, when I played th open-hole silver flute my mom has sent me on long-term loan, a little bird flew over to the bougainvillea bush right next to me to listen.

Or maybe it's because I biked to work with my brother this morning.

Whatever it is, it feels all right.


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