Monday, June 30, 2008

Extreme Oil Prices: Good News, Bad News

As a long-time environmentalist, it feels like the mass media and the eco-press have pretty much merged. Huffington Post has a green page. The NYTimes has a green blog. Last week's issue of The Economist's is titled THE FUTURE OF ENERGY! Suddenly, really basic actions long advocated by environmentalist like decreased driving and using less packaging are news; this is great, as far as many of us are concerned. Banning plastic bags, recycling, and mass transit are all generating headlines. My heart rejoices, but the bad news is that it will hurt poor people, even though they are disproportionately lower consumers, the hardest. We are in for very tough times as our infrastructure and culture itself absorbs this new paradigm: fossil fuel energy is finite, dangerous, and shooting continually upward in cost (to the consumer as well as to the planet.) Cheap energy's, long pretty much invisible, morphing into a real cost factor will be manifest everywhere, as the cost of all goods and services skyrocket. From plastic packaging at the supermarket to the delivery of online purchases, the modest "fuel surcharges" of yesterday will look like great deals.
There have been a flow of articles detailing how people are changing their lifestyles: not driving their SUV's, being more efficient in personal errand running, checking out buses, trains, and car-sharing, buying in bulk- it all looks like a Sierra Club guidebook. Since the eco-crowd I hang with long-ago adopted these behaviors, I can't gauge if this is really meaningful, general change.
What I want to know is, do people connect the dots and link America's energy gluttony and obliviousness to the energy price crisis? I also want to know how people feel about their behavioral changes? Some of these new habits are actually healthier and contribute to general quality of life, like hanging out more at home with friends or walking places. Driving is very alienating.
What changes can you report on personally, or that you observe in your circles?

Graphic by
© Paul Dallgas-Frey


Focus On Your Money Maker said...

I've started walking to church with my wife and kids. It's kinda funny because I used to think it was too far to walk, but it really doesn't take more than 20 minutes to walk.

I think of that commercial that is running right now where the kid gets in his mom's car and they pull out of the driveway just to go to their next door neighbors house. The kid gets out and says something like, "I'll call you when I'm ready to come home"

That's how I feel. Just getting out and walking again and you realize that you really don't need your car for all the small driving that you do. Anyway, just something I've noticed.

Alex said...

I've also been walking to church; it puts me in a good frame of mind by the time I get there, even if I wasn't in one before. Also - I was behind a guy in a Ford F-250 this morning, going only 30 mph (the speed limit) for a couple of miles! Usually the guys in the big trucks still blow right by everyone. Nice to see at least one slowing down.

SPF said...

A lot of us observant Jews walk to synagogue as a member of our Sabbath (Shabbat) practice. Thinking of it as freedom from consuming is becoming more and more obvious, and compelling.