Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Ben Sullivan suggests we can be prepared for the looming energy crisis

by Larry Geller

I admire Kauai's newspaper The Garden Island even though I've never actually seen a paper copy. Just visiting their website tells me that they are not afraid to carry stories that directly relate to the lives of their readers.

They've printed letters discussing a brewing controversy over whether the Kauai Police Department should militarize itself by deploying riot gear and Tasers.

This weekend they carried an op-ed by (Google him) Ben Sullivan, the former chair of Apollo Kaua‘i, a renewable energy advocacy group started in 2005.

In Kaua‘i over a barrel, Ben suggests that neither government nor the private sector are going to provide solutions to the current energy crisis:

Political leaders struggle with the difficulty of being the bearers of bad news. While some progress is occurring, we often instead look for Band-Aid solutions such as massively subsidizing poor alternatives like ethanol, or worse, cutting taxes on gasoline or jet fuel. Such policy decisions perpetuate continued consumption and in effect, move us further from solving our real problems.

He doesn't pull his punches on oil substitutes. For example:

Heavily subsidized attempts to replace a small fraction of our oil consumption with corn ethanol and biodiesel have been, by all accounts, disastrous, both economically and environmentally.

Ben suggests analysis and planning (planning? that's something we don't believe in here on Oahu). Here's just a snippet.

What are our greatest liabilities related to oil dependence? What will be the impacts on tourism? What other critical needs and functions are currently dependent on oil? Can we depend on continued imports for 80 percent of our food supply? Can we continue to afford our SUVs, or should we vigorously stimulate alternative transportation networks? How can we guarantee the function of our municipal water and wastewater systems without oil-based energy inputs? Do we currently have fuel reserves adequate to assure police and emergency vehicle operation in the event of a major protracted fuel shortage?

It would serve us to immediately identify our greatest liabilities specific to oil dependence in our community, and begin the systematic process of reducing those liabilities.

Major cities including San Francisco, Portland, Denver, and Austin, along with a host of smaller cities around the country are doing just that. By forming peak oil task forces, developing strategic energy plans and other activities, these cities are working to protect the well-being of their citizens as energy costs continue to wreak havoc on our global economic system.

Please do read the entire article. It's great that The Garden Island was willing to give him the space he needed to make his point.

After you have read it, can we think about how we can get our government to pull its head out of the beach sand and follow the example of the other cities that Ben has mentioned?

There is much we can do to prepare for these changes, and perhaps even substantial opportunities in what at first look might be considered a bleak situation. Great advantage exists in being prepared for this foreseeable risk. However, the first step is in identifying the problem and facing it squarely and facing it together.


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