Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The End of Cheap Oil as an Opportunity

Car/Bus/Bike (found at theartofwhere)
photo by Nathan Abels

I highly recommend this article by Claude Lewenz at WorldChanging, called "The End of Cheap Oil as an Opportunity". The author outlines how the American economy and habitat changed after the Great Depression and WWII - establishing a period of unprecedented economic growth based on the abundance of cheap fossil fuels.

In a letter quoted in the article, Stuart Udall writes, "As a freshman congressman in 1955, I regrettably voted with my unanimous colleagues for the Interstate Highway Program. All of us acted on the shortsighted assumption that cheap oil was superabundant and would always be available. This illusion began to unravel in the 1970s, and it haunts Americans today.

Oil lies at the epicenter of a critical energy crisis. Petroleum is a finite resource and is the most precious, versatile resource on the planet. Cheap oil played a crucial role in the development of American power and prosperity, and sustains the military machine that dominates the world today. Oil is now nearing a historic transition that will alter the civilization Americans have come to take for granted."

The article does not only specify the problem, but has an interesting proposal for building communities (referred to as "villages") that do not rely on the automobile. In fact, Lewenz expresses great positivity about the possibilities of the future, writing, "if cheap oil is a thing of the past, change will come. We can either suffer it, or realize it as a great opportunity."

Similar to James Howard Kunstler, this article's writer, Claude Lewenz points out how problematic the suburban environment truly is in the long term; "In simple terms, it is time to stop building new developments that are based on the shortsighted assumption that cheap oil would be abundant and would always be available. It makes absolutely no sense to build another suburb, another shopping mall or another office or industrial park where people must drive distances to get there."

I could quote nearly the entire article, but you should read it yourself. If you are curious about Peak Oil, gas prices, and the suburban environment, this is a great place to start.

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