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  • dubluth
    M. Harrington wrote: Seriously, I believe the way to get through the coming money/energy transition is to go back, in certain respects, to 1940, at a lower BTU
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2003
      M. Harrington wrote:

      Seriously, I believe the way to get through the coming money/energy
      transition is to go back, in certain respects, to 1940, at a lower BTU
      per capita ratio.


      Although it would be dramatic to most people (at least in terms of the
      amount of motoring), going back to 1940's level of per-capita energy
      consumption sounds like a reasonable start to me. That is based on my
      belief that high levels of consumption are unhealthy for both the
      environment and people.

      The only ways such a reduction in energy use would happen are
      1) a great increase in the real price of using energy,
      2) near universal changes in what people value,
      3) or some strict system of rationing.

      (Ending the special plum of a tax write-off for the most polluting
      SUVs and ending agricultural subsidies are necessary policy changes
      that also come to mind.)

      Giving people the option of bus or train travel doesn't significantly
      reduce the number of miles driven. That is the safe assumption. Even
      as some people learn to appreciate these alternatives for their daily
      lives, others are always ready to start driving, drive more, or drive
      something bigger to take advantage of any freed up space on the road.

      I'm not in favor of using 3) because rationing is generally an
      inefficient way of achieving goals and we have no very recent
      widespread experience with it. I don't know of any success with 2),
      although I'm not opposed to a bit of preaching. The idea that less
      for one's-self could be good runs counter to cultural conditioning and
      probably our evolutionary inheritance.

      That leaves 1), increasing the real price of using energy. While an
      increase in taxes on energy would be popular with environmentalists,
      taxes are unpopular with the broader public. Environmentally
      justified taxes seem to be under vigorous attack by influential
      special interests. (Consider Bush's lobbying of Putin to withdraw
      from the Kyoto protocol. Consider the Swartzeneger governorship).
      Despite the opposition, diverting motor fuel tax revenues away from
      road building and into health and environmental remediation is such a
      good idea, that its opponents may lose in time.

      Parking fees, tolls and congestion pricing also increase the cost of a
      polluting activity, but their main purposes are the more efficient use
      of land and peoples time.

      Perhaps we aren't hearing one another. I think that much scarcer
      fossil fuel would be a good thing. That would relieve us of part of
      the big problem of making its responsible management (for the
      environment) a reality. It would also relieve us of some of the bad
      potential consequences of failing.

      Higher energy prices wouldn't the problem; they would be part of the
      solution. However, if we mistakenly think the price increase will
      occur naturally, we are losing much of the motivation for difficult
      and, likely, necessary political fights.

      Bill Carr
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