Tonight's the night of Rogers Park Alderman Joe Moore's little enviro-confab at the No Exit Cafe on Glenwood, the "Global Warming Cafe", another idiotic gesture where our alderman will get to burnish his lib credentials while steadfastly ignoring the rather large environmental problems here in Rogers Park, principally the number of bullets flying around and blood on the streets.
As usual, the discussions center around Global Warming, while ignoring Peak Oil, which seems to have been shoved to the back burner by the steep drop in oil prices to the $60-65 a barrel range, due to massive demand destruction and to the mass unloading of oil forward contracts by financial concerns unloading them and every other salable asset on their books in their desperation to stem the loss of blood due to the collapse of their mortgage-based structured debt. Due to the steep economic downturn, demand for oil has dropped 9% in the past few months, which might help us make it through the winter without a steep hike in our heat bills.
People tend to have extremely short memories, and to focus on the issue of the hour, which at this moment is the collapse of our financial system and related loss of jobs, incomes, businesses, and homes. But the fact remains is that we are still past the peak of global oil production, which, according to oil geologist Kenneth Deffeyes, occurred in 2005, right on the schedule predicted by M. King Hubbert in 1956. Global oil production has dropped every years since, so we can be thankful for demand destruction, and hope that the vacation from escalating gasoline prices doesn't trigger another spate of gas-guzzler purchases and moves to remote suburbs. As it is, prices have dropped low enough to render unprofitable many of the ventures that are essential to augment the world's dwindling oil supplies, such as the tar sands ventures in Calgary, and deep sea drilling.
However, the demand destruction here and abroad, due to the unfortunate global economic situation, may not be enough to keep demand level with production, for nearly all OPEC members are cutting production and exports, and some forecasters predict that global oil production will drop as much as 9% in 2009, due to depletion of major oil fields and increasing oil use in member countries, who are now reserving more of their production for their own use. A minor increase in demand in tandem with production cuts could, and probably will, cause prices to escalate again, especially if lower prices render much production unprofitable.
For all our local politicians' blathering about climate change and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, we don't see them engaging in serious action to reduce Chicago's prodigious energy consumption and car dependence. We should be making full use of the respite in oil prices to prepare our city for the inevitable draw-down in fossil fuel supplies, yet we have made very few policy changes that would steer development and infrastructure investment in a direction that will produce systems that will serve us when foreign oil is no longer available, or available only in quantities insufficient to run our current systems. Neither Joe Moore or Mayor Daley has made a serious commitment to improving and expanding our inadequate public transit, in spite of a steep spike in ridership in recent years, and the obvious inadequacy of the system to the demands that will be made on it when car ownership drops by 30% or more in coming years. None of our politicians seems eager to develop other infrastructure that will be necessary to keep sensitive communications and other services viable in an energy-short future, either- plans for universal, cheap wireless internet connectivity have been tabled because of the city's failure to negotiate favorable terms with commercial wireless providers, and no other alternatives are being considered.
Worse, Daley and most of our aldermen remain committed to costly and unnecessary expansion of existing highway and airport infrastructure, at a time when the commercial airline industry, which is completely predicated on the availability of cheap fossil fuels, is collapsing, and auto travel is headed for steep decline. Scarce tax monies invested in increasingly redundant and obsolete highway and airport infrastructure, is money being taken away from the systems that we will desperately need in order to maintain a minimal level of technological amenity in an era of depleting fossil fuel supplies and rapidly increasing costs of necessities in combination with disappearing jobs and industries.
It's easy to yap about ways to reduce your carbon footprint on an individual basis, and Joe Moore could sure stand to get a few clues on how to reduce his. However, all the individual efforts - trash recycling, home gardening and canning, buying used goods, turning down the thermostat- don't mean much when individuals are living in a context that demands massive energy waste just to live a normal life, thanks to 80 years of disastrous public policy at the federal and local levels alike that have driven the most wasteful urban development patterns and allocation of resources in the history of the world. Our politicians need to stop twaddling in empty gestures and get down to the necessary and gritty work of developing policies and systems that will enable steep reduction of energy consumption, and the harder work of managing the transition so that it doesn't blow our system, and our lives, to pieces.