Energy subsidies, 2006
Cites an estimate of $49 to $100 billion dollars of energy subsidies in 2006. Most of these were for non-renewables. Imagine a world in which those dollars were directed at renewables and conservation instead!
Oil and gas got 52.4%
Coal got 15%
Total fossil was 66.2%
Nuclear got 12.4%
Ethanol got 7.6%
Other renewables got 7.5%
Conservation got 2.1%
Other got 4.2%
Here is a great site dedicated to diverse energy mix. Roll over a state to determine the current ENERGY MIX.
The Saxtons on vehicle efficiency and emissions.
Renewable Energy use:
Some sobering information about energy use as it relates to speed:
Energy consumed goes up by the square of the speed.
Thus a car traveling 70 mph uses four times the energy of one traveling at 35 mph. For other circumstances, let's say the difference between traveling at 60 mph versus 70 mph, 70 squared equals 4,900 and 60 squared equals 3,600. Divide 4,900 by 3,600 and the answer is 1.36 or 36% more energy. For only 10 mph difference the extra energy consumed is considerable. The difference between 55 and 75 is 86% more energy required which is even more sobering.
Making Other Arrangements
A wake-up call to a citizenry in the shadow of oil scarcity
By James Howard Kunstler
AS THE AMERICAN PUBLIC CONTINUES sleepwalking into a future
scarcity, climate change, and geopolitical turmoil, we have also
continued dreaming. Our collective dream is one of those super-vivid
ones people have just before awakening. It is a particularly American
dream on a particularly American theme: how to keep all the cars
running by some other means than gasoline. We'll run them on ethanol!
We'll run them on biodiesel, on synthesized coal liquids, on
hydrogen, on methane gas, on electricity, on used French-fry oil!
The dream goes around in fevered circles as each gasoline replacement
is examined and found to be inadequate. But the wish to keep the cars
going is so powerful that round and round the dream goes. Ethanol!
Biodiesel! Coal liquids...
And a harsh reality indeed awaits us as the full scope of the
permanent energy crisis unfolds. According to the U.S. Department of
Energy, world oil production peaked in December 2005 at just over 85
million barrels a day. Since then, it has trended absolutely flat at
around 84 million. Yet world oil consumption rose consistently from
77 million barrels a day in 2001 to above 85 million so far this
year. A clear picture emerges: demand now exceeds world supply. Or,
put another way, oil production has not increased despite the ardent
wish that it would by all involved, and despite the overwhelming
incentive of prices having nearly quadrupled since 2001.
There is no question that we are in trouble with oil. The natural
situation is comparably ominous, with some differences in the
technical details-and by the way, I am referring here to methane gas
(CH4), the stuff that fuels kitchen stoves and home furnaces, not
cars and trucks. Natural gas doesn't deplete slowly like oil,
following a predictable bell-curve pattern; it simply stops coming
out of the ground when a particular gas well is played out. You also
tend to get your gas from the continent you are on. To import natural
gas from overseas, it has to be liquefied, loaded in a special kind
of expensive-to-build-and-operate tanker, and then offloaded at a
specialized marine terminal.
Half the homes in America are heated with gas furnaces and
percent of our electricity is made with it. Industry uses natural gas
as the primary ingredient in fertilizer, plastics, ink, glue, paint,
laundry detergent, insect repellent, and many other common household
necessities. Synthetic rubber and man-made fibers like nylon could
not be made without the chemicals derived from natural gas. In North
America, natural gas production peaked in 1973. We are drilling as
fast as we can to keep the air conditioners and furnaces running.
What's more, the problems of climate change are amplifying,
ramifying, and mutually reinforcing the problems associated with
rapidly vanishing oil and gas reserves. This was illustrated vividly
in 2005, when slightly higher ocean temperatures sent Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita slamming into the U.S. Gulf Coast. Almost a year
later, roughly 12 percent of oil production and 9.5 percent of
natural gas production in the gulf was still out, probably for good.
Many of these production platforms may never be rebuilt, because the
amounts of oil and gas left beneath them would not justify the cost.
If there is $50 million worth of oil down there, why spend $100
million replacing a wrecked platform to get it?
Climate change will also ramify the formidable problems associated
with alternative fuels. As I write, the American grain belt is locked
in a fierce summer drought. Corn and soybean crops are withering from
Minnesota to Illinois; wheat is burning up in the Dakotas and Kansas.
Meanwhile, the costs of agricultural "inputs"-from diesel fuel to
fertilizers made from natural gas to oil-derived pesticides-have been
ramping up steadily since 2003 to the great distress of farmers. Both
weather and oil costs are driving our crop yields down, while the
industrial mode of farming that has evolved since the Second World
War becomes increasingly impractical. We are going to have trouble
feeding ourselves in the years ahead, not to mention the many nations
who depend for survival on American grain exports. So the idea that
we can simply shift millions of acres from food crops to ethanol or
biodiesel crops to make fuels for cars represents a staggering
misunderstanding of reality.
Still, the widespread wish persists that some combination of
alternative fuels will rescue us from this oil and gas predicament
and allow us to continue enjoying by some other means what
Vice-President Cheney has called the "non-negotiable" American way of
life. The truth is that no combination of alternative fuels or
systems for using them will allow us to continue running America, or
even a substantial fraction of it, the way we have been. We are not
going to run Wal-Mart, Walt Disney World, Monsanto, and the
Interstate Highway System on any combination of solar or wind energy,
hydrogen, ethanol, tar sands, oil shale, methane hydrates, nuclear
power, thermal depolymerization, "zero-point" energy, or anything
else you can name. We will desperately use many of these things in
many ways, but we are likely to be disappointed in what they can
actually do for us.
The key to understanding the challenge we face is admitting
have to comprehensively make other arrangements for all the normal
activities of everyday life. I will return to this theme shortly, but
first it is important to try to account for the extraordinary amount
of delusional thinking that currently dogs our collective ability to
think about these problems.
The widespread wish to just uncouple from oil and gas and plug
our complex systems into other energy sources is an interesting and
troubling enough phenomenon in its own right to merit some
discussion. Perhaps the leading delusion is the notion that energy
and technology are one and the same thing, interchangeable. The
popular idea, expressed incessantly in the news media, is that if you
run out of energy, you just go out and find some "new technology" to
keep things running. We'll learn that this doesn't comport with
reality. For example, commercial airplanes are either going to run on
cheap liquid hydrocarbon fuels or we're not going to have commercial
aviation as we have known it. No other energy source is concentrated
enough by weight, affordable enough by volume, and abundant enough in
supply to do the necessary work to overcome gravity in a loaded
airplane, repeated thousands of times each day by airlines around the
world. No other way of delivering that energy source besides refined
liquid hydrocarbons will allow that commercial system to operate at
the scale we are accustomed to. The only reason this system exists is
that until now such fuels have been cheap and abundant. We are not
going to replace the existing worldwide fleet of airplanes either,
and besides, there is no other type of airplane we have yet devised
that can work differently.
There may be other ways of moving things above the ground,
instance balloons, blimps, or zeppelin-type airships. But they will
move much more slowly and carry far less cargo and human passengers
than the airplanes we've been enjoying for the past sixty years or
so. The most likely scenario in the years ahead is that aviation will
become an increasingly expensive, elite activity as the oil age
dribbles to a close, and then it will not exist at all.
Another major mistake made by those who fail to pay attention
overlooking the unanticipated consequences of new technology, which
more often than not add additional layers of problems to existing
ones. In the energy sector, one of the most vivid examples is seen in
the short history of the world's last truly great oil discovery, the
North Sea fields between Norway and the UK. They were found in the
'60s, got into production in the late '70s, and were pumping at full
blast in the early '90s. Then, around 1999, they peaked and are now
in extremely steep decline-up to 50 percent a year in the case of
some UK fields. The fact that they were drilled with the latest and
best new technology turns out to mean that they were drained with
stunning efficiency. "New technology" only hastened Britain's descent
into energy poverty. Now, after a twenty-year-long North Sea bonanza
in which it enjoyed an orgy of suburbanization, Great Britain is
again a net energy importer. Soon the Brits will have no North Sea
oil whatsoever and will find themselves below their energy diet of
the grim 1950s.
If you really want to understand the U.S. public's penchant
wishful thinking, consider this: We invested most of our late
twentieth-century wealth in a living arrangement with no future.
American suburbia represents the greatest misallocation of resources
in the history of the world. The far-flung housing subdivisions,
commercial highway strips, big-box stores, and all the other
furnishings and accessories of extreme car dependence will function
poorly, if at all, in an oil-scarce future. Period. This dilemma now
entails a powerful psychology of previous investment, which is
prompting us to defend our misinvestments desperately, or, at least,
preventing us from letting go of our assumptions about their future
value. Compounding the disaster is the unfortunate fact that the
manic construction of ever more futureless suburbs (a.k.a. the
"housing bubble") has insidiously replaced manufacturing as the basis
of our economy.
Meanwhile, the outsourcing of manufacturing to other nations
spurred the development of a "global economy," which media
opinion-leaders such as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman (author
of The World Is Flat) say is a permanent state of affairs that we had
better get used to. It is probably more accurate to say that the
global economy is a set of transient economic relations that have
come about because of two fundamental (and transient) conditions: a
half century of relative peace between great powers and a half
century of cheap and abundant fossil-fuel energy. These two mutually
dependent conditions are now liable to come to an end as the great
powers enter a bitter contest over the world's remaining energy
resources, and the world is actually apt to become a lot larger and
less flat as these economic relations unravel.
This is approximately the state of the nation right now. It
and tragically ironic that the more information that bombards us, the
less we seem to understand. There are cable TV news networks and
Internet news sites beyond counting, yet we are unable to process
this deluge of information into a coherent public discussion about
the fundamental challenges that our civilization faces-not to mention
a sensible agenda for meeting these hardships. Meanwhile, CBS News
tells millions of viewers that the tar sands of Alberta will solve
all our problems, or (two weeks later) that the coal beds under
Montana and Wyoming will sustain business as usual, and CNN tells
another several million viewers that we can run everything here on
ethanol, just like they do in Brazil.
Of course, the single worst impediment to clear thinking among
individuals and organizations in America today is the obsession with
keeping the cars running at all costs. Even the environmental
community is guilty of this. The esteemed Rocky Mountain Institute
ran a project for a decade to design and develop a "hyper-car"
capable of getting supernaturally fabulous mileage, in the belief
that this would be an ecological benefit. The short-sightedness of
this venture? It only promoted the idea that we could continue to be
a car-dependent society; the project barely gave nodding recognition
to the value of walkable communities and public transit.
The most arrant case of collective cluelessness now on view
failure to even begin a public discussion about fixing the U.S.
passenger railroad system, which has become so decrepit that the
Bulgarians would be ashamed of it. It's the one thing we could do
right away that would have a substantial impact on our oil use. The
infrastructure is still out there, rusting in the rain, waiting to be
fixed. The restoration of it would employ hundreds of thousands of
Americans at all levels of meaningful work. The fact that we are
hardly even talking about it-at any point along the political
spectrum, left, right, or center-shows how fundamentally un-serious
This is just not good enough. It is not worthy of our history,
heritage, or the sacrifices that our ancestors made. It is wholly
incompatible with anything describable as our collective
responsibility to the future.
We have to do better. We have to start right away making those
arrangements. We have to begin the transition to some mode of living
that will allow us to carry on the project of civilization-and I
would argue against the notion advanced by Daniel Quinn and others
that civilization itself is our enemy and should not be continued.
The agenda for facing our problems squarely can, in fact, be
described with some precision. We have to make other arrangements for
the basic activities of everyday life.
In general, the circumstances we face with energy and climate
will require us to live much more locally, probably profoundly and
intensely so. We have to grow more of our food locally, on a smaller
scale than we do now, with fewer artificial "inputs," and probably
with more human and animal labor. Farming may come closer to the
center of our national economic life than it has been within the
memory of anyone alive now. These changes are also likely to revive a
menu of social and class conflicts that we also thought we had left
We'll have to reorganize retail trade by rebuilding networks
economic interdependence. The rise of national chain retail business
was an emergent, self-organizing response to the conditions of the
late twentieth century. Those conditions are now coming to an end,
and the Wal-Mart way of doing business will come to an end with them:
the twelve-thousand-mile merchandise supply line to Asian factories;
the "warehouse on wheels" made up of thousands of tractor-trailer
trucks circulating endlessly between the container-ship ports and the
big-box store loading docks. The damage to local economies that the
"superstores" leave behind is massive. Not only have they destroyed
multilayered local networks for making and selling things, they
destroyed the middle classes that ran them, and in so doing they
destroyed the cultural and economic fabric of the communities
themselves. This is a lot to overcome. We will have to resume making
some things for ourselves again, and moving them through
smaller-scale trade networks. We may have fewer things to buy
overall. The retail frenzy of recent decades will subside as we
struggle to produce things of value and necessarily consume less.
We'll have to make other arrangements for transporting people
goods. Not only do we desperately need to rebuild the railroad
system, but electrifying it-as virtually all other advanced nations
have done-will bring added advantages, since we will be able to run
it on a range of things other than fossil fuels. We should anticipate
a revival of maritime trade on the regional scale, with more use of
boats on rivers, canals, and waterways within the U.S. Many of our
derelict riverfronts and the dying ports of the Great Lakes may come
back to life. If we use trucks at all to move things, it will be for
the very last leg of the journey. The automobile will be a
diminishing presence in our lives and, increasingly, a luxury that
will be resented by those who can no longer afford to participate in
the "happy motoring" utopia. The interstate highways themselves will
require more resources to maintain than we will be able to muster.
For many of us, the twenty-first century will be less about incessant
mobility than about staying where we are.
We have to inhabit the terrain of North America differently,
a return to traditional cities, towns, neighborhoods, and a
productive rural landscape that is more than just strictly scenic or
recreational. We will probably see a reversal of the
two-hundred-year-long trend of people moving from the country and
small towns to the big cities. In fact, our big cities will probably
contract substantially, even while they re-densify at their centers
and along their waterfronts. The work of the New Urbanists will be
crucial in rebuilding human habitats that have a future. Their
achievement so far has been not so much in building "new towns" like
Seaside, Florida, or Kentlands, Maryland, but in retrieving a body of
knowledge, principle, and methodology for urban design that had been
thrown away in our mad effort to build the drive-in suburbs.
It is harder to predict exactly what may happen with education
medicine, except to say that neither can continue to operate as
rackets much longer, and that they, like everything else, will have
to become smaller in scale and much more local. Our centralized
school districts, utterly dependent on the countless daily trips of
fleets of yellow buses and oppressive property taxes, have poor
prospects for carrying on successfully in an energy-scarce economy.
However, we will be a less affluent nation in the post-oil age, and
therefore may be hard-pressed to replace them. A new, more locally
based education system may arise instead out of home-schooling, as
household classes aggregate into new, small, neighborhood schools.
College will cease to be a mass-consumer activity, and may only be
available to social elites-if it continues to exist at all.
Meanwhile, we're in for a pretty stark era of triage as the vast
resources of the "medical industry" contract. Even without a global
energy crisis bearing down on us, the federal Medicaid and Medicare
systems would not survive the future as currently funded.
As a matter of fact, you can state categorically that anything
organized on a gigantic scale, whether it is a federal government or
the Acme Corporation or the University of Michigan, will probably
falter in the energy-scarce future. Therefore, don't pin your hopes
on multinational corporations, international NGOs, or any other giant
organizations or institutions.
Recent events have caused many of us to fear that we are headed
toward a Big Brother kind of governmental tyranny. I think we will be
lucky if the federal government can answer the phones, let alone
regulate anyone's life, in the post-oil era. As power devolves to the
local and regional level, the very purpose of our federal
arrangements may come into question. The state governments, with
their enormous bureaucracies, may not be better off. Further along in
this century, the real political action will likely shift down to the
local level, as reconstructed neighborly associations allow people to
tackle problems locally with local solutions.
It's a daunting agenda, all right. And some of you are probably
wondering how you are supposed to remain hopeful in the face of these
enormous tasks. Here's the plain truth, folks: Hope is not a consumer
product. You have to generate your own hope. You do that by
demonstrating to yourself that you are brave enough to face reality
and competent enough to deal with the circumstances that it presents.
How we will manage to uphold a decent society in the face of
extraordinary change will depend on our creativity, our generosity,
and our kindness, and I am confident that we can find these resources
within our own hearts, and collectively in our communities.
- JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER
is the author of The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere, as
well as the novel Maggie Darling: A Modern Romance. His work has
appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone. He lives
in Saratoga Springs, New York.