An Alt-E SUV Named Desire
For reasons still unknown, CFN remains effectively shut down, with no new comments displaying in the current thread. Was looking forward to more exchanges with Ryan. In honor of Ryan and his obsession with hopes for this, that, and the other thing (including the dieoff-with-dignity wish) I can’t help but do something like the title of this post.
Hope is a wonderful thing to have, and probably a necessary thing to have too if you’re otherwise convinced we’re about to swirl around the big porcelain bowl o’ life. Where this hope is put (invested) is otherwise a very good question. Hope is not entirely dissimilar to investment funds in certain regards. Much is said about hope these days on the blogs and on the internets. ‘Hope’ has been a magical word in this past election cycle.
Some have pinned much hope on the Prince of Change, shortly due to be installed in Washingtoon, DC, thus putting an end to Bush’s long reign of error.
Some have invested their hope on a revitalized product lineup by GM, even as GM falls apart from the sheer weight of its own compounded & layered stupidity. Why, GM has had to cut back so much that they’ve ceased the construction of the whole new plant that was supposed to build those tiny gasoline engines for the Volt. No doubt the millions needed to keep that project alive were better spent on executive compensation & bonuses last year for Rick Wagoner and whatever other smarmy golf buddies of his there pull down those million-dollar-plus packages. (and why the F is a whole new facility needed to make another component? am sure they could contract out with Honda or Toyota for that part.)
Economists everywhere are expressing hope, not covertly enough IMCFNHO, when they predict a certain month in 2009 or 2010 for the economic turnaround they’re expecting to see. Like the date of the RE-market recovery and the date by which fusion power will be available, this recovery date keeps getting shifted forward. (Someone on the HBB showed this quite clearly.) Naturally, none of these tea-leaf-readers (err, economists) can explain what preconditions will cause all of the current trends to do an abrupt about-face, thus restoring the full glory of wild credit expansion and the concomitant consumer spending boom. All they’re thinking is something like, “Hmm, these downward things never continue forever, so eventually this one will turn around too.” That they cannot explain anything about how it will come about tells you that they can’t even begin to guess the ‘when’ part with any accuracy .. and that’s stretching the definition of ‘guess’, mind you. some of the electric energy consumed in our consumerist energy-hogging paradise. These tidal, geothermal, solar, wind, hydrogen initiatives are possible only through the current energy bounty of fossil fuels .. and without the complex energy-intensive industrial arcology necessary to provide these things and their components, prepare the sites, cast the concrete, move the stuff, set things up, etc, these things cannot happen. (how much concrete has been poured by solar or wind energy? how much nitrate fertilizer has been generated by alternative energy?)
No doubt somewhere in North Dakota there is a cabal of resolute Cheney/Bush fans who hope for a resurgence of the ‘traditional American values’ that brought Darth Cheney and his figureheaded monkey mascot to power. They probably feel that all of Cheney’s good works got turned around and ruined by the other party, and that if his PNAC directives had been executed without any Demo-interference, why, we’d all be living in some sort of Republic-of-Gilead biblical afterlife right hear on earth. Bible verse tests to be part of basic citizenship requirements and driving tests, of course.
Some of the can’t-contemplate-doom’ers have placed much hope in very-low-intensity Alt-E measures that could, at great financial/material/energy expense per installed kW, replace
Then there are the people who cannot afford their post-reset adjustable-rate mortgages, yet are nonetheless hoping not to lose their homes despite not being able to afford them at bubble prices.
Then there are the millions hoping to get their jobs back, or their full wages restored, even though
the income they formerly depended on was derived from economic circumstances the likes of which do not exist outside the upswing phase of an unsustainable credit bubble, and will not exist again anytime soon.
There is the matter of investors scouring the world looking for some safe haven where they can dump their money and not think about it or even lift a finger while it magically multiplies madly like one of those Madoff investments. (and here’s a pronunciation key for the updated version of Ambrose Bierce’s dictionary: “Madoff”, as in, “He’s made off with your money”)
Like a game of musical chairs with half the chairs disappearing during one particular song, there is way too much loose hope to be accommodated by the current set of emerging realities. Like all things subject to supply/demand considerations, this has the static effect of making hope cheap and making good outcomes more expensive. This is the essential nature of the bottleneck: our future choices are becoming less prolific and more grim as events progress. It’s going to take way more than a wheelbarrow full of “hope coupons” to afford any of the nicer outcomes headed our way.
Despite busting on them so obviously on the other blog (at least, before it stopped working, thanks Typokey!) I am rather intrigued by the way the Dales and the Ryans of the world cling to the notion that with massive and immediate investments in Alt-Energy technologies we need not suffer a speedy contraction of population and the suffering that will accompany it. Why, if the whole world would gear up to produce solar cells and wind turbines and water turbines like mad, perhaps in the far future there may be the occasional family dwelling with minuscule amounts of electric energy available for its use, provided that someone with the correct technical knowledge is available to maintain it.
Another fine example is that in spite the massive investments in hope (as well as the venture capital funding that seemed so certain as of May 2008) all of the planned “alternative oil ventures” like the Brazilian deepwater stuff, the Arctic deepwater stuff, the Wyoming shale oil extraction, the coal-to-liquid plants that Patrick assured us were just around the corner, etc, have been de-funded or are about to be. That’s it, folks, in a nutshell: without continuously-escalating oil prices to generate the correct funds from the futures market, it is not economically feasible to do these high-entropy low-EROEI oil alternatives. (does that sound familiar .. sort of like the way ever-rising house prices let everyone “share the wealth”? can you say “bubble”?)
Hope is a precious thing alright, but just like with painstakingly-earned investment money, it’s important to invest it in things that won’t go kablooey later in the game. And personally, I think we’d be very lucky just to land at the level of the Amish Paradise.
Take it away, Al ..