An Energy Solution
an emerging opportunity
a FutureViews Exercise
Virtually the whole world looks on the “energy Crises” as a problem. In actuality it is a tremendous opportunity. The MARKET, something which we seem to like a great deal when times are good and try to control when times are bad, is telling us that the present paradigm, technology and political economy of energy - from policy to practice - is no longer affordable. True, there may be some manipulation going on; true, there may be some windfall profits and exploitation; true, government policies may be - and have been - biased toward the currant solution set - all true; and, all irrelevant. In the end the human economy - represented by the market - and the natural economy of the earth - represented by growing costs, growing extinctions, growing pollution and massive threats to planetary stability, have voted. The era of the oil economy is over. Will we use oil for many purposes for a long time? Yes. Are there a number of things we can do to make hydrocarbons cleaner and more efficient? Yes. Will it take time for alternative methods to scale up? Yes. Are their totally new technologies in the wings? yes. So, what is “bad” about the whole situation? Only that we tilted the market in favor of the old ways, ignored and repressed the development of alternative solutions, and coasted happy with our profits for so long that we are now forced into a too abrupt transition that - if we have paid attention to and made this change gradually over the last 50 years - would have made an easy task today. If we really believe in a free economy and if we muster the courage to create one, the energy crises will go away in one of the greatest innovative and growth periods ever recorded in the modern era.
We neither have an energy “crisis” nor an energy “problem,” yet. And, this is unfortunate. To explain this seemingly outrageous statement, I have to define the concepts crisis, problem and anticipatory design. To start, lets do the following thought experiment. It is a common experience we all have from time to time. As a matter of fact it is so ubiquitous that it is rarely thought about. We can call it the Leaf Blower Experiment. It is a nice weekend morning and you are sitting outside of your relatively expensive patio overlooking the marina enjoying a paper and morning cup of coffee. All is well with the world and, having arrived late last night, this is the first unrushed morning you have had for a few months. Suddenly, your tranquility is shattered by a very loud leaf blowers as the resort staff (or contractor) starts the daily attack on the unmanaged organic quality of the landscaping between you and the boats tied to the dock. You see one boater retreat inside in disgust closing hatches and portholes. Immediately, you feel grit in your eyes and hastily cover your coffee as the “gardener” goes by meticulously “cleaning” the sidewalk blowing dust, dirt leaves and tranquility before him. Behind the sound comes the hydrocarbons successfully covering up the smell of the flowers that someone planted around you with care and at no little expense. You have been quickly transformed from a moment of relaxation and contemplation back to the busy streets you left yesterday - with this shift in mental set a number of interesting things are happening to your body-mind: the adrenal glands are hit, you shift to “fight or flight” mode, your thought process is broken, not because you evolved to it, because your mental-physical space was imposed upon. You will have four of these priceless mornings on this trip and 25 percent of this value has been blown away by the misplaced worship of the god-of-utility. In today’s world, this might be considered unfortunate yet accepted. Given the cost of your vacation you might even be motivated to request the management to put off this kind of work until later in the day. Fair enough; yet, lets put on the thinking hat of a stranger. Maybe an ET visiting the planet of a modern day Rip Van Winkle who woke up after a hundred year sleep. Enjoying the moment our observer may be startled by the sudden, and presumably uncommon, interruption and begin to take note of what was actually going on.
What is going on is this: To save the labor of actually picking up leaves and dust - or what have you - a loud, highly polluting engine running on an increasingly expensive fuel is employed to blow the material from one spot to another. Now the wind does not blow - it sucks. Blowing things is highly inefficient. The elements will immediately start to suck things back to where they were before, to be presumably, “blown” away again. As pointed out this is noisy. It also is not healthy for the worker to be breathing the fumes on a continual basis. One wonders if the material was actually picked up, on a now and then basis and made into compost, if this would actually be less labor than blowing it around almost every day for no result except a temporary “cleaning.” Also, it is one thing to blow it around your own property and to annoy you own customers (or family). In may cases, the unwanted is actually being blown onto someone else’s property or into the public domain imposing on those around both the mess and the noise wanted or not. It would seem to me to be illegal to do this and would be except for the paradigm of sterile neatness and the cult of utilitarianism. This misguided attempt to make a human-nature landscape of some value actually produces a net loss of beauty, tranquility, livelihood and a sustainable economy-ecology. I actually have watched as material has been blown between properties day after day in a game of continuous attrition warfare with no apparent awareness of the futility of it all. This behavior can only be classified as insane.
Trivial? Actually not. The sum of these blowers, on a daily basis, is actually not trivial. Beyond this, this is an example of a PATTERN we can see over and over in our society. The energy debate has long been presented as conservation versus quality of life; as alternatives versus affordability; as individual responsibility versus corporate or government responsibility. People are turned into wage-slaves [link:] with little responsibility or control over their own lives, overspecialized and unable to provide food, shelter, security, health, education and themselves [link:], seduced into becoming consumers in an “economic” schema that is totally unsustainable, now worrying about the cost of gas while living (?) in a social pattern language which wastes - at minimum - 50% of energy usage right now - energy expenditures which provides no value added to the quality of life. These patterns interfere with achieving any conceivable definition of quality. What is amazing is how little these patterns are challenged. The scale and scope of this “overlooked” opportunity indicates the strength of the paradigm-in-place and how difficult it is for people to think through and take actions - both immediate and long term - which are available to the vast majority of us. These patterns of our society make up a system - a system which imposes sever costs and constraints on all of us while relentlessly destroying the larger system around us. Many believe that we can get another cycle out of this system by optimizing it more. This is a fallacy It is over-optimization which is causing the conditions we are now over-reacting to.
A few months back I was traveling back to San francisco on Northwest Airlines. While ai was waiting to get to altitude so I could get my computer out I was reading the airline’s magazine. The editorial form the president of he the airline was about energy and all of the initiative they had taken to save fuel. It was an impressive list with annual savings in the hundreds of millions. What struck be, however, was this, not one of them was something which the airline could not have been doing for years. Why did they wait until fuel costs were nearly driving them out of business. Northwest was just out of Chapter 11 and had announced a merger with Delta who I believe was just out of Chapter 11.
Matt Taylor
August 1, 2008

SolutionBox voice of this document:

click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox

posted: ugust 1, 2008

revised: August 22, 2008
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(note: this document is about 4% finished)

Matt Taylor 615 720 7390

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2008

aspects of this material is
patented and in patent pending

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