Enviromanticism

Here at Redneck Mansion, we have several Pre-Raphaelite paintings hanging—well, they're not the actual paintings, just prints. We used to see the natural world much as painters like Rossetti did—perfect, unspoiled, immutable.
Then we grew up.


In the Ithaca Journal, Caroline (the navel of the universe when it comes to energy conservation) Town Supervisor Don Barber writes:

We are in a time when it is takes much more energy to extract fossil fuel (for example, tar sands and shale gas) than in the past, which means less net energy is being produced.

Wait a minute.  It's not a zero-sum game. If it were, the price of natural gas would have risen rather than fallen precipitously as it has. Increased fossil fuel use leads to 1) research into more efficient utilization as well as 2) creating more of an economic incentive for locating additional resources. This has the results of 1) lower per capita usage and 2) increased supply.

Emerging, manufacturing-based economies, such as China, are rapidly expanding their use of energy.

I'll buy that one—it's hard to argue with.

And we are past peak oil, consuming it faster than we are finding it. These result in fossil-fuel energy becoming more precious each year.

See "wait a minute," above.  Same thing applies. In The Guardian:

...As then (1979), we are led to believe that the world's fossil fuel resources are finite and known, and that the peak of production has either been already met or will come soon. Gas, it is assumed, will follow oil. Put simply, we are going to run out of fossil fuels, and they will therefore get (much) more expensive. For the peak oil advocates, the convenient truth is that de-carbonisation via renewables and nuclear is not only good for the climate, but sound economics too. Almost all of this is nonsense – and some of it is dangerous nonsense. There is enough oil and gas (and coal too) to fry the planet several times over. The problem is there may be too much fossil fuel, not too little, and that fossil fuel prices might be too low, not too high....

Barber's argument is entirely based on the zero-sum game fallacy, thusly (emphasis mine):
Then fossil fuels afforded us quantum leap advances in technology, life experiences and comfort. With the pending decline in availability of fossil fuel, will those socio-economic gains be lost?...
Sigh.
"Buying local" requires less energy to transport goods between purchaser and creator. Buying local supports both small businesses and the entrepreneurs that create local wealth, and it circulates money through the local economy several times...
We denizens of Redneck Mansion highly recommend buying local. 90% of all Americans live within fifteen miles of a Wal-Mart.
...We can insure vibrant local food sources for generations to come through buying produce and value added food products from farm stands, farmers markets, and Community Support Agriculture...
Know what?  CSAs?  Been there, done that.  No more. Why?  Because you're limited to those things that someone else has deemed economic to produce. We finally got tired of coming up with 365 ways to prepare very expensive bok choy. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world—and at prices that regular people can afford.  Just sayin'.    
...Businesses can make energy management a top priority, harnessing nearly all energy they consume and finding ways to multiply energy such as geothermal, which creates 3.5 units of energy for every unit of energy producing it. Products and services from these businesses will cost less to produce...
Really? That's quite a claim in view of the fact that "alternative" sources of energy are definitely not cheap to install. But energy is definitely a cost of goods sold, a cost of doing business.
...We can embrace energy sources that are available everywhere and to everyone no matter of economic status. These decentralized energy sources can result in individual or local ownership and in time lower cost. They include, for example, solar (photovoltaic and heat); wind; biomass (direct to food, heat, or processing to another fuel source); geothermal; and gravity (hydro-power)...
It's true that the sun shines on everyone equally and while the photo above was taken before the arrays were installed on the roofs at Redneck Mansion during our primitive period, we do have solar panels. But can you say Solyndra? Name us one "alternative" energy company that is not engaging in crony capitaism—it's a system formerly known as fascism, and it has a bad reputation for a good reason. It never ends well.   
Passenger and freight trains and transport by water use fuel more efficiently than cars and trucks. Buses and carpools save fuel and create opportunities to converse with our neighbors, thereby building community. Bicycling puts us more in touch with our surroundings and benefits our bodies.
Systems that re-use vehicles like trains and buses can't be directly compared to vehicles that get parked at their destination. Anybody who's ever observed TCAT buses realizes that they sometimes run on schedules and routes with little patronage. Hmmm...unless, of course, patrons are left with no choice because cars and pick-'em-up trucks are no longer....well, never mind.
 
Comparing fuel efficiency across different modes of transportation usually involves comparing apples and oranges. Overall, system efficiencies likely won't be as advertised.  But by all means, let's get more "in touch," shall we?  
Some of these examples are back to the basics, adopting practices that made communities self-sustaining before the Industrial Revolution....

Some local businesses are apparently already going back to pre-Industrial Revolution days  wink

No one wants to be wasteful just as no one wants dirty air or dirty water. But a seemingly innocuous and well-intentioned, even romantic, attachment to the past can morph into something not nearly as pretty in the hands of people who see themselves as others' moral and intellectual superiors. That's not a road we want to be going down.

h/t's David & Tom

Comments

Comment: 
People may debate whether the amount of fossil fuel remaining in the ground is "too little" to sustain our current level of consumption, or "too much" to avoid frying the planet, but it's entirely possible for both to be true. Those are two independent rationales for getting away from fossil fuels, and it's a fallacy to pit them against each other as if they were mutually exclusive.