Monday, May 16, 2005

Powering Down

In my opinion, both of the two major political parties are failing to address the possible upcoming scenarios we may face in an energy-depleted end-of-cheap-oil society quick enough. Why must we always be one step behind in the political realm?

For example, the past 20+ years have been spent consolidating schools which require an increase in bus transportation. Most of the new school buildings that I see look like prisons with small windows inefficient for decent air quality and where the atmosphere requires controlled climate conditions with heating and cooling. Instead of spending money on hiring more teachers for smaller class sizes, they've spent mega amounts of money building monumental structures which are energy inefficient. I think as energy becomes more and more expensive, it would be wise to revert back to smaller schools within walking distance for students and buildings which are more energy efficient. They could even heat and cool by alternative means such as passive solar heating in the winter (maybe even solar or wind energy) and greenroofs benefitting cooling in the summer (could be used as a dual purpose "science educational area" AND for cutting energy costs). These ideas would cut state and local taxpayer expense in the long run by eliminating the need for more bussing transportation and rising heating and cooling costs. The school year could even be tailored to the average hot and cold extremes of weather. I've also read where making the schools larger is not as beneficial for the students as they once thought.

Another foresight would be local transportation. In smaller towns, especially, we've almost totally eliminated our old rail systems. As well as having a viable working tourist attraction, inter-urban railways and historical (maybe now-diesel-run) trolleys along less car-infested streets would be beneficial as well as cost-effective for those who will no longer be able to afford the luxury of a car and all of it's expenses. Or at least the car could be saved for long trips while the communal transportation could be used locally. The creation of more bike paths should be pushed to encourage conservation of fuel.

Here in my state of Indiana, we have passed a new law enabling the speed limit to go beyond 55mph. I wonder if it's dawned on any state politician how much more energy is consumed the faster we go? How much more of an expense it is for the consumer?

As one who has always been in favor of social programs like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, I can see where it's leading. If the economy tanks and there aren't enough taxpayers working, then it will be increasingly difficult to provide for these programs. I can accept my fate. I, now into my 40s, will probably not reap the benefits as many of my predecessors are now doing. And with companies like United, GM & Ford on the verge of bankruptsy, that goes for pensions, too. Then you can look at the new bankruptsy bill which doesn't take into account astronomical medical bills people can accumulate, I don't have much of a prayer for my future. Can you understand why I'm a doom & gloomer? And the prez wants me to begin putting my earnings into the stock markets!?!?!? Pffft. Sure, the stock markets will save me.

Maybe that's why all the new McMansions are being built today. Extended families will all have to move in with one another in order to survive and only the McMansions will be able to house us all providing we can afford the outrageous property taxes that we will have! What happens when you're the only one in the family that will be able to work and all of your children and elders are depending on you? Tough luck, I guess.

Well, this turned into a rant but the remedies mentioned above for local communities would be nice but I know I'm dreaming again. Politics is a no-win situation. The masses are unaware of the coming changes so they don't know what they are voting for and even when they know it's almost impossible for a politician to do what is right because of being between big business and the common man. The masses sense something isn't quite right but they haven't been given (or chosen) the right pill. The mass media or the educational system isn't going to tell them up front. They'll have to figure it out on their own and by then it might be too late.

All of my life I've been taught to consume, consume, consume and I've passed the mindset onto my children. This is going to take alot of work to turn around our mindset. I'm still working on it day-by-day. I own an SUV on a 4-year lease which is coming to an end in December. I think I've almost got my spouse talked into buying a Toyota Prius or a Honda this time. My goal is also to buy a bike this summer. I would do more biking except for the fact that I might get pulverized on the street from all the traffic!

More later......

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