Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This is the introduction to my blog that was published in 2006:

I guess the best place to start is to explain the purpose of this page. What is the reason for taking up a space in the Web ether anyways?

Well, first of all, energy and environment are by far the most important issues facing current and future generations. Specifically, this page will discuss elements of E & E (as I'll refer to them from now on) involving the upcoming energy crisis or “peak oil,” as amplified by human-induced global warming.

These issues are much more important than international terrorism, for instance, or just about anything else you can think of, because they spare no person or species (in terms of warming) in the world their impacts, and literally “hit everyone where they live,” affecting how they get their food and water, how they stay warm in winter and cool in the summer, and whether or not people and their communities live in a stable habitat.

Why not write about the most important topic in you and your family's life?

I'll briefly summarize these two terms, peak oil and global warming. Then I'll provide you a little information about the writer, in the spirit of full disclosure, because it's only fair to convey to readers the background, biases, and motivations of the web page's producer.

Peak Oil

Peak oil refers to a milestone or point on a time line when the world is approaching or has already attained the peak production, the top of a bell curve, of the oil that it can extract from the earth. Simply put, once the world has attained oil peak, the amount of oil that we can take from the ground begins to wane at varying rates, and is of lower quality and more inefficient and expensive to extract.

This is geological reality; oil is a finite resource. Why does this matter? Because so much of everything we depend upon in daily life — manufacturing endless amounts of stuff, driving around in cars, heating homes, schools, and hospitals, and other critical forms of transportation like aircraft and shipping — run on oil.

This is a giant topic, but I'll try to make this little, admittedly inadequate definition as pithy as possible. There are a lot of good books out now, and apparently much solid evidence, that we have already or will shortly reach peak oil. The compelling nature of this issue is intensified by the fact that our governments and institutions have not adequately prepared for the impending situation when oil is not abundant and cheap. In other words, a substitute resource such as hydrogen or biofuels is not available to simply “step in” and run the global economy on, particularly faced with the rising oil demand from countries like China and India.

When is the last time you drove past a fuel station carrying gasified coal or tar-sands derived oil? Industry can begin immediately generating alternative fuels, but the transportation and distribution infrastructure is another ball game.

Global Warming

The Greenhouse Effect makes it possible for life to exist on earth. Global warming refers to the effect of the excess dumping or filling of the lower atmosphere with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. This has a destabilizing effect on the climate, causing fluctuations that in all probability would not have occurred, or would not have occurred with the same intensity, if the atmosphere had not received this load of gases.

Scientists have pretty much reached a consensus that human sources, such as car driving, smokestacks, and the burning of tropical forests, are substantially contributing to the catastrophic part of the global-warming equation. Another crucial part of the equation is that global warming feeds on itself; for example, the warmer the atmosphere gets, the more permafrost melts; the more permafrost that melts, the more methane and CO2 gets released, and on an on.

Ice cores have provided a solid historical record of how global CO2 levels affect average temperature; the atmospheric scientists really know what they're talking about here. Global warming is one of the few technical areas where the experts are more alarmed than the average person, which tells you something.

Feeding Off Each Other

These two issues — peak oil and human-induced global warming — amplify each other. Destabilized weather patterns in the form of dramatic regional climate changes, rising seas, brutal storms, tropical disease migrations, and the like, make the stresses and strains of an energy crisis that much more difficult to deal with. This is why it seems natural, and more interesting to write and think about (like numerous people are) these two issues together.

Who Am I?

Now for the disclosure part; I am not an expert in these areas by any stretch of the imagination. I have degrees in liberals arts and software engineering, and I am a writer, but mainly in the last few years of software books. Years ago I wrote a popular newsletter for environmental managers, but that was more about the ins and outs of regulations than science. I am a father and a outdoors devotee. I run, climb, and ride a bike a lot. I'm like everyone else; I notice weird changes in my immediate environment, like mosquitoes that are still present in the marshes in New England in January. In fact, these are some of the things I'm going to be writing about in part on this page.

Biases and Opinions

My biases are thus: I advocate a tremendous and immediate investment in renewable sources of energy like small hydropower plants; wind farms; and solar thermal plants and arrays. I advocate foremost conservation, as in reducing the amount of energy we consume and pollution we emit as individuals. In other words, falling back in love with your bike. Conservation is probably the easiest way, the low hanging fruit, with which the human race can deal with peak oil and emitting fewer greenhouse gases.

This page will not be one of those holier than thou tracts; I pollute and consume as much as anyone else (oh, maybe a little less, as I drive a hybrid car, keep food waste out of landfills and in a glorified garbage pile called “compost,” recycle like mad, use compact fluorescent bulbs, and ride my bike and walk a lot instead of drive). I have ridden a bike more for that great outdoors feeling and competition than as a driving substitute, but lately I've been trying to do more errands on my bike.

They Shoot Messengers Don't They?

In general, I'm for confronting problems, finding solutions, not fearing change, and taking some of the heat (no pun intended) off of the future generations that have to deal with the implications of our largesse. Thanks for reading to this point.