[Paleopsych] FYI re $3/gallon and rising

Paul J. Werbos, Dr. paul.werbos at verizon.net
Tue Mar 29 23:05:42 UTC 2005

>Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 07:37:22 -0500
>To: support at abcnews.go.com <support at abcnews.go.com>
>From: "Paul J. Werbos, Dr." <paul.werbos at verizon.net>
>Cc: pwerbos at nsf.gov
>Re Ned Potter's story on "an unlikely coalition" on ABCNews last night --
>GREAT start, but you missed half the story.
>You mentioned an "unlikely coalition," but you missed half
>the coalition. Since I have been coordinating the other half, de facto,
>I hope you'd be interested in the other half. You interviewed
>the neoconservative hawk half in depth, but the technology and environment 
>is what makes it all real.
>Suppose you were reporting to a hungry man in front of you.
>The full story is: "You are about to starve to death, but there is food on
>the table right behind you." To avoid imposing too many words on the poor
>fellow, someone shortens your story to: "You are about to starve to death."
>If no one reports the second half, he will die. But the "he" who is about 
>to starve
>is you and me and people in general.
>The neoconservatives you cite are being coordinated by IAGS, 
>They have done great work in waking people up to negative trends which
>add up to something ten times as big as the Iraq War, current nuclear 
>proliferation and $3/gallon
>all combined.  But they have only just
>begun to talk about how we can actually SOLVE the problem realistically.
>Thus it is not surprising that your consultant, seeing only half the 
>story, ended
>up saying "we really can't do much here and now." That WAS true. It IS no 
>longer true.
>There are new technologies and new information which the lawyers and 
>social scientists generally
>do not know about.
>To explain the full story, the "whole" coalition -- friends of IAGS (like 
>environmentalists (NRDC) and TECHNOLOGY PEOPLE
>(IEEE, the world's largest professional society, 300,000 engineers,
>and related groups) -- organized a joint briefing on March 17
>at the Rayburn Building. Press was invited -- but that day there was
>more interest in drug use in baseball,
>feeding tubes for corpses and Michael Jackson's sexual behavior ...
>When people are desperate, I guess they like to escape from reality a bit ..
>but it's really a shame that  there couldn't be coverage of a new
>strategy to actually solve the problem. I was VERY thrilled that you have 
>to address these concerns... but the payoff only comes if you look at the 
>other half.
>In fact -- there IS a way we could reduce oil dependency as much as IAGS 
>(a factor of three or so in 20-40 years), AND ALSO reduce carbon dioxide 
>emissions by
>a similar amount -- enough to possibly prevent the melting of the Arctic 
>Ice Cap -- without
>reducing economic growth one bit. (And no, it's not a matter of just 
>throwing $300 billion
>mindlessly into a coalition of pigs at the trough.) A FEW elements of that 
>strategy are in the
>"Setting America Free" document at <http://www.iags.org>www.iags.org. But, 
>as your consultant observed,
>those elements are incomplete. For a more complete grand strategy, see:
>Some key elements behind the strategy:
>Economists ALONE and engineers ALONE would have no hope of charting a 
>viable course through
>these complex waters. It requires a kind of crossdisciplinary effort, 
>grounded in understanding of the
>nuts-and-bolts technical realities, able to see past the biased technology 
>advocates of all stripes,
>but also grounded in economics. That's why no one has really seen a viable 
>strategy here before --
>until the leading experts in ENGINEERING linked up to expertise in energy 
>Barriers to communication between engineers (reality?) and social science 
>(lawyers, policy types)
>have been a growing problem in the US lately. Interviews with Nobel Prize 
>Winners (who typically know
>more about DNA than about cars and electricity) do not solve the problem, 
>though Rick Smalley has helped a bit
>at times.
>Even the brightest people can get nowhere -- spin in useless circles like 
>a dog chasing its own tail --
>if they ask the wrong question. Lots of people have focused all their 
>energy on the quesion: "What can we
>do that gets used here and now, with technology and options that are 100 
>percent proven?"
>Asking that question only leads to stuff like endless time debating 
>drilling in Anwar, the Kyoto treaty,
>the bulk of the current energy bill -- all of which adds up to maybe 15% 
>of the problem, NOT ENOUGH
>TO GET US OUT OF THE HOLE. Lots of energy and thought, but no solution. 
>Wrong question.
>Other people have asked: "How can we visualize the utterly perfect 
>CO2-free world of the future,
>devoid of all the dirt and grime of today?" Thus we get the purest version 
>of the hydrogen economy,
>with cars carrying hydrogen in liquid form or in cryogenic tanks, with 
>righteous displays of
>concern about someday making it real but not any kind of realistic 
>near-term schedule
>(and no prospect of one).
>We and IAGS have worked hard to ask a different QUESTION: "What could we 
>do to minimize
>the expected waiting time between now and the time when we cut oil
>dependency (or CO2 emissoins) by a factor of three or four?"
>That's the question we need to ask, if we want to get large enough results 
>before the problems
>all kill us. And it does have an answer!!!!
>And folks -- "kill us" is not an exaggeration. If nuclear proliferation 
>multiplies more than ten-fold
>in places like the Middle East, and competition for the last remaining oil 
>ten-fold -- well, let's just say that my role here was motivated by some 
>very realistic geopolitical scenario
>work I saw in the summer of 2003. We need to take the time to try to stay 
>alive, here,
>and get the job done. Going through the motions would not be enough to 
>save us.
>I do hope you can help provide the missing necessary links in this chain.
>Best of luck,
>Dr. Paul J. Werbos
>P.S. As it says on the slides at
>these are my own personal views and not the official views of my employer,
>the US National Science Foundation. But I did my best to vet the slides
>for accuracy, by asking for feedback from a WHOLE lot of people
>before giving the talk at Rayburn. There is a World Bank URL
>on solar thermal farms which I found out out about late, which I'd like to ad,
>but it doesn't change the basic story.
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