An inconvenient talk: An article in Walrus Magazine on the end of the fossil fuel age has finally convinced me that policy analysts need to include low-energy scenarios into all our planning. Our entire way of life is based on essentially free energy. According to Thomas Homer Dixon’s Carbon Shift, “oil and coal are such rich energy sources (for example, 3 tablespoons of gasoline is the equivalent energy of an entire human’s day of labour) that it’s hard to replace them ‘one for one’ with renewable energy sources, at least using conventional technologies” (from an article in SpeakUp Winnipeg describing how radical energy reductions might affect Canadian cities).
Appropriate social policy responses, as far as I can see, will be to develop systems and services that will be resilient in the face of decreased energy consumption. In other words, when we design social responses to poverty, ill health, etc., we need to consider how feasible they will be given two or three reasonable scenarios for the next 20 years. That would include the necessity of educational systems that are based around neighbourhoods within walking distance, increased use of online communication to replace travel, etc. Depending on the severity of the scenarios we may need to use railways for food delivery in urban areas, supplemented by urban agriculture, and build community services around those activities.