Complacency

May 31, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

I’ve been following various articles in my local newspaper and local television “news,” looking for some recognition of the seriousness of the problem with soaring energy prices. This problem is entirely predictable by reference to the simple economic relationship between supply and demand. We’ve got a finite diminishing supply of cheap energy sources on this planet coupled with skyrocketing demand. Most of us refuse, however, to acknowledge that energy prices will keep spiraling up as long as humans keep behaving the way they are behaving.

The energy crisis really has a very simple explanation–it is a basic problem with demand outstripping supply. This is also a problem with no easy solution, at least under the alleged leadership of the Bush administration. This is an Administration that doesn’t have the honesty to suggest that the citizens should cut back energy usage by carpooling or that homebuilders start thinking about building smaller, more energy-efficient homes closer to city centers. It is an administration that won’t take reasonable and necessary steps to ameliorate the current energy crisis, even though this crisis is affecting national security. If he wanted to, this president could lead America from the bully pulpit, but he won’t because he would rather look to be in control than be in control. Most politicians lack the honesty and courage to suggest that we all can and should immediately do such things such as caulk our houses, purchase energy-efficient furnaces, add insulation and otherwise make our homes more efficient so that we preserve our precious dwindling supply of oil. They could propose serious massive funding that could provide meaningful alternatives to burning oil. But our politicians and media outlooks won’t do this, because they lack the courage to tell the citizens that we are having a major league long-term energy crisis that will not just go away.

It’s not only our politicians who are failing in their leadership role. The media is too busy printing happy news, rather than telling us that substantial self-sacrifice lies ahead for Americans. Instead of giving overall meaningful context of the problem (which, admittedly, might cause a panic), my local newspaper offers only puff pieces–interviews with proprietors of local businesses (such as pizza parlors and flower shops) to see how they are getting along in spite of higher gas prices. The only “solutions” offered by my local newspaper is to drive a little less and presumably wait this thing out. Wait it out until something happens, something that will be done by someone. Never is there any indication about how serious this crisis is or that Americans do have it in their power to change things to lessen their future pain. Almost never is it suggested that we already have the knowledge to build new homes and businesses with tiny carbon footprints.

The cause of our energy problem is also found by looking in the mirror. I barely know any people who have voluntarily taken real steps to substantially reduce his or her use of energy, for instance, by bicycling or walking to work instead of driving. We don’t even take Earth Day seriously.

Americans have grown completely complacent. We are facing a dangerous energy crisis, yet very few people act as though there is anything they can do about it. Instead, we chant that the “free market” will save us, as though the “free market” is something with foresight and wisdom, and as though we can’t guide the free market.


Wolverton, Cagle Cartoons (Published with permission)

We are thus getting ever further into a dangerous energy crisis (one that is sending us into a long-term economic depression) most of what we hear that somebody, someday, will think of some new automobile or some new energy source. “They” will take care of us. In the meantime, we only need to surrender to the current circumstances. All we need to do is to hunker down and wait because things will eventually take care of themselves.

It’s like being with the people going down with with the Titanic. We’re standing around, complacently, listening to the band play and rearranging the deck chairs. Except that this need not be like the Titanic.

We’re acting complacently because everyone else is acting complacently. We can do someone about our predicament, if only we had honest and courageous leadership.

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Category: American Culture, Energy, Environment, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    I've heard a couple of useful proposals to help people understand their transportation fuel use.

    The simplest for people (and most invasive, conservatives argue) is to put an instantaneous fuel consumption indicator in all cars. That is, show the miles-per-gallon so a driver can watch it drop to 5 while accelerating, and rise to 99 when letting up on the gas. Any car with fuel injection has the sensors and computer to do this; it's a matter of letting the software be active on lower-end models.

    Another choice is to learn to think in dollars-per-mile. At 35mpg (my '98 Mazda), and $3.90/gallon (today's price), I spend $0.11/mile. At 20mpg (my '92 Volvo), it costs $0.20/mile. Guess which car gets the most use? The guzzler only gets driven when we need to be in different places (that are too far to bike) at the same time.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Am I exaggerating when I call it an energy "crisis"? Here's an article that points out that the increasing cost of energy is already forcing major changes onto many people. There's no reason to think that gas is going to top out at $4/gallon, either. This is the beginning of a new era.

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