Sunday, October 28, 2007

State Budgets, Energy, and Climate Change

Joseph Romm over at Climate Progress has thanked me for nominating him for the Thinking Blogger Award and at the same time demonstrated in a couple of ways why, as clued in as the really good climate bloggers are (and his list of Thinkers essentially tells you who they are), they are still only using a small portion of their gray matter on the subject they're experts on. And, yes, that will have a big impact on corrections sentencing.

Note that Romm admits that he's never heard of me, but he does kindly link while acknowledging that our field isn't his "forte." Okay, no problem there. We who congregate here all know how weird we are. But the problem, his problem though he doesn't realize it, is that we will do our very best to clog up anything he wants to do to deal with his forte, just as he and his colleagues and their plans for a different climate future will clog up ours.

Here's a nice example of what I'm talking about, and something we need to be prepared for in corr sent. He has a post up responding to one of the most dire projections for our future out there today (to this particular author, the glass isn't even half empty, the glass is cracked and holes in it and will burn you if you touch it):

James Kuntsler, for instance, argues in his 2005 book The Long Emergency (see Rolling Stone excerpt here), that, after oil production peaks, suburbia “will become untenable” and “we will have to say farewell to easy motoring.” In Rolling Stone, Kuntsler writes “Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world” [No — that distinction probably belongs to China’s torrid love-affair with coal power].

But suppose Kuntsler is right about peak oil. Suppose oil hits $160 a barrel and gasoline goes to $5 dollars a gallon in, say, 2015. That price would still be lower than many Europeans pay today. You could just go out and buy the best hybrid and cut your fuel bill in half, back to current levels. Hardly the end of suburbia.

And suppose oil hit $280 a barrel and gasoline rose to $8 dollars a gallon in 2025. You would replace your hybrid with a plug-in hybrid, and those trips less than 30 miles that have made suburbia what it is today would actually cut your fuel bill by a factor of more than 10–even if all the electricity were from zero-carbon sources like wind power–to far below what you are paying today. The extra cost of the vehicle would be paid for in fuel savings in well under five years.

Think about this. You could just go out and buy the best hybrid and cut your fuel bill in half, back to current levels? You would replace your hybrid with a plug-in hybrid? You got that kind of cash lying around, especially when the demand will push prices even higher than they are now? People will need help with those costs, or with retrofitting or with paying for alternative transport, and so on and so on and so on, and where will they turn? Can you say "government"? Now, imagine the choice between keeping people on the road (and yes, I do believe in telecommuting and at-home work, but that doesn't fit with our still prevalent 19th century management models) and funding more prisons. When we're choking over whether we should fund more now before all this hits. Which leads us to TECHNOCORRECTIONS and other options, but which will still cost money and still have failures that end up on the evening news, leading to demand for more prisons. And this isn't even close to the worst dislocation and dysfunction we'll be looking at.

I'm not really whacking Joseph Romm here. As I said, I admire his work. But it's seriously incomplete, as is the bulk of his colleagues' work. They are just looking at one part of a major implementation headache, not planning for what happens after their preferred options are chosen (sorta like the "planning" for the post-invasion Iraq). We need to be getting this done up front, which means branching out from our own fortes and finding out what other fortes are doing. Hopefully, he'll check in here every now and then and so will his readers. Hopefully, you'll check in with him and the blogs he's recommending. But at some point we'll need to start institutionalizing some cross-discipline planning, or we'll end up looking at this particular time and all the CAs and TXs and almost everyone else as a golden period in policymaking.

That should scare you enough to get you ready for Halloween.

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