It’s time to work together for energy solutions |

It’s time to work together for energy solutions

News recently emerged that gasoline is expected to be $7 a gallon in two years, according to CIBC World Markets. And Robert Hirsch, who authored a key report for the U.S. government in 2005, said that we are headed for $500 a barrel oil within five years (that’s $16 a gallon for gas).

Now that we’ve all had a chance to fill up at $4.60 a gallon, one would expect that local governments would make it a high priority to ensure that we have a plan to keep the county functional in the face of sky-high energy prices and future shortages.

Well, not just yet. Aside from some commendable energy conservation and fuel-saving measures, there is no overall plan. Our well-meaning and hard-working officials may be waiting to see how much public interest there is in making energy preparedness a higher priority. If the public demands action, it will make the risk of inaction greater than the risk of leadership for these officials, who are in a difficult position, to be sure.

APPLE (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy) is offering to help local governments form an Energy Solutions Task Force – at no cost to taxpayers – to assess vulnerabilities and prioritize actions. (For those who don’t know yet, APPLE is a local nonpartisan group with a mission to prepare residents for reduced fossil-fuel inputs and to help strengthen our local economy.)

We are “energy conservatives” and “resource conservatives.” Energy conservation is no longer a “fringe” activity or lifestyle choice, but increasingly an economic necessity for local families.

What do these projected gasoline prices of $7 to $16 per gallon mean for us? Beyond the obvious stress on our family budgets, it means a likely collapse of tourism-based economies and increased costs for everything that is trucked in – everything not grown or produced here.

Because of this liquid fuels crisis, we will have to produce locally what we use locally as much as humanly possible. More farms and community gardens will be extremely important in the years ahead.

APPLE has been talking about this for three years now and recently brought author and oil expert Richard Heinberg to town to speak. Over 350 people turned out to hear him and for those who missed it, here is his message: We are at or very near the highest oil extraction rate we will ever achieve, while global demand continues to rise. We need to prepare our communities now for a harsh transition from fossil-fuel based lifestyles to a variety of workable alternatives. Science, statistics and many other experts in the field back him up.

Heinberg also said that rationing of gasoline or diesel in the United States would likely begin by 2012, and if Iran is attacked militarily, much sooner than that.

We have to do whatever is possible to make communities like ours more resilient (economically and otherwise) in the face of much higher energy prices. He suggested that we take this traumatic information and convert it into life-affirming action.

His presentation was interrupted by applause several times, especially when he mentioned the need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. He pointed out that we could double our gas mileage by simply adding one passenger. He also talked about the importance of getting local rail access and the need to teach more people farming skills to increase local food production.

As it turned out, even with high gas prices making headlines, only three out of the 39 local government officials who were invited and offered free tickets – council people, supervisors, planners, etc. – showed up to hear Heinberg speak. So we urge you to contact your city and county representatives by phone or mail to tell them that you’d like them to support the formation of an Energy Solutions Task Force which would include city and county managers, business people, emergency services providers and representatives from community groups. This is not something radical; a number of other cities and counties have already taken this step.

Change is coming – in fact, it is already here – and we have to face it squarely and stay ahead of the curve. Otherwise, we may wake up in a couple of years to see $10 gas and find ourselves with no coherent plan to deal with it.

Tem Tarriktar is a Nevada County resident and a volunteer with APPLE. Contact APPLE at or visit

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