November 11, 2008

The Overall Idea

This blog consists of notes toward the better understanding of our energy predicament. No easy depiction of that predicament is possible. Rather, there are a set of interlocking problems, including:

--climate change and other environmental costs of energy use and production;

--peak oil and other potential constraints on the use of natural resources;

--nuclear power, with its promises of abundance and specters of catastrophe;

--food and water crises (both of them closely linked to the availability of energy);

--financial markets that are necessary but volatile, sometimes dysfunctional; and

--grand strategy or geopolitics, where the emphasis is on the relationship of energy production to military power and realpolitik.

At the intersection where people worry and argue about these things, one finds a great deal of contention, a fascinating hodgepodge of irreconcilable nostrums and clashing empiricisms. My main purpose is to help readers better understand these fields of contention, both in their own right and in the relationship they bear to one another.

Though I set forth an argument here and there, I am impressed by how much I do not know about these things, as also by how much we cannot know. I sometimes think darkly of the blog as notes towards a book that I would be incompetent to write, alarming stuff I'm reading that I do not truly comprehend, an excursion into fields (all the natural sciences) for which my professional background is seriously wanting, but which seem to hold a vital key to the human prospect.

Take solace in one thing: the issues are sufficiently difficult that no one can pretend to expertise in all of them, or even most. That is, we all face the difficulty, in one form or another, of making judgments about things that we couldn't begin to evaluate as a true expert would. What seems, at first, a source of terror and inadequacy should also be a source of consolation, for nearly all the experts, taken out of their regular habitat, face the same difficulty themselves. And that is the nature of this energy problem: it has no one habitat. It is all over the place in its predicaments and devil's bargains.


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