At least it seems there's no a-priori reason why energy consumption must necessarily increase as a function of economic growth.
Back a ways:
Clarification: Federalize the *transmission infrastructure*, not the "grid" including generation.
Transmission is a right-of-way, therefore should be publicly owned as with roads. Same case for rails. Public ownership of the right-of-way preserves the potential for competition among carriers using the right-of-way.
One of the reasons long-distance trucking has gained popularity over rail shipping for certain classes of freight, is because trucking firms can compete whereas railroads tend toward monopoly on their rights-of-way. As fuel costs are a significant part of transport costs, competing carriers on a public right of way will lead to greater fuel efficiency via a market mechanism.
Federalizing the electricity transmission infrastructure and rail rights of way is the minimum government intervention needed to enable a significant increase in competitive market-driven activity here.
Re. taxation of marijuana:
Pragmatically, we're going to have industrial hemp for biodiesel production and fiber to replace wood pulp; and it's very difficult to do that while simultaneously forbidding smoking of the leafy byproduct:-). Also, in terms of dollars, cannabis is the #1 agricultural product of California, British Columbia, and other primary centers of production. So the tax revenue potential is enormous, even if only a minority of the population smokes it.
Here's another intentional byproduct of the policy: Alcohol intoxication tends to increase violent behavior; cannabis intoxication tends to reduce it. Stressful times lead to an increase in the consumption of intoxicants generally; however, attempting to suppress drug use entirely is a losing battle that just creates enormous crime syndicates. To the extent that cannabis replaces alcohol, there will be a reduction of random violent behavior.
Last but not least, adverse effects of smoking anything can be offset via another tax component that pays for health care for those who smoke the product. All of the political wrangling over tobacco should be handled similarly: high tax on cigarettes to cover the high health risk; lower tax on cigars and pipe tobacco since their risk factors are minimal. The tax covers the health care costs; the problem solves itself without once again putting big government in your living room.
Some countries may not need standing armies; they can either sign on as allies of larger neighbors or find other solutions e.g. the Swiss militia system. However the US and certain of our allies, are in a unique position of having to be the world's "emergency services provider," including intervening in regional conflicts and dealing with natural disasters. A modern military organization is needed for these purposes.
Also the practical facts right now are that we are under attack from extremist barbarians with modern weapons, and we need a strong and nimble defense infrastructure to fight those aggressors wherever they may be coming from. For example, despite the controversy about Iraq, there was global consensus that action was needed to take out the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Credible conventional forces are a necessary component of an overall deterrence strategy. There needs to be an intermediate step between diplomatic & economic means on one hand, and the nuclear deterrent on the other. The ideal case from the military's own point of view is to have sufficient conventional strength as to never need to actually go to war, i.e. by successfully deterring any possible aggressor.
And last but not least, there is always the possibility that at some point in the future, some nation may attempt to attack us or our allies. For example China in response to its own resource crises: North America is a huge continent with a relatively limited population and relatively extensive resources. This could be a very tempting target. Start the attack in Canada and work southward. Even though Canada's army is superb in terms of quality, it is relatively small in size. I can think of more than a few ways by which an adversary nation could achieve the surprise and tactical advantage needed to make a full-scale invasion feasible. (In fact I think we need to *strengthen* our coastal defenses including re-establishing military bases where they were previously closed, but that's another item for another day.)
These use less energy than airliners, though more than ships or dirigibles. They are intended as an intermediate technology, faster than ships or dirigibles, slower than jet airliners, which will naturally tend to reduce the reliance on jet air transportation. Also another natural diversification for the airlines and shipping industry.
Is hardly as extreme as other methods including the absence of a method. Again, I'm looking for methods that involve the minimal degree of government regulatory intervention and enable the maximum of market-driven solutions. Rationing will automatically lead to more effient vehicles, carpooling, etc. Also it is a "direct" solution, rather than an "indirect" solution: instead of taking other steps and "hoping" that they will reduce consumption to a target level, we just do it directly and eliminate the guesswork.
Good point, Matt. This area is outside of my expertise so I'll be interested in your proposals. Say more about Catherine Austin Fitts; I vaguely recall hearing somthing about her a year or two ago.
Thanks (blush:-). Re. congress: I'm assuming that whatever public opinion got me elected would have also gotten a sympathetic Congress elected. And I *did* say "emergency authority," and much of what I'm proposing could be accomplished by executive order.
Re. licho, growth:
For example, getting the airlines to diversify into rail operations and ocean hovercraft, will overcome contraction of air travel. There is less overall entropy from having existing corporations morph into new fields, than from having them go bankrupt and waiting for new corporations to form in the new fields of business. This is part of why I want to Federalize ownership of rail rights-of-way: simplify the transition for the airlines, which already have expertise in passenger transport and in the relevant security measures. This will also ultimately lead to the privatization of Amtrak, or its parsing-out to other private entities.
Aaron's point about growth:
However, the economic growth in the past also occurred at a time of cheap energy, and we do not have an empirical basis to say that the correlation was due to a causal relationship. We have not yet explored the territory of what is possible when energy shortage is not acute but chronic. In fact there is reason to believe, e.g. Licho's posts about Eastern Europe, that an economy that is oriented toward the accumulation of industrial capital (capital goods and plant, not financial capital) rather than consumer goods, can be built in the context of decreasing per capita energy consumption. Frivolous consumption is what takes up the difference in capitalist economies. We can consider those days to be on their way to being over.
Barbara's item about the hardware that goes with the software:
But new computer technology has a lower unit energy consumption level. Today's computers with flatscreen monitors consume far less power than the predecessors with CRT monitors. For example 60 watts compared to 350 watts. Power consumption for printers has also dropped significantly.
In the telephony industry, today we have digital PBX phones with power consumption level of 1/16 what it was for their predecessors five to seven years ago. One sixteenth! I can provide a digital PBX system sufficient to serve 20 houses in a small sustainable village, that runs on a power supply that's no different than the one that runs your laptop computer. I routinely install systems that serve offices of up to 100 people but the power consumption is less than one desktop computer. Seriously.
What's needed in the computer industry, and other consumer and commercial electronics & appliances industries, is for hardware to be recyclable by the manufacturer. In the telephone utilities (Bell System and GTE in the USA, GPO Telephones in the UK, etc.) before deregulation, all telephone equipment including outside cable and central switching facilities, was designed to be repaired indefinitely, often attaining over 40 years in service. Then if something was damaged to the point where it couldn't be repaired, it could be rendered down into raw materials for making more new equipment. This was the most complete closed-cycle industrial system in history, and it worked superbly for about 100 years. There is no reason -from an engineering standpoint- that it couldn't be brought back and applied to other industries.