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Javaman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 08:15 AM
Original message
Peak oil and the poor...
You know, as I read the various posts here on DU regarding peak oil, environmental issues caused by global warming, shortages of fuel, the conversion of corn into ethanol and how we are to get our food when oil does skyrocket in price, I think about the poor in our society. What becomes of them?

It's nice to say, "I'll just get a hybrid" or "I'll just buy my food now from a local organic grower" or "I'll convert my home into a more energy efficient type" or something as simple as "changing all my light bulbs to florescent", but the reality is: all of which I mentioned above is beyond the reach of the poor in this country.

I look at photos and video from various third world nations, Mexico, Nigeria, Bangladesh, you get the idea, and I think, what will happen to them? Then I ponder the poor in our own nation. Think of that one part of your city, that certain section that no one goes into after dark, those "questionable" neighborhoods. What will happen to them?

They certainly can not afford any of the things I have mentioned above. If any of you are poor or know someone who is poor, then you have a very intimate idea of what the face of poverty is like in this country.

Think one moment of that single mom with two kids that depends on a crappy car, and prays every day that it doesn't break down and how she stretches the food bill each month to feed her two kids and nothing for herself. Think about that job she works at, the one that is barely above minimum wage.

Now, with all that in mind, now add into the mix, gas prices going up. That strict budget she has maintained for the basics of survival, will now be cut into because of the rise in fuel. Well, you ask, why doesn't she just take the bus? Exactly, why doesn't she? Because like most cities in this country, public transportation is grossly underfunded in the inner city. Bus routes that once served huge communities and depended upon them as their life blood to the outside world, have been cut for budgetary reasons.

With the price of gas going up, so will the cost to transport food. How will she feed her kids? How much less will she eat, so her kids can live?

We as a nation are facing a truly gigantic problem of unbelievable, inconceivable epic proportions. We have completely failed the poor in this nation. What happened to that war on poverty? What happened to the outrage in this country after Katrina showed us how we as a nation choose to look the other way on the reality of poverty in this country?
Damn it, what has happened to us as a nation?

Now, once again, think of those images of those third world countries with the poor living in garbage dumps, with houses made from case off pieces of wood, that steal electricity in a haphazard dangerous fashions, that light fires in their tinderbox "homes" to cook their meals.

What happens here if a gallon of gas rises to 5 dollars due to some fucked up middle eastern pissing match between two nations that need to grow the fuck up, how is that person, these people, countrymen, going to survive?

We live in a nation that provides billions of dollars to a defense industry to take over nations based on lies, yet that same nation cuts back on what very little it had provided to the poor.

We are facing something that not one of us can possibly define. People write how we have to change our neighborhoods to fit this new utopia of a oil free world. How we have to work in various community based organizations to survive the oncoming peak.

That crap just looks damn lovely on paper, but let me tell you something very simply, try telling that to the people of say, of south central L.A. or some of the truly impoverished areas along the Mexican border or the rundown areas in the Bronx or the poor neighborhoods of Detroit, they will look at you as if you were crazy. They already live a life of survival from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour.

The various idyllic options that are presented on here and other websites about how we have to confront peak oil are based in a fantasy. We would all love to have these fuel saving, energy saving, local food opportunities open to everyone. I think at the base of it all, everyone wants to save the earth, improve their lives and eat better, but that just doesn't exist for a huge portion of todays society.

Many of these folks, live their entire lives without even seeing a life beyond their city street.

Katrina showed us in an in your face way, that the level of poverty in this nation is blinding. When people in New Orleans didn't leave their homes because they didn't have the means, aka 1)a bus 2)an available car 3)or the financial means, something is truly screwed up in the system by which we help the poor.

Given this, how, as a nation, are we to expect that they will do what needs to be done to help defeat global warming or reduce their energy needs?

When they are just trying to survive.
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Virginia Dare Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 08:16 AM
Response to Original message
1. Pretty frightening...
considering, we're just one disaster, be it natural or otherwise, away from throwing possibly millions more Americans into poverty.
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lectrobyte Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 08:26 AM
Response to Original message
2. You raise an interesting point. I'm convinced we're headed towards
a 3rd world type of society: a large and growing "underclass", a very small middle class of doctors, lawyers, necessary technical types, and the uber-rich. With no manufacturing base, and economic turmoil from peak oil, and the inherited debt from this bunch of clowns, there may not be money available to really do anything.
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 08:29 AM
Response to Original message
3. Well, there are no magic bullet solutions
However we needn't throw up our hands and say that because the poor won't be able to cope, then we need to shut up about "pie in the sky" solutions. That's wrong.

We who can afford to reduce consumption through changes in our personal lives should go ahead and do so. The middle class and the upper class, the ones who can afford to do so, make up the vast majority of our population. If we reduce OUR energy use, then there will be more available for the poor. And following the law of supply and demand, if we reduce our demand, prices will be cheaper for everybody, including the poor.

In addition there are steps that the poor can take that are cheap and can help out greatly. Bicycles are cheap transportation, both the initial purchase and the upkeep. Hell when I was poor that is how I got around. And yes, one can transport food with them.

Start a garden, even if it is in pots on the fire escape. Every bit of food you grow is less that you have to buy.

Insulation is cheap, and one can rig up panels in order to keep out the heat and sunlight during the summer months, while allowing it in during the winter.

No, of course the poor can't do everything that the middle and upper classes can. But everybody can do SOMETHING. So go out and do according to your means, and it will result in reduced demand and reduced prices for all.
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silverlib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 09:26 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. A question...
did yo mean "The middle class and the upper class, the ones who can afford to do so, make up the vast majority of our population?"
or did you mean "the middle class and the upper class, the ones who can afford to do so, make up the vast of majority of greed and overconsumption or our resources?"

Yes, those who can afford to do so, should spend the time, money, and effort to conserve, everyone to their greatest potential. The greatest potential is in the hands of the wealthiest - the corporations and the CEO's. Each should give protection to the environment according to their ability. It falls within God's tax plan. "To whom much is given, much is expected."
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 09:38 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. Sorry for the confusion
What I meant was that the middle and upper classes, who are the vast majority in this country, are the ones who can afford to make changes to reduce their energy consumption, and that they should do so.

Sadly though, I think that the burden of changing energy consumption is going to fall on the middle class, and that they will do so out of neccesity. The upper class won't be hit hard by rising energy prices, and thus they will continue to drive their Hummers. However the middle class will feel the pinch on their wallet, and thus having the means to afford to change their energy consumption habits, will do so. This is all well and good, since the majority of the population in this country is considered middle class. This reduction in energy demand will lower the prices for the poor, thus easing the strain on them.

As an example, take myself. Much to my suprise, after years of being poor, I find myself back in the middle class again. And due to both foresight on my part, and the pinch in the wallet, I'm making changes to reduce my energy consumption. I've bought a little Bajaj scooter that gets 100mpg while cruising at 55-60mph. This eases the shock at the gas pump, especially since I have a fifty two mile round trip commute each day. In addition, I'm growing my own food, or buying it from my livestock raising neighbors. I will also be putting in a woodstove this fall, and if all goes well, a windturbine next spring. Now then, most urban residents aren't exactly far-sighted, but they do feel the wallet pinch as much as I do. Thus we see them slowly but surely turning in their SUVs for hybrids, adding solar panels to their roofs, installing wood heat, and some are even starting gardens in their back yards. This and more should be encouraged, because like I said, if this the largest population segment reduces their consumption of energy, the beneficial ripples throughout society will help everybody.

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conflictgirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 02:06 PM
Response to Reply #8
11. The middle and upper classes are NOT the majority in this country
And it's becoming more that way as time goes on.
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WePurrsevere Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 09:29 AM
Response to Original message
5. Excellent points but I'd add in the rising costs of heating one's home. We
just got an offer from the local home heating fuel company. If we are credit approved (HA!) we can lock in the "low" price of heating oil at $2.94 a gal for the Winter. Last Winter was the most difficult I've ever lived through... this Winter scares the hell out of both of us and we're working as fast as we can, with what little we have to insulate the house better.

The only way my DD and her SO survived last Winter was with the help of HEAP and keeping the thermostat turned way down. This year they are even more worried between the gov budget cut backs and now they have a baby.

We went into the local hardware store and the owner, who has been in business there for about 40 or 50 yrs, was telling my husband how he and many others he's spoken with are very worried about making it through this Winter after barely getting through this last one (and it was actually relatively mild compared to "normal"). Many up here don't have the extra money or "credit" to put into heating their homes or insulating them further.

As oil for gas and heating homes/businesses increases so will the price of food. Unfortunately the DAMN government doesn't count those prices into the COLA (and inflation) so those of us who are "lucky" enough to get COLA increases will get less then we truly need to make ends meet... but OTOH there are many who are a lot worse off then we are. At least we have a somewhat steady income for now. Well... at least until the CONs get their way and destroy Social Security for Seniors and Disabled. :scared:
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zippy890 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 09:36 AM
Response to Original message
6. most low income people rely on some govt help
in the form of housing subsidies, fuel assistance programs, food stamps.
all of which have been reduced by this federal govt.

its tough times now for the poor in this country, really tough. as you mention, katrina disaster showed people. but I see it every day in my job at a public housing agency. things are bad and getting worse, lots of desperate families and people with no place to go and no prospects of bettering their life.

good post - thanks for bringing this up. I see people suffering everyday and I can't help them like I used to in my job because of cutbacks federal and state level.

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The Cleaner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 09:37 AM
Response to Original message
7. It's their fault they are poor (sarcasm alert)
They need to get a life those lazy bums, get up off their butts and get a job. This is America, we don't need a bunch of ingrates - whiners, ungrateful INGRATES. Why don't they have a job? Because they're sucking the teats of big government. They feel the government owes them. So let 'em die, let 'em drown - it's a good thing, maybe we can clean things up a bit. "Those people" put themselves in a hellhole anyway, the idiots.

With Love and a Caring Heart,
Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and the Compassionate Conservative Right
:sarcasm: :sarcasm:
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Strelnikov_ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 10:40 AM
Response to Original message
9. Are You Saying 'Rationing By Price' Is Unfair? Its The 'Merican Way
by God!!

Prices increase, demand decreases and 'substitutes' become viable. Or so it goes.

Problem is, what happens when there is no viable short term substitute. What happens to price then?

As I have stated many times, the only fair solution to the problem we are facing is rationing. That is, a baseline ration of energy at an affordable rate (or as affordable rate as can be attained in a nation that imports 70% of it's oil). Unused baseline credits could be sold back in some form to avoid the 'Tragedy of the Commons'.

Any demand above this baseline would have to be purchased at market rates. Want to drive a Hummer? Rationing by price will apply.

Voluntarily reducing consumption by the middle class to leave more for the poor, as I and others in this thread are doing, will most likely just fall victim to 'Jevon's Paradox' or the 'Tragedy of the Commons', take your pick.

The disaster we are facing calls for both bottom up and top down solutions.

Following is a concept from England on how a rationing system could be implemented.

Miliband Unveils Carbon Swipe-Card Plan,,1824238,0...

Under the proposals, consumers would carry bank cards that record their personal carbon usage. Those who use more energy - with big cars and foreign holidays - would have to buy more carbon points, while those who consume less - those without cars, or people with solar power - would be able to sell their carbon points.

Mr Miliband denied suggestions that the scheme would penalise the poor, by, for example, forcing the elderly to turn off their central heating in winter to save carbon points. "The technical work that has been done so far suggests that poorer people would actually do well out of it," the minister told Channel 4 News at Noon. "It is not the poor who are the biggest emitters of carbon. It is not the poor who have the biggest cars or the biggest holidays or the most aeroplane flights or the most energy inefficient usage."

Under the scheme, all UK citizens from the Queen down would be allocated an identical annual carbon allowance, stored as points on an electronic card similar to Air Miles or supermarket loyalty cards. Points would be deducted at point of sale for every purchase of non-renewable energy. People who did not use their full allocation, such as families who do not own a car, would be able to sell their surplus carbon points into a central bank.

High energy users could then buy them - motorists who had used their allocation would still be able to buy petrol, with the carbon points drawn from the bank and the cost added to their fuel bills. To reduce total UK emissions, the overall number of points would shrink each year. "As a planet we are consuming three times the amount of resources that we have got," the environment secretary told Channel 4 News. "If you think about us as individuals - we are emitting about four tonnes of carbon every year and that's probably three times as much as we can afford; as a household on average 10 tonnes."

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Javaman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 12:18 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Rationing and conservation are the only ways out of our situation...
But try and convince the have-mores of that concept. there in lies the problem. Until a real plan is put in place and actually enforce with some teeth behind it.

We are left, by our gov't, to "hope for the best".

I weep for our future.
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