The American Way of Life is both envied and emulated by countries around the World. Our ability to adapt energy assisted technology has provided an automated, improved lifestyle that has become the standard for the world. Every element in our Way of Life uses a once cheap and abundant fuel, primarily oil.
Initially, the oil industry had to create inducements for its use and consumption. They had a product with a supply that was considered infinite. Large oil fields were found all over the world. Therefore, their pathway to infinite wealth was merely to increase demand. They created the automotive industry, both cars and trucks, to consume their product. They promoted a new Way of Life that was expansive (urban sprawl=suburbs) so that fuel consumption had an inelastic demand. During the 20th century more and more technologies were built on the one time use of carbon-based energy such as plastics, fertilizers and even synthetic rubber. Food is now a derivative of this carbon-based energy.
Unfortunately, this dependant use of oil or coal has resulted in a complex society approaching a dead end. The days of cheap and abundant oil have disappeared. Our thoughts that oil supplies are infinite were incorrect. There have been few new discoveries of major oil fields in the last 20 years. Worldwide demand is increasing by 10% each year, while supplies are dwindling. The American Economic Engine cannot survive without subsidized energy prices. This is creating a crisis scenario especially if a viable alternative portable energy source is not substituted soon.
Coal is still the cheapest form of energy available, but it is also the greatest air pollutant. The energy industry has not been willing to bear the cost of purifying coal burning to produce energy. The excessive use of carbon-based energy without concern for immediate reclamation of gases has resulted in contamination of the atmosphere. This action has been exacerbated by increased quantity of users and the intensity of that use. In other words the volume of contamination has increased exponentially not linearly.
The solution to most of the problems in the American Way of Life is to Re-Invent our Civilization. Most U.S. cities are old and dilapidated. Our cities are neither energy-efficient nor progressive. The infra-structure (roads, bridges, water, sewer, solid waste and electric) that allows these cities to function is crumbling. They were neither designed for the longevity or the magnitude of what they are being required to perform. Rather than seeking remedies to repair a dubious system, we propose a redesign into a much simpler design. A modern technological city operating on 15% of current U.S. per capita energy consumption; in so doing we would concurrently solve most of the environmental and economic problems facing us now.
Joseph Tainter in his book “Collapse of Complex Societies” has the best explanation for collapse (economic) and proceeds to develop a hypothesis to explain why complex societies might suddenly shift from a more complex to a less complex state. His thesis can be concisely stated: increasing complexity gives rise to diminishing marginal returns on investment; when those returns become negative, the society has a progressively diminishing capacity to withstand stress, and is vulnerable to collapse. A more efficient, less complex state is equivalent to multiple technology infusions which will catalyze upward economic mobility.
We are creating the City of the Future, the City of Today; a city that is built to withstand Nature’s changes while being efficient and progressive: The Ideal City.