Reality Blind - Vol. 1

thousands) of steps – the many sub-processes of mining, manufacturing, processing, packaging, distribution, marketing, and final sale. Each link of this chain is connected by some sort of oil-based transportation. Our supply chains are no longer local, regional, or even national. When the Fukushima earthquake happened in Japan, Ford (in Detroit) had to stop producing black trucks because they needed a special black pigment only made in a plant in Fukushima. 193 Frankly most people would not be aware of any diminishment of their lifestyle if Ford had simply used a different paint, but the system could not be quickly altered. This specialized supply chain was created to increase corporate profits made possible by artificially low transportation costs. The recent coronavirus has laid bare the critical dependence the USA has on China for, among other things, N-95 masks and 95% of antibiotics - 85% of precursor ingredients to all prescription drugs are made in China. Similarly, we have reached an extreme with food. Because of the refrigeration of containers, we now ship fruits, vegetables, and other perishables across oceans at energy-guzzling speeds to arrive before they wilt. Our entire world has become a complex web using what was, initially, the least-costly ways to source, create, and transport goods. We buy these goods because they are cheaper than locally produced goods, which are offered as high-priced specialty items. This is the exact opposite of the past when the price of goods reflected the time and effort needed to transport them or, in the case of perishables, one had to travel in order to taste different regional or seasonal foods. When we consider the future options for our economies and environment, most attention is focused on how to supply “renewable” energy to our existing systems, “dropping it in” as a direct electrical substitute for the liquid fuels we now use. We spend less time considering how we actually use energy, how to develop workable substitutes for complex production processes, and how to restructure supply chains. In the pursuit of efficiency and lowest cost, we have dramatically increased risk. Given the magnitude, vertical and horizontal, of global industry, and the current requirement for liquid fuels at every step, it probably makes more sense to shorten these complex global supply chains than to simply decarbonize them. And ultimately, we’ll probably need to do both. TaaL: You’ve read in earlier sections that for every calorie of food energy which comes from the sun, you’re now requiring an order of magnitude more calories by the time that food gets to your mouth. The diagram above illustrates what’s meant by that. Corn flakes are, from growth to delivery,


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