Are Politicians Ready for This Line of Argument?

This is a guest post by Jason Bradford.

Willits CA has been getting a lot of attention in the peak oil sphere. Much of this attention is my fault. I moved here in 2004 with the goal of rallying a real town/city towards greater economic self-reliance, reduced pollution, etc. in order to get off the fossil fuel addiction.1 My attitude just before moving to Willits was similar to the fireman character in the movie I Heart Huckabees2, which I highly recommend ya'll see. This can be summed up as pissed off, fearful, and self righteous. Sometimes I still feel those ways. Right now in fact. Hence my "tone" throughout. I will probably ask for forgiveness later, something I am well practiced at.

Anyhow, this group formed called Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL) 3 and it certainly helped raise my spirits a bit. Surrounded by motivated, like-minded people, I feel like I am getting to work on solutions and speaking honestly and openly about the predicament we are in. Folks are paying attention.

But Willits is not some unified eco-sanctuary of relocalized economic harmonic convergence (though the press can make it seem so). This place has a history, and divisions. Including a gargantuan freeway project that is nearly ready to go.

Those of us I consider sane were hoping this project would die of its own immensity as the inflation rate exceeded 25% per year and the cost became so astronomical that of course everyone else on the planet would see things our way. In the meantime, we have undertaken a massive education process in Willits and throughout Mendocino County. There are groups similar to WELL in nearly all population centers of the county and in neighboring counties.4 Given the broader awareness of peak oil and climate change, wouldn't projects like this begin to appear as liabilities rather than assets? Would the madness end?

Apparently not.

California voters passed a series of humongous bonds, including one for billions towards freeway projects. Remember, this is the same state being looked at for leadership on environmental issues, including energy efficiency standards, subsidies for renewable energy technologies, and commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What do you think, is this a fantastic example of cognitive dissonance and mass delusion?5

So WELL was asked to take a position on the bypass. I drew upon the history of research from long-time activists in the area and received much constructive feedback to write this letter to our political decision makers and the relevant state agencies. There is a small window for the political process to work to avert this project. Either the local officials can say we no longer think this is a good idea, please give us a new option, or the state officials can say this costs too much and there are better options.

The leverage point at the state level is the California Transportation Commission, which would release funds for the project. If you live in CA and think a 5.6 mile, 4 lane freeway to handle about 7000 vehicles per day, covering 140 acres of ag land with 1.3 million cubic yards of fill costing about $260 million dollars, and rising, is a bad idea, let these folks know:
Contact CTC
1120 N Street
Room 2221 (MS-52)
Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: (916) 654-4245
FAX: (916) 653-2134

Perhaps argue that a little place like Willits really doesn't need such a big project and you'd rather they spend the money where you live!

Nearly all transportation alternatives around here, for which much planning has been done, are not funded. They are not funded because the bulk of discretionary funds given to Mendocino County by the State of California (STIP) are allocated to major freeway projects. Not just the Willits bypass, but next in line is the Hopland bypass.

I get a bit fired up about this because it makes me lose what little hope I have. If people can not take in new information and use that to reassess their plans and expectations then we are pretty much done for. As a scientist, I was trained to think critically and report to others what we know and don't know. Scientists are open to changing their minds based on evidence and I guess we assume that's how other people operate. If only it were that simple. But all I know how to do is keep trying.


  3. and an updated site
  4. See the hypercluster in northwestern CA:
Good luck Jason.  

I know exactly what you mean by "My attitude ... summed up as pissed off, fearful, and self righteous... and I'll probably ask for forgiveness later, something I am well practiced at."  Although I think I will be getting more practice at that forevermore (quote the raven).

Even our little Locales are full of roadblocks and like you describe, many eminate from the parasites we call state and federal gubermint, as well as well-entrenched business interests who are more concerned with getting their fat pay-check than the mess they leave behind or the mess we are already in up to our necks.

Too bad so many local authorities are like those of New Orleans - even when they are well aware of the problem before hann they abrogate the responsibility they were elected and/or paid for and hope for a Nipple from the fed or state AFTER the fact... titbabies.

At least you have a few like-minded individuals to work with locally.  Maybe an off-grid cabin in the deep woods is a good plan C...

blah blah blah, goverment (oh sorry gubermint) spending  blah blah blah titbabies blah blah blah

And then people make more demnads of the governments 'oh please stop the evil over there!'  

The public pool of funds for public projects is not unlimited.   Yet, some people who decry public spending with words like 'titbabies' are the 1st to want THEIR pet project 'taken care of'      
(some debate there should be no public pool anyway)

When one asks for something to be done, its amazing how many times the follow up questions like how it will be paid for arn't asked.  Or asking for open records and a willingness to question who's getting paid how much for what they are doing.

and mass delusion?5

Hey wait a minute...I thought I was the only one.  
You mean to tell me there are more out there who think they can have thier cake and eat it too?  Pay for projects?  Who me?  No way!  I vote for whoever supplies the biggest warmest titty I can get my mouth on.  Oh Dolly baby I'm yours.

More ignorant ranting about something you know nothing about.
The actual letter we sent is not included above.  Here it is:

I have had nobody deny any tidbit of truth in this letter, but quite a few have suggested it is not wise to fight this, suggesting that even polite discussion of the bypass gets you in trouble politically.  I am not convinced of this.  I think seasoned politicians will listen to people they don't agree with as long as they are honest, check their facts carefully, and don't act like a jerk.  In politics, everyone has a disagreement with someone, sometime, but people still have to work together.  

Given that construction is not scheduled to start until 2010 and finish till 2013, I actually don't think this will happen.  Of course this is based on my view of the economy, which is probably not generally shared. There's a chance it will get started and then run out of resources at some point, leaving us a terrific mess.

"and don't act like a jerk."

That is the hardest part - I have a hard time being patient and not acting like a jerk because of the lack of time and lack of local awareness of Peak Energy.

"Given that construction is not scheduled to start until 2010 and finish till 2013,"

If they are not planning on breaking ground on your project before 2010 I think you are right that it's not likely they will ever get it started.  But that's my doomer view and my timing may be off by a few years.

In my locale they want to build a frontage road across my and my neighbor's properties where they intersect a major regional highway.  My guess is like yours - we will run out of the resources (including tax revenues necessary) long before it gets off the ground or can be finished.  The momentum for the project is too great to stop it or refine it now.

My neighbors are upset by the planz.  I guess I don't mind.  The frontage road will be perfect for a "farmers market" stand on my property.  And hopefully The Highway will eventually become a good light-rail system (ala Alan from the bigeasy) and be good for my children's little business.

If traffic going through Willits is a problem, do whatever is necessary to have the traffic slow down.  Divert the funds to local bus transit, pedestrian walkaways, bicycle lanes. We have a bypass in my little town too, a two land built about 30 years ago. It was a bad idea then and is still a bad idea. Did nothing for the town and actually increased noise, pollution, irresponsible long distance commuting, and destroyed a lot of beautiful land, including wetlands.

While their at it, start to dismantle freeways in general throughout the country and replace them with long distance rail and dedicated buslanes for those lanes still standing.

Pass a citizen initiative that prevents all future freeway construction unless it is voted on and approved by a referendum by those so affected.  Provides that if  the referendum succeeds, 100% of the proposed funds must be allocated for other transporation and transportation related activities of the local community.  

A whole lot of work has been done on transporation alternatives locally, much of it funded by Caltrans.  But these don't have any capital behind them since the local government agency in charge of regional transporation dollars is giving nearly all of those to the bypass.  
* looks up Willits on Google Maps *
What the bleepity bleeping bleep do you need a freeway for!? I'm not going to write in, since I don't live anywhere near there, but it looks like a smallish town that could just be connected enough with the landscape to survive the downslope.

Good luck convincing the beurocrats, Jason. I'm listening to your MP3 with the Sasquatch right now.

"Willits is a city located in Mendocino County, California. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 5,073."

Here is discussion of the proposed bypass:

The problem, it appears, is that US 101 has one or more traffic lights on it as the highway passes through Willits, causing through traffic to mix with regional traffic and producing slowdowns. The proposed bypass would divert 101 around the town, which would be bad for Willits business but good for travellers who don't necessarily care to see the sights of beautiful downtown Willits.

You could take I5. Clearly, it's more a project for the state and to get tourists in and out of Northern CA than it is a benefit for the residents of Willits.

Yeah, I can see that it's hard to bring up an issue like PO to a politician, whose career is based on avoiding such unpleasantries. Kinda like farting at a dinner party or something. But many of us doomers are pretty sure that auto traffic will be less of a problem in 2 to 5 years, when gasoline is $10/gal or just not available at all...

Cloverdale (South of Willits) was ruined by their freeway bypass. Notice on the Google map how there's a railroad track running through town. It goes all the way South to Marin County and all the way North to Eureka.

Yet, it is unused, and only maintained with the ceaseless pleas from our Congressman.

As far as the California bond issue goes. I think California just signed the death warrant for spreading burbs.

Again I implore people interested in peak oil to investigate the cost of road building as oil prices increase and as technology leads to less of the lower grade products like asphalt. What this mean is that if you plot costs vs miles of roads the current bond issue will not produce anywhere near the roads that people think it will and thus it will not allow the sprawl to continue. Next even concrete is not immune but its tied to the price of coal and gas as these go up concrete goes up same for steel.


I suspect the cost of road construction will double about every two years as we pass peak oil combined with the other
economic effects this bond issue has basically bankrupted California and will never result in any growth.

Whats going to happen in CA. First the current economic recession will greatly reduce the amount of tax money available for paying on the bonds. Peak oil will ensue it extends basically forever or until the economy changes dramatically. So CA will default. Raising taxes won't work in a declining economy since it will simply drive more business and people out of the state.

I'm not sure what to do now since the state and voters have shot themselves in the head.

The only solution I can think of is if its possible to legally vote on the bond issue again and redirect the monies to electric rail and urban building. This may be possible and it would allow CA to save itself. I have my doubts.

I posted before that in order to expand suburbia again and keep the party rolling you needed a huge investment in infrastructure to support ever distant suburbs it looks like CA has chosen this route.

This in my opinion along with the current economic climate California the first place that suburbia will fail in a big way outside of Detroit. Detroit is of course failing but the underlying failing of the auto industry clouds the issue.

I hope that future historians correctly understand this event.

For the lack of a shoe ( Asphalt ... )

Kuntsler you should do a detailed review of whats going to happen to California. Your right about the death of suburbia but I think you miss that the cause is the price of Asphalt and to a lesser extent concrete.

The only way for Asphalt prices to double every 2 years is if the US motorist refuse to adapt to the Peak Oil crisis and keep driving themselves over the cliff.  Fortunately, the US can dramatically cut its oil use by using EVs, PEHVs and Light Rail.  And Asphalt production isn't exactly the creme of the crop so to speak of oil use.  A lot of it is recycled when the roads are repaved.  I for one don't see the price of Asphalt doubling every 2 years because of peak oil.
From what I've found in my digging, it looks feasible to make an asphalt-like substance by medium-temperature decomposition of biomass (heavy bio-oil).

There is going to be some price at which it pays to turn garbage, green waste, etc. into asphalt for paving and roofing.  Biomass to asphalt?  Of course; how do you think it was done the first time?

The problem is at what cost ?

And this would have to compete agianst ugrading the heavy oil using methane as a hydrogen source. Underlying the loss of asphalt is the fact its now cost effective to upgrade heavy organics and soon coal using hydrogen.

So it looks like sooner than later rural roads will degrade. The population along the road cannot afford to maintain it.
Property values along this now gravel road will plumment and so people will move closer in.

This movement of people into incorporated areas with a larger tax based will cut the throat of the county tax structure since you have in a sense a reverse tragedy of the commons taking place lets call it abandoning the commons. This leads to lower tax assesments in the county areas and somewhat higher tax base in the cities.

Sure at some point the density is high enough to cover the costs of roads but suburbia is dying in the process. And understand this inward migration is of people that have basically lost everything as their property devalued so they are not going to cause major increases in the tax base.

Finally I don't disagree that there are expensive choices, I just am pointing out that I think that suburbia is now toast. Local governments are the bottom feeders of the tax pyramid and they are the first that will be unable to handle the squeeze of higher road costs and collapsing economy.

Or course for the US the real problem is a lot of our wealth is tide up in these far flung rural mini farms and suburbs.

I think the recent  rise in the price of oil coupled with the housing bubble precipitated events its not just peak oil but the two together make suburbia no longer tenable.

And back to California and its bonds and road spending. California will eventually default and file bankruptcy. The state just made a huge mistake.

I thus think I understand how America will crumble.
Continued economic recession and rising road building costs will together cause crisis after crisis as increasingly larger government entities default on bonds and go bankrupt.

How many places can afford asphalt that's 5-10 times more expensive than today ?

Expensive asphalt won't save the day here. And no government has the balls to stop supporting the road structure and flip over to electric rail they will simply bleed to death.

This gives another indicator to watch thats a lot easier to follow than trying to follow individual bond issues and road construction. We just need to look for a rise in bond defaults by local goverments since eventually that is in my opinion the big initial effect of peak oil.

What you're missing is that this is bio-oil.  It's made by a relatively simple thermal process from biomass... which is a local product.  If the rural areas don't feel like going back to dirt roads (and many might), they can make their own asphalt.
Could you go into some more detail on this process?  I'm very curious to hear about yet another reason why we aren't doomed :P

The recyling when roads are repaved is a bit of a myth.
This only happens when they do a major reconstruction and remove the top several layers. So sure its reused to some extent when they rebuild the roadbed. But to maintain the roadbed every few years they need to add a fresh layer of asphalt if they don't the road bed degrades forcing the major reconstruction. The time scales vary with climate and I've post before what they are. As far as prices doubling they have in the last few years. Assuming they double agian is simply using a business as usual scenario.

On the other side I'm using what I call a reverse Export Land Model for California. The recent rise in property values have resulted in a massive increase in assessed property taxes. The problem is no one is paying these taxes.
This mean that more and more properties have tax liens on them that have to be cleared before they can be sold. And these are not small liens. 5,000 dollar plus. And this is on top of foreclosuers etc comming.

In short California cannot maintian the current road beds with todays tax dollars. The revenue will drop dramatically as the tax base erodes over the next few years. And the cost will probably double over the next few years.

They end story is that state and local goverments will begin to default on bonds soon. This seems to be the real first casuality of the combination of peak oil and recent economic games.

One thing a lot of people looking at peak oil have overlooked is that the combination of skyrocketing road construction costs goverments defaulting on bonds and dropping tax base results in the growth machine of suburbia grinding quickly to a halt as oil prices increase.

Bond defaults are whats going to cause a big unwinding of the suburban ponzi scheme. And coupled with this is far less road for the dollar going forward.

The bond defaulting is the key ingrediant for the death of suburbia and its underlying cause is two fold massive increase in road/infrastucture costs the overlapping housing bubble bursting. Tied in of course will be massive losses from investments.

This old story will be just a small one soon.

The key to the collapse of suburbia and then our economy is local then state goverments defaulting on bonds.

Another excellent memmel post.

The upcoming housing crash is going to really hurt tax revenues, the avg. CA house tax is something like $1000 a month! 10 grand a year, it's up there. I think a lot of home-0wned would love to have taxes of only $5k a year....

So, as this all crumples like the zones on a Volvo, tax revenues in CA are going to plummet.

And who is going to take out a zero down 125% arm on a property with a huge tax lien ?

All of the stuff going into forclosure next year is going to have major tax liens agianst it and a lot of home for sell will as well. As you said the real cost in a lot of places is about a thousand a month figure two years of liens and your looking at 20k out of pocket just the get the liens off the place. Much less all the other costs.

Of course this means the sale price of the homes with liens is at least 20k less than comparable homes if not more.
I know if I walked into a situation where I had to pay 20k cash to remove the property liens I assure you I'd ask for a lot more off the house, more like 50-100k ( I'm a bastard ) The fact that the price was lower because of liens is not reflected in the selling price so it will force a major downward push on all home prices.

Actually of course I'd not touch any property in California till I knew the tax base and assessments were stable.
And remember that all these people selling at a loss still have to pay taxes to the feds on there loss.
I came close to bankruptcy in the dot com crash and it was a rude awakening to find out I had to pay taxes on money that was written off. I'm not sure how much you personally end up owing in a foreclosure loss but my experience is its not pleasant.

Now its intresting to conjecture on how this finicial meltdown will effect oil usage in the US. At the individual level your talking about someone losing their home and moving into and apartment I assume they will get one closer to work or more likely in the mess leave the state and agian rent closer to work. But the monkey wrench is in this situation your probably talking about employment for two married people so the total commute may not change that much.
If they flee california your looking at several thousand miles of fuel use for the move which will limit any savings the first year. I suspect that the unwinding of suburbia will not actually result in fuel savings in America for several years if at all.

Certianly the move back to renting in America will make it a lot easier for enlightened cities that adopt electric rail and trolleys to draw in population at some point. So the fact that it looks like suburbia may die and early death is not a bad thing.

Whats funny is I think a lot of people are just now realizing the extent of the problem.

I'd not lose sleep over this bypass worry about paving the main street and what your going to do when the State of California files bankruptcy in three years.

You can't expect people to turn down highway funds.    You just can't.

Leanan said,

Exactly.  But do you know why?

 Most people have been around long enough to know that if they turn it down, there are enough other projects that will gladly swallow up in other money will go to our beloved modern "alternatives", no fossil fuel will be saved and no greenhouse gas will be reduced.

Turning down funds may keep a particular area quieter and cleaner, but people are also afraid that the development that means a more vibrant community in other ways will bypass them, and leave them as a backwater.  It has happened.  That's just the way the world (and not just the U.S.) works nowadays.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

I've lived in the town north of Willits for 32+ years and have watched the traffic increase year after year.  There is a lot more tourist traffic both north and south plus a lot more commuter traffic in the Willits area due to population growth.  Finally, there are three major concerts each year at locations quite a bit north of Willits.  The biggest one draws about 25,000 people.  Last year it took people about 6 hours to get through the town (going south) after the concert ended.

I agree with Jason to a certain extent that the by-pass will ultimately be wasted money.  There are five stop lights in town and the easiest thing to do would be to turn them off.  Unfortunately, few people would be able to get across the highway.  A by-pass won't be needed once tourist traffic dies but that's likely years in the future.

I think, realistically, the people who live in Willits want their town back and will keep on supporting the by-pass.


Roundabouts would be a great way to smooth traffic flow here, replacing traffic lights.  The locations of traffic circles are planned out for Willits already.

Also, with a few small connector streets, the town could have routes that parallel 101/Main street, allowing locals to peel off the main drag early and disperse the flow.  

But few people know that these issues have been worked on by professional traffic engineers and that their frustrations could be alleviated with a much smaller investment.

Lastly, a bypass would only remove the main thru traffic, which is only severe a few times per year, in the summer concert season.  Otherwise, about 75% of the traffic is locally generated, not by those heading thru town to elsewhere.

Is it fair to ask the people of Willets to put up with drive-through traffic. Willets absorbs all Ft. Bragg-San Fran. trips. I have been stuck there as one of these passer-bys. I would not want to live with it.

This is not a local issue. It will require a strong regional, state, and ultimately federal plans to do what is ultimately necessary: localize, electrify, and make public our transportation system.

The road through Willits,the highway to the the redwoods,and all points North. This section of U.S. 101 suplies The northcoast, (Ca), with everything from fishing rods to toilet seats,(as Kunstler would say).
In twenty years this section of highway will be most interesting. I see stranded Logging trucks,recreational Vehicles,and Harley Davidsons littering the roadside while Turkey vultures dine on the rements of dehydrated meth
Of course the vast vinyards will be converting their grapes to alchool and at last we will know if there is a positive EREI.
The great thing about peak oil is that eventually, the limit on abalones will return to 4. That is of course if the Paciic Ocean doesn't turn into a redwood hot tub
Right on. Concerts and touristing out in the little towns are Gilded Age activities, they'll be wiped out by the depression coming, so that makes more road-building un-necessary.

If it weren't for that, I'd say go ahead and build the thing, people never believe me when I say the most astounding, mind-boggling traffic jams are out in the small towns.

There's a train track from Ft. Brag. As someone pointed out upthread, no trains, but it should be a lot easier and cheaper to run trains than to pave the earth (and keep it patched).
A train does run from Willits to Ft. Bragg, and it used to carry commuters, but is now just a tourist device.

The tracks from Willits south to the Bay Area are being repaired soon.  

"As a scientist, I was trained to think critically and report to others what we know and don't know. Scientists are open to changing their minds based on evidence and I guess we assume that's how other people operate."


Jay posted the following to his (new) list recently. Looks like your figuring out what he did around the same age. (near 40?) Remember, he ran for office on these issues in Hawaii and lost to a convicted child molester. From Jay:

>Your first big mistake is to assume other people are like >you. I didn't discover that error until I was in my late >40s. I am (and probably you) a product of conditions that >are more-or-less unique in human history. Computer
>geeks didn't even exist 60 years ago.

>Over hundreds-of-thousands-of-generations, people evolved >to be "trained" (or programmed, or wired) in the local >culture. That was a local culture wasn't concerned >to "make sense" or be logical, it was concerned to be >tribally unique

>Until the last couple a hundred years, life NEVER >included analyzing how one's society functions from a >systems perspective.

Remember also that because we have freedom of speech, the rich and powerful will always have more speech then others because they can buy more of it. Even if you got the money out of elections, the agendas would still be set by large media outlets owned by people with lots of money as would the university endowments which train/program people to understand issues in ways favorable to whoever is funding the institutions. (Why in 4 years of political science at Davis then 3 years at Hasings including classes on international law did I NEVER learn about the role of oil?)

Until WELL has the money that the highway boondoggle lobbyists have rational, fact-based groups like WELL will continue lose on these issues maybe scoring an occassional small victory like getting a non-funded resolution passed. What Jay writes here applies to the state and local level just as much as it does the national level:

> When you really understand American politics, you will >find that the  United States was specifically-designed to >be run by advice from lobbyists. There is simply no other >way for congress or the administration to make a >decision.

You write, "I get a bit fired up about this because it makes me lose what little hope I have."

Personally, I think you should continue doing what you're doing as you seem to have acquired a great deal more political power than you would have otherwise. So long as you keep your head low enough that you don't piss off the vested economic interests in your area TOO much, the additional political power you have acquired through your  efforts at peak oil activism may help you survive the coming cluster-f--k.

At the same time, publicizing Willits too much will result in what I call "the relocalization paradox." The more you relocalize, the better your community will be with or without Peak Oil. The better a place your community is to live, the more people will want to move there which means you then go into overshoot and either have to import resources from outside the community to keep everybody happy or have intra-community resource wars as people fight over what is available locally.

BTW, did I ever mention that I think Willits and the surrounding areas are a cesspool of violence and crime and they on the top of my list of places to go straight to sh-post peak oil? Moving there in preparation for peak oil is a horrible idea and anybody who is considering that should be slapped upside the head with a sanity stick.

Note to TOD overlords: I suspect I'm not the only person who can't figure out how the quote function works and thus end up with cock-eyed looking posts like the one above.
I'm still trying to figure out what the heck you did.  < blockquote > </ blockquote> usually work the best. Did you just forget to take the carrots out?
I had tried the <quote> and </quote> before but that hadn't worked and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.  This time I just put a > in front of each line like in an email hoping that would signify to people this had been cut and pasted.
You're probably posting in HTML format, which ignores line breaks.  Dunno why <blockquote> doesn't work for you, it works for me (don't insert spaces, don't select "plain text").  Use "Preview".
Back to small towns...... I love the town of "Middletown" in Lake County if when I mention Lake County to anyone around here, they tell me all about how it's meth city. I believe them!
Use <BLOCKQUOTE>quoted text here</BLOCKQUOTE>, not <quote></quote>.

And make sure your posting mode is Auto Format or HTML.  (I am posting in Plain Text for this message, so you can see the tags.)

You forgot to mention there is only one golf  course in the area and there are lots of gators living there. They often get in fights on several of the greens with mountain lions. When it's not raining. Which is once in a while.
OK gator vs mountain lion, that's gotta be good! Someone just has to get some video and put it on YouTube!
Yeah, it is really scary in the woods around here.  Best people stay away who don't know them really good.  
Mountain lions, bears, coyotes, rabid skunks, banana slugs

I remember Jay's story and used to be on his yahoo list.  But I had to sort this out myself.  I even audited a class in macroeconomics at UCDavis just to get the stuff fed straight to me.  I am an empiricist.

I too have my doubts about places like Willits.  About anywhere really.  As the economic situation deteriorates, it is quite possible that small towns that are not self-reliant will crumble very quickly since wealth and power have been concentrated in the urban areas.  

In Richard Douthwaite's book, The Growth Illusion, he discusses the problem of a sustainable society getting overrun by the non-sustainable.  I don't think it is possible to have a single "lifeboat" community and survive.  The changes have to be widespread.

We are not nearly prepared here in Willits.  We are initiating many pilot projects and getting some funding for planning studies, etc.  But all at a scale that pales compared to the needs.  

Many people have come to visit thinking we were such a model.  Most don't stay.  People want success stories.  Our success is that we have kept going, raised a lot of questions, built social capital, and have a few really neat projects happening, but we have not turned life around here.  

We are doing our honest best.

Hi Jason,

 Thanks.  By way of support for doing your "honest best", a suggestion on the practical side:  If you have time, take a look at their newsletters.  This looks to be a great organizing tool, as mentioned in EB,  
One thing about CERT, (esp. when done as they are doing it) - it provides a basis for community-building and organizing that everyone can get behind.  Then expand to other things...?  Such as "distributed energy". ( Best wishes.

We have a CERT around here and WELL has been encouraging people to get involved in that.  Several have.

Thanks for the Ashland link. WELL has  newsletter that comes out every couple of weeks and is printed in our local newspaper too.

jason thanks for all your hard work. I know how taxing it can be.
anyway my wife and seven year old boy are going to ft. bragg around xmass (anything to get away from family) going to be passing thru willets and would like to see your take on sustainable ag. I live in quincy ca., it's more backward than willets,hard to believe, but true.
my email is in my user info
my best to you and every other person reading this
Jason...I noticed the other day that the chiropractic clinic has gone solar. Bechtel Creek Clinic should do the same. Do you have any contacts there?  :>)
 Actually, if the new Howard Hospital is gonna be solar,why don't they start putting the system in at the old place, and move it when the new one is built? Get the rebates before they decrease, and get started on producing juice now, instead of in 5 years..

Mike Rat

omg, a solar chiro clinic? They're stealing my ideas! I think chiro or any other practice dealing with physical injuries is going to be a good thing to be in. Couple an aging population with a declining traditional health care infrastructure with more people having to engage in farm or hard labor and anything to treat back injuries is going to do great.
Unfortunately, the planned new "Green" hospital is not planning on any renewable energy systems.

In fact, the new facility will use more energy than the current hospital. The curse of making it so modern.  The windows won't open and a complex set of centralized mechanical systems, all electricity dependent, will be installed.  

I point out the folly of this at hospital planning meetings, but they probably think I am quackers.  Fortunately, my wife is a great doctor.  

Furthermore, the new hospital is being placed on the finest piece of prime ag land in the area, and is connected to a luxury home subdivision that will obliterate more prime ag land.  

The good news is they are supporting a 3 acre farm on the site to grow organic veggies for the place.

I am worried about the hospital financially too.  Inflation rate of ca. 20% per year is making the costs go up by about 500K per month now.  Talk about Red Queen!

Hi again, Jason,
 At the risk of putting forth more things you've already thought of and/or tried:  1) Have you seen the medical-care- related articles on EB? Apparently there were no less than two "peak oil" papers at this major public health conference:  It seems to me that although we "think local", there's something about some recognition from the larger community that helps (as a generality).  Perhaps some of these might be helpful as references and/or contacts.  
2) I'm also wondering if there's any hospital anywhere taking any look at energy issues, and if so, they might serve as an example. 3)I'm curious about who made the decision to grow organic veggies? Well, the rooting section here - we care, anyway.  
My wife is a physician, so we follow health care issues and are aware of, Carly Johnson's web page, and Dan Bednarz' work.  

I interviewed Dan on my radio show, available here:

My wife and I are having dinner with the head of public health dept in our county tonight.

HI (again) Jason,

 Thanks for acknowedledging...I mentioned CERT, because from what I've seen, the key to what they are doing in Ashland (that goes far beyond most CERTs) is the fact there is a separate ("civilian" - not Fire Dept. etc.) coordinator/director person free to dream up all kinds of things. "Neighbors helping neighbors" is the motto, and it seems very inclusive - anyone can support "emergency preparedness" (and that seems like a great foundation for other kinds of organizing.) Anyhow, I had the idea you might want to interview the director on your radio show. (Perhaps after you check out the news releases and newsletters.)


The consenus trance  - and subsequent economic flows - is simply overwhelming.  

Even places like Willits and other hamlets of PO awareness look hopelessly screwed to me at this point. Not because of any defiency (sp?) on the part of organizers but because of the massive inertia of business as usual. Which is one of the reasons I'm hesitant to move to anywhere. I haven't been able to identify a town or area that looks anything other than "not quite as entirely screwed" as the next.

Ashland is another hamlet of awareness but I fear it will fall prey to its area's methocracy (meth plus theocracy) when the economy goest south.

There are some on the east coast but everybody I know is here in Norther Ca. so I'm hesitant to move beyond that general area.

I've considered moving back to San Francisco with an eye towards opening some type of business "less likely to be totally screwed than others" once the shit hits the fan. I  Reason being, as you say, wealth tends to concentrate in urban areas. My theory has been services, everything from fire/police, train and bus service, fed ex/usps will be cut to the rural areas and small towns first prior to the cities. It would only make sense, for instance, for the USPS to close an office in Willits office before it cuts San Francisco. To a certain degree we already see this happening. Greyhound cut a bunch of its rural outlying routes not long ago.

>My theory has been services, everything from fire/police, train and bus service, fed ex/usps will be cut to the rural areas and small towns first prior to the cities. It would only make sense, for instance, for the USPS to close an office in Willits office before it cuts San Francisco.

Perhaps, but at best you might buy yourself a few years. The issue with going to a city, is that crime, unemployment, homelessness, and  drug use all rise substantially. At which point you must constantly be concerned with getting mugged, gang volence, etc. As tax revenues fall, so do city services. Did SF ever experience a month long garbage collection strike during the summer. As some point you may find yourself trapped in a city and you will be dependant of food and other critical resources produced in rural areas. I would think remaining in Big city even if you can remain fully employed would be depressing, as every day you going to walk past people living on the streets.

My your logic, rural areas are likely to be come booming as demand for illicit drugs grows while budgets for law enforcement fall. (Not that I recommend a career in illicit drug business). Plus prices for food, and other resources that come out of rural america will be in high demand. The fact remains the Cities are dependant of food and other critical resources produced from rural areas.

Finally who says that you need to be come apart of a peak oil aware town? 100 years ago, more than half of the US population lived in rural areas without much access to fossil fuels.

I like driving through Willits and all the other small cities and villages on 101 from Healdsberg north to the Olympics, and remember it and 99 well before any bypasses were built. A bypass at Willits and Hopland will facilitate sprawl and kill the towns' merchant centers, as happened to Cloverdale, which is now somewhat recovered as an exurb. Unfortunately, population pressures are very likely to increase as those who can flee unsustainable southern california for regions north.
Further, the main N-South rail line must be refurbished and put back to use, which is where the bond funds ought to go. A lot of traffic could be eliminated if rail directly entered San Francisco from the north--San Rafael.

I hope to continue driving through Willits and Hopland.

Exactly! I wrote something similar before I saw yours.
Note to Willits residents:
When TSHTF, task #1 is to tear up that bypass ;-)
Thanks, Jason. I think I asked a question on an open thread a few months ago about whether we should try and stop the bypass.
It  took me 15 years to decide thst Willits probably needed it. Now I'm back to thinking it will be an incredible waste, given the world which is coming. It would be a lot better if they could get the rail line open to Eureka again, even if they have to relocate part of it. Also, Ridgewood Grade is shot again, and it looks like it may not make it thru the winter, the way it is starting to buckle. Maybe they won't come up with the bucks; that has happened twice, behind the Loma Prieta and San Fernando quakes, before you moved here.


Sometime in the future my grand kids or theirs (I am an optimist) will mine the asphalt and melt out the bitumen, in a solar way maybe, to be used to waterproof whatever.
The exposed parking lots will become useable for growing in a generation or two because they usually are not backfilled properly anyway.  The gravel roadbeds will still be suitable for whatever type of transportation exists.  As with the Romans, the 20th centry lasting contibution will be the road ways, both as a source of construction material and passable transportation routes.

Yes but your local government has gone bankrupt your no longer have septic water and electricity is interment at best. No police no fire service etc.

 That's why I brought up the defaulting of bonds by local governments.
Once your city or county is bankrupt you get no services.

The twin factors of a collapsing economy and rising road construction costs will eventually cause local governments to fail financially. And the way things are going it will be sooner than later. Remember property values are tightly tied to the improved infrastructure to support the property a lot of people forget this. This wealth is what pays the taxes.
Once it starts going backwards the party is over and because of finicial defaults by the goverments it might go downhill a lot faster than I had assumed before.

Obviously paying for any major new construction now is a big mistake.

Back to the thread a bit take Wilits and surrounding areas.
Figure out the tax base property values etc and see what happens when they start not funding say even one major rural road.  Back to California itself I think you will find in the comming months that a lot of people are not paying their property tax next year soon enough the crisis will surface in the press. And soon thereafter projects like this bypass will be stopped.

Wait till later next year when thousands of homes in Calfornia have tax liens that must be paid in cash agianst them.

Foreclosures of course are going to be a problem but with liens probably averaging 10,000 or more on a lot of these homes and the assements far higher than the current market value of the home your going to see some very serious problems surface in California.

You are describing the first down slope on the undulating plateau.  We are in it.  I will still do what I can in advocacy but I believe nothing will be done politically until disaster stikes.  Therefore everything will be as you describe and action will not be based upon brilliant foresight but reaction.  This will be our "special period" and I now beleive this will be a period of horror.  My optomism is that something will survive this and some sort of rebuilding will begin on smaller local scales.  This is when these misallocated projects will become a source of resources, much degraded but available. I wish it would be otherwise as many will suffer a great deal.
Hi Jografy,

 I just wanted to respond with empathy to the spectre of suffering we all see or feel when we look at the graphs.  
 Having said that (and absorbed a small percentage of the shock) (as we also all do to some extent), do you think that any kind of coordinated political effort is possible now?

I actually do. My guess is, each of us on the forum does some "advocacy", as you mention. It may be we have a chance none of us fully sees...a chance worth taking...for example, if a little bit of our advocacy time were focussed on a single political action, say, at the national level. So my second question is:  Let me ask you (and others) a "what if":  What if you had the money/connections/resources or whatever you think required - what say, top 5 items would you put forward immediately as a US and/or Canadian national energy policy?  

Let me ask you (and others) a "what if":  What if you had the money/connections/resources or whatever you think required - what say, top 5 items would you put forward immediately as a US and/or Canadian national energy policy?  

  1. An off-grid compound for me and my family

  2. A harem

  3. A large contingent of Blackwater USA's finest mercenaries to protect me from the peasentery

  4. Lots of gold, guns, women, drugs, food, whatever it takes to keep #3 happy.

I'll have to think of a fifth.

I suspect a lot of people will name more high minded and nation or community oriented things. I've thought of many msyelf but when you think them through 99/100 times thigns that intially seem like a wise idea actually would make our situation worse when you consider how they would destabilize other parts of the "system" which would then lead to a cascading effect that would help no one.

It looks like Richard Rainwater, who does have the money/connections you speak of, is going the "get your ass off-grid and keep your face out of the public eye" route.

One, implement the Oil Depletion Protocol.  In Canada that means renegotiating or pulling out of NAFTA.  We would see the US Marines here shortly unless we can convince them to come along.
Two, a building code that maximized energy efficiency and solar gain in all buildings.  Coupled with this would be the immedeate freeze on constucting buildings above five stories.  Also with this electrify and improve all transportation emphasizing steel wheeled track riding systems
Three: Freeze all suburban and Exburban development.
Four: Tax all energy in a punative way and ban all personal vehicles that consume more than 6L/100km.  And put tolls on all major highways.
As well tax debt or institute some other practical way to stop this unsustainable inflationary device.
Five:Find devices, financial and otherwise to build local economic activity.  Refuse to subsidise external trade of any sort, both imports and exports.
Five are not enough and none of these are really sellable politically.
> Coupled with this would be the immedeate freeze on constucting buildings above five stories.


The other things I think I get your reasoning for although I dont agree on manny of the thing suggested.

6 l/100 km is an impossible standard.  It would INCREASE gasoline consumption in the short to medium term.

People would keep their cars & SUVs longer, using more fuel, rather than making a realistic trade up to a more fuel efficient car.

And I wonder why no more than 5 stories ?  Vancouver has some some high rise apartments along one of their transit lines, etc. and I see them as a good thing (not for me personally, but those that want high rises, more power to them).

Portland Oregon is hurting development along it's light rail lines with height limitations.  A high rise is needed next to the station where the Red, Blue & Green lines will come together.  Instead they got a 3 story medical clinic building.  Medical clinic is GREAT in that location, but much more is needed there, at that unique junction.

Canada has immense wind resources that it just beginning to tap (they go well with your hydro resources).

Best Hopes,