Need for a Longer Planning Horizon (2012 City Council Retreat)

January 14, 2012

It’s time to dramatically extend our planning horizon to anticipate a future where carbon-based energy resources become so expensive that market-based assumptions are irrevocably altered and to protect ourselves and our beloved community from the negative consequences resulting therefrom. This means more renewable energy sources, better energy storage technologies, more robust year-round agricultural productivity, and strategic primary resource planning.

We saw what happened to the automobile manufacturing industry when Japan’s tsunami interrupted the auto parts supply chain last year. When Thailand experienced its worst flooding in decades, the computer industry experienced similar disruptions. The future is likely to bring more of the same.

We should, as a community, anticipate how energy cost increases and climate-based supply interruptions may impact the economic underpinnings of America’s outsourcing-dependent global manufacturing system and quality of life here. Economic resiliency principles call for visionary thinking now to enable effective crisis management (or, better yet, crisis avoidance) later.

In an energy and resource constrained world, conservation, localization, and sustainable land use patterns will be critical to our survival, not just our quality of life. City Council should ask Boulder’s businesses to examine their supply chains to determine where our raw material and integrated component vulnerabilities may lie. My suspicion is that work force mobility in an expensive transportation future (we’ll be competing with India, China and the southern hemisphere for gasoline now and forever more) will be a tremendous challenge, but the end of the 3,000-mile salad and potential for future droughts also raise significant concerns.

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