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Monday, August 15, 2011

THERE'S STILL A LOT TO CHEER ABOUT


I borrowed the title from an op-ed (opposite the editorial page) article written by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute (BI) in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today.  In the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the title was, "The U.S. Still has a Promising Future."

They all call themselves independent and are for democracy and freedom, but BI is more liberal than most of these public policy organizations, usually headquartered in Washington, DC.  The Republican / Conservative/ pro-business think tanks are the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, with the latter also being libertarian.  When you listen to Rush Limbaugh, or, even Michael W. Perry of KSSK, you must understand the purpose of their intent, for these two lean toward--maybe even wallow in--conservatism, while O'Hanlon, a centrist, is more liberal.

Thus, with a present Democratic Obama White House, there is a tendency for BI to be optimistic about the future of this country.  I guess I must also be a centrist/liberal, for I have long said that as screwed up as our government is, the rest of the world is in worse shape, and not only is the USA the greatest nation ever, we will remain supreme for many generations to come.  Mind you, I believe that Peak Oil and Global Warming, leading to a long economic depression, will bring about a serious lifestyle decline for the rest of this century, beginning by 2020 at the latest, including that of the U.S.  However, relatively, as tens of millions in Africa will succumb to poverty and both China and Europe fragment, we will remain the only supreme power into the 22nd Century.  On this note, I summarize O'Hanlon's article, keeping in mind that the U.S. represents 5% of the world population:

1.  The U.S. remains the land where people dream of living.

2.  While we continue to grow, other major industrial powers are in decline.

3.  China will within a decade or two have too many retired people.

4.  India will have too many births (this will be the largest country by 2030).

5.  While we are not universally loved, we have many close allies.  The world generally trusts, likes and depends on us.  China has North Korea.

6.  We have by far the best advanced educational system, with 50 of the world's top 100 universities.  (Several years ago my SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY indicated that we had 37 of the 50 best universities.)

7.  With 5% the world population, we are responsible for 33% of the R and D.

8.  We remain the #1 country in manufacturing.

9.  We generate half the world's patents.

10.  While our World Competitiveness Ranking is only #4, Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore have a combined population less than California.

As positive as the above sounds, I truly worry about Hawaii.  We have an economy almost totally dependent on tourism.  With Peak Oil will come higher jet fuel prices and a drop in tourism of 50% or more.  Hawaii is that canary in the coal mine.  We will feel that sudden depression first, and it will last for many, many decades.  This is the doom I will be discussing when I speak to the Engineers and Architects of Hawaii on August 26:

Friday :   Aug 262011
Speaker: Patrick Takahashi, Emeritus Director, University of Hawaii
Topic: “What Hawaii Must Do Now to Ameliorate the Coming Doom”  

In many ways, Hawaii is that canary in the coal mine of Peak Oil.  When the price of oil jumps to $150/barrel and higher, our local economy will enter into a prolonged state of depression.  We tried, and were not able to diversify our economy.  Tourism is our only major revenue producer.  The combination of high jet fuel prices and return to another world recession could well drop our tourism rate by 20-50%.  It is too late to replace the current jetliners or find a substitute for a renewable fuel.  Thus, while we cannot avoid what is looming before us, we can ameliorate the anguish by immediately taking certain steps now.  In addition to helping develop a next generation sustainable aviation system, we must better balance our economy, and the ocean around us is our only real hope.  A strategy to accomplish both objectives will be suggested.


Eventually, with renewable energy, fusion, our salubrious climate and fewer people, Hawaii will return to become that ocean paradise supported by the Blue Revolution and high end tourism. With business as usual, that could be in the next century.  But is there anything we can do now to ameliorate that doom and recover by 2050?  Yes, come to my talk at the end of this month.

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Hate to report that the Dow Jones Industrials jumped 214 to 11,483, with world markets also all up.  Mind you, we remain almost 1% below the start of this calendar year, but I really wanted to see something under 10,000 this week.  Gold jumped $19/toz to $1766 and crude oil crept up, the NYMEX to $88/barrel and Brent Spot to $110/barrel.

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There are three Atlantic and East Pacific ocean storms each, but only one looks potentially interesting, for a tropical depression just formed southeast of the Big Island, scheduled to impact Hawaii by early next week, if not late this weekend.  If this were last week, my Norwegian Cruise Line journey would surely have been compromised.  All current models have the storm, though, not attaining hurricane force winds and easing south then west of the islands...but you never know.  Almost exactly five years ago, Super Hurricane Ioke formed just south of Hawaii and proceeded to become the strongest hurricane ever in the Central Pacific:
Those blips to in the bottom right corner are the Hawaiian Islands.


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