This is a Test

When I was a kid, there was probably everyday – and likely precipitated by the specter of nuclear attack (which seems almost surreal now) – 30 seconds of test pattern with a C flat hum on the tv, probably between some favorite shows. You would just get accustomed to waiting it out, then the voice over would come on and say: “This has been a test of the emergency broadcast system. Had this been an actual emergency, you would have been caught practically unaware as you have have become so complacent about the test that…” Well, it didn’t say that. But it could have.

This drop in gas prices is a similar though much more poignant test of our ability to comprehend the circumstances in which we find ourselves, vis-a-vis dwindling energy reserves. I mean, I don’t know what else to call it besides stupid. Actually, I can think of a few things.

“We’re in remission right now,” said Marvin E. Odum, the vice president for exploration and production for Royal Dutch Shell in the Americas. But once the economy picks up, he said, “the energy challenge will come back with a vengeance.”

Come back? It’s gone somewhere? Sure it’s hiding behind the drop in prices that is the result of a fire sale to jetison every asset for cash, including in the commodities market and oil contracts. But it’s… HIDING. This a test of our resolve. The biggest challenge/problem we have in society – all caps implied – is what to do when the price is cheaper. When faced with this, we always do the wrong thing: destroy downtowns, eat poison, willfully trash the environment, put ourselves out of work, live in isolation… all because it costs a little less. Low, low prices. Always.

Listen up, people. This is an actual emergency. You are being defined on your ability to resist your impulses to return to your regularly scheduled programming and wait for this to pass. You must begin to change everything about the way you do everything before this looming catastrophe changes it for you – even and especially when it is supposedly cheaper not to.

I won’t go into why it would be cheaper to begin to change now. I think I’m already starting to have more in common with the sound of the hum than I’m comfortable with.

Update: Interesting addendum to the miles per gallon vs. gallons per mile debate to tack on