Monday, May 29, 2006


What great civilizations do right before they disappear:

Find ways to build even greater monuments to their belief that their society could never collapse from resource exhaustion.

Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana, apparently subscribes to the Ignorance is Bliss theory of governance, in which the ever-louder roaring sound is presumed to be applause of the masses and not the sounds of a huge waterfall ready to pitch the ship of state out into space and onto the waiting rocks below. In an article in which he all but breaks his arm to pat himself on the back for selling a stretch of Indiana highway to foreign investors, Daniels demonstrates again why great civilizations seem to build their greatest, most demanding monumental projects (think pyramids, Mayan cities, Easter Island's monoliths) right before their utter collapse: the failure of leadership to conceive of changed circumstances and resource overshoot.
Of course, the ultimate success of this policy depends on how the state uses these new funds. As in business, in government it is a mistake — a misdeed, even — to take value from a capital asset and use it for short-term operating purposes. That's why we insisted that the value liberated from our road be redeployed swiftly into new, long-term public assets that will strengthen our economic backbone: thanks to this deal, we will be able to quadruple the amount of state money devoted to new road construction projects over the next decade.
In other words, having managed to sell a piece of soon to be worthless infrastructure to a consortium of foreign suckers, the State of Indiana is not about to let wisdom get in the way of pouring even more soon-to-be-worthless concrete (which is itself a source of tremendous amounts of CO2). I saw the story about Indiana's pyramids the same day as this most important question concerning ethanol, which is apparently supposed to power all the cars down the roads in Mitchell's state:
Pimentel offers a simple test for whether ethanol producers really believe their own hype. If ethanol offers such a magnificent energy gain, then why don't ethanol plants run on ethanol instead of coal and natural gas? Not surprisingly, this question has so far been met with dumbfounded silence.

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