Request to Post-Carbon Institute–collaboration on a granular (hyperlocal) long-term energy emergency plan

Request to Post-Carbon Institute–collaboration on a granular (hyperlocal) long-term energy emergency plan
May 31, 2022

Good Morning,

I serve in local government here in north-central Wisconsin on the Portage County Board of Supervisors. My long-term interest in the world oil shocks/energy shock scenarios we now see underway, was sparked by Richard Heinberg’s presentation at our local Midwest Renewable Energy Fair back at the turn of the century. His talk and that of Kunstler at the Fair around the same time caused me to follow all the literature I could find regarding the peak oil situation, post-petroleum paradigms and so forth.

What I find in our local government leadership is that there is a widespread lack of knowledge, or even interest, in the impending “world oil shocks” as Dennis Coyne describes the scenarios unfolding. As we see happening now with the motor fuel price spikes, these are treated as one-off situations and the general tendency at the local level is to point the finger of blame for the situation higher up on the political organization chart. There is little awareness among County, City, Village, Towns or school boards of the systemic nature of what is happening. Systems thinking is not the dominant mode of problem solving, but problem solving defaults to the cobble-together crisis response such as the way that ARPA funds were made available from federal level on down the chart during the Covid crisis.

The project I have in mind would require considerable data gathering and data analytics but of a very “granular” or localized nature. For a while I’ve been thinking of how to launch a long-range energy-emergency-planning project for a limited region of Wisconsin, the North-Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s territory, encompassing these Counties :

Adams Co.
Forest Co.
Juneau Co.
Langlade Co.
Marathon Co.
Oneida Co.
Portage Co.
Vilas Co.
Wood Co.

I realize that Post-Carbon Institute generally takes a very Macro view of the energy crisis, such as Mr. Heinberg’s most recent piece (click blue text to open link in a new tab)


The value in this piece is that it lets no one “off the hook” for facing up to the scope and scale of the problem on the immediate horizon.

What I would hope for is a study and advocacy paper which would put the crisis on the immediate “radar screens” of our local governments and compel elected leaders to begin to plan for the involuntary shift in the energy substrate of our communities/our region–the involuntary “de-growth” that this will bring upon our communities. Such planning would have to be long-term, and ongoing, with capacity for rapid shifts in strategy as events unfold. That is, it will require higher-order systems thinking rather than grasping for “tried-and-true” paradigms which seemed to have worked in the era which is now gone by.

This could entail considerable contact with local elected officials themselves on the part of collaborators. I cannot guarantee that these officials would immediately listen-up and respond favorably to take part in this.

So if there might be anyone among your Fellows or staff who might take an interest in such a “granular” approach, please have them reach out to me on this. Or, I would welcome recommendations of a different organization or agency which would have an interest in this kind of planning.

Thank you for listening,

Bob Gifford
Portage County Board of Supervisors
District 10 representative.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin