Update November 11, 2010
I found the following to be a useful way of thinking about the crisis:
" All energy sources are fully committed to existing needs". Aw, come on, JMG! You know far better than that. "Needs" indeed. Most of our energy is spent on stuff we would be better off without,
So it is meaningless to state any costs out of context. “ X costs too much”, to have any meaning, must be followed by “compared to y”, y being something we are doing now.
I suggest someone less lazy and more competent than I fill in the following essential comparative cost table, as fractions of both GDP & oil usage, so we can get some sense of proportion, and quit this nonsense about "existing needs".
Costs (expenditures in barrels of oil, & fractions of GDP)
excessively ostentatious female friends
too much beer
So, when anyone says for example “wind power costs too much oil” they will be required to state that cost as a ratio of some equivalent evil/undesirable/frivolity. As in “costs 1/3 the oil we presently use on lawns”. By this means we may possibly be led somewhat closer to that high plane of sanity to which we all aspire.
I am also sure there are many here capable of constructing a series of easily recognized meaningful units that will give some zest to this process. I have already suggested one (to no effect, of course); one POP -- a unit of cost equal to that presently expended on soda pop. Etc.
Source: The Oil Drum
Based on my personal experience with downsizing voluntarily, less than 20% of the energy represented by the entire list is necessary for a quality life.
From a review of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How To Save It:
"Nafeez Ahmed argues that the unwillingness of experts to look outside their specialisations explains why there is so much disagreement and misunderstanding about particular crises." I also believe this to be the key problem with understanding our predicament. Hence the need for a new organization that encourages researchers to delve deep...and wide.
Hopefully I can get a copy from one of the local universities in the near future.