Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas 2020

’Tis the season to be jolly. So let me wish you fine wine—or your own wintry nog of choice—while I regale you with a knock-knock joke.

Knock, knock (says I). Who’s there? (you reply). Yule Log! Yule Log Who? Yule Log Fewer Miles A Decade Hence Than A Decade Ago.

Jolly? Sounds like I’m predicting a lump of coal in your 2020 stocking rather than a diamond. But it depends. I’m actually channeling common sense. Said common sense means dollars and jobs for Nevada.

We’ll drive less in the United States of 2020 than we did in 2000. We’ll live in a different world. How so? Clues abound.

Billionaire Warren Buffet purchased Burlington Northern Santa Fe because railroads will carry a large slice of goods at cheaper cost than truckers as motor fuel costs escalate.

Consumers will drive less to run errands or shop, in part because we are learning to bank, buy, etc., online and partly because motor fuel costs will escalate even as cars downsize and go hybrid.

To earn money, more of us will operate home-based businesses or telecommute.

Current caterwauling in Copenhagen over climate change may accomplish little because the international community is in turmoil over who gets what, as usual, but it highlights an accelerating shift in this transition period.

In China, India and other emerging nations, the trend toward putting vehicles at the center of life is on a roll. In the developed United States and European Union, homes are recovering centerpiece status because moving people around will prove less efficient than moving energy around.

The individual vehicle, much like the single PC on one desktop in the computing world, will remain in the mix. But both are becoming part of a mosaic woven with different threads and in different hues. Less in the red, let’s say, and more in the green.

Cars recede. Smart grid, non-petrol energy and networking gain favor.

Despite this, a recent issue of the Economist magazine splurged with three pages of analytic coverage and a full-page leader (what Brits call editorials) on an automaker. “Toyota Slips Up” the magazine’s cover blared in big type.

Media tends to look in the rearview mirror or overemphasize here and now.

The magazine devoted a full page to Copenhagen climate change talks under the heading “Filthy lucre fouls the air” but just two-thirds of a page to coverage of the debate over peak-oil in a story headed “2020 Vision.”

The latter story reported the International Energy Agency’s chief economist, Faith Birol, sees peak oil as possible by 2020. To its credit, the magazine nailed the meaning.

“Mr. Birol’s willingness to acknowledge that conventional supplies may peak in a decade’s time points to a subtle shift in policymakers’ attitude towards the ‘peak oil’ debate,” the writer said. Deft Brit understatement there, my good man.

Let’s cut to the chase. Peak oil means after all the cheap oil is produced, a huge price spiral accompanies world economic recovery because extraction costs keep increasing along with demand. But it doesn’t even have to be reality. When policymakers and markets believe it, petroleum costs will zoom. Behavior will change.

What about the Nevada largesse?

Shifting emphasis from muscular machines to greening of America means much for the Silver State. Geothermal already is getting millions, much of it in Nevada. Solar and wind development also are on tap. Such development means money and jobs.

Time marks the difference between a lump of coal and a diamond. Stay jolly and stay home to check your stocking in 2020.