Can we reduce fossil fuel consumption by 50 percent in the next five years? That means an average annual reduction of 10 percent. Think about it. If you drove 10,000 miles last year, could you drive 9000 this year, 8000 next year until your driving miles were cut in half? Blogger Sharon Astyk says such short-term radical reductions are possible. She notes that driving miles dropped 6 percent worldwide early last year in response to the economic downturn. And it’s been 30 years since Americans were asked to reduce their energy use for the common good. Maybe some combination of necessity and altruism would do the trick. British writer George Monbiot is skeptical. Voluntary abstinence by itself is a proven failure. Without affordable electric cars powered by photovoltaics and other alternatives, drastic annual cuts in energy use would cause massive worldwide depression and unprecedented suffering. The last major collapse of capitalism occurred in the 1930s. Undoubtedly energy consumption fell dramatically in many areas. An unprecedented level of public investment in roads, schools, bridges, dams etc and a world war ended this experiment in energy starvation. Maybe we are in the early stages of such a scenario. Maybe building a renewable energy infrastructure could be the public investment to replace war. The question would then be – is there sufficient non-renewable energy reserves available to fuel the transition? The answer depends on how long we wait and how much the corporations divert to extract the last profitable fossil fuels.