Saturday, May 7, 2011

A peek at 'past peak' oil

Greetings good citizen,

Mother’s day is early this year, which has absolutely nothing to do with the price of tea in China or anywhere else for that matter.

No, today’s Message In A Barrel: highlights something pundits have been pointing at for the past two decades, this particular development is indeed more recent:

Despite high prices, crude oil production has stayed basically flat for roughly five years. Either there's a basic flaw in capitalism's profit motive thingy, or something else is going on.

That aside, the drumbeat that we are already past peak oil has been growing steadily as the price of crude rises ‘without provocation’.

Despite high prices, crude oil production has stayed basically flat for roughly five years. It seems this is the all-time high-water mark, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency. “We think that crude oil production for the world has already peaked in 2006,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I think it would have been better if the governments have started to work on it at least 10 years ago.”

At a European Parliament conference on peak oil, the European Commission’s director-general for transport and mobility policy warned if actions are delayed to reduce oil dependency, “we may be forced to drastically reduce all our mobility.”

Already, rising energy costs are taking their toll around the world, with U.S. economic growth stumbling and raising the spectre of stagflation, as well as, helping to drive up food prices in Latin America, and driving inflation in Europe.

The reality of peak oil and what comes after are as difficult to picture in one’s mind (accurately) as the vivid, albeit conflicting images the Bible paints of the Second Coming.

If we were to convert fossil fuel into its ‘manpower’ equivalent we would see how Unsustainable our current lifestyle is.

Given the realities of peak oil (the end of cheap slaves and the advent of extremely brutal substitutes) and the fact that China and India now want more petroleum slaves too, that level of consumption or slavery can't be sustained. In fact Hughes warns that the world of the petroleum slave owner can only get smaller. He calls it "the Energy Sustainability Dilemma."

This indelicate dilemma will be ugliest for those who employ the most slaves. Right now the average Canadian lives as extravagantly as the feverish English master of a large Caribbean sugar plantation. In fact Canadians typically boss around five times more slaves than the global average. [One suspects the original audience for this article was Canadian, thus the comparison.]

"Your average Canadian consumes five times the world average per capital consumption, seven times the per capita consumption in China and 29 times the per capita consumption in India," calculates Hughes.

(For the record the new and leaner slave masters of Shanghai or Tianjin burn but 2.4 barrels of oil a year which puts 20 coolies at their beck and call.)

"Maybe we have been even less cognizant of the services provided by fossil fuels than people did from their slaves," reflects Hughes. "Slavery, after all was in your face. Now it's all about filling up the tank."

In his thoughtful 1973 essay, "Energy and Equity," the radical Catholic theologian Ivan Illich questioned whether "the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command."

While most people worried about the scarcity of fodder for these slaves, Illich asked whether free men really needed so many slaves in the first place.

The iconoclast concluded that each and every human being was entitled to a certain amount of energy, but beyond a certain threshold, people lost both their freedom and humanity as slave owners typically do.

Even if nonpolluting slaves were feasible and abundant, Illich reckoned "that the use of energy on a massive scale acts on society like a drug that is physically harmless but psychically enslaving."

He then dropped a Promethean question that most economists, philosophers, environmentalists and energy analysts avoid: can a society be progressively hooked on a larger numbers of energy slaves and remain autonomous?

It remains civilization's central question.

I think it is important to point out that the article was written to raise awareness of how much energy the typical Western lifestyle consumes. I also suspect it used 1973 data for ‘energy consumption’ when much of our modern energy consumption is digital as opposed to analog like it was in 1973.

It is also ‘inaccurate’ to draw an image of a ‘dark’ future. There is, er, ‘a lot’ of hydro electric and there ‘will be’ a lot of solar and wind power available long before we, er, ‘exhaust’ our fossil fuel reserves.

The biggest nut to crack in an energy scarce future will be transportation/getting shit where it needs to be, when it needs to be there.

‘Re-making’ the global supply lines into local ones with much longer lead times and far greater ‘redundancy’ will cause some serious, er, ‘disruptions’.

‘Out of season’ produce will return to being a rare luxury as cold region green houses become cost prohibitive to operate. Worse, refrigeration over long distances will also become a costly proposition.

In this respect some thought should be given to developing future hi-speed rail lines underground to reduce the need for refrigeration/cooling…and even heating (of passenger areas) for that matter.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this dark vision for the future is how some fucktards will actually attempt to make the poor into ‘energy slaves’.

This will cause riots the likes of which have never been seen before! (At least throughout the so-called ‘free world’.)

Then again you never know, maybe it is just me who thinks crazy thoughts like that…

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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