Have the monkeys blown it?

The anticipation and chronicle of the woes soon to befall humankind. If you don't wish to know about bad things about to happen to you then you probably don't want to be here. Otherwise, I recommend you read any numbered topics, like Peak Oil, in sequence. If you comment I suggest you use a nickname, I'd appreciate you being consistent in what you call yourself.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Peak Oil 2 : but why worry?

I want you to think hard before reading on.

If you read this post and some of its links you will be wiser but sadder, your awareness and thinking will have changed, the equations that decide your choices about life will be different. In some ways you, and your perception of reality, may change in an irrevocable way.

Last warning: what you are about to read cannot be unread.

Unless we can find, and implement on sufficient scale, alternative cheap energy sources by the time peak oil happens, it will cause massive economic disruption, probably widespread famine and death even in Europe and USA, most likely wars over oil and other resources. No combination of existing known energy resources - fossil and renewable - plus massive conservation measures could compensate for peak oil if it occurs within 10 years, but more about that another day.

Humans have always had a new and more powerful energy source to turn to when needed. Initially we had only our bodies, powered by the food we could find. Then our use of biofuels like wood, and animal labour for transport etc. Wind and water power helped with early mechanisation. When industrialisation began coal was found and mined, steam power became an important flexible energy source. The last century has seen the widespread use of oil, gas and nuclear power. Oil is the most critical of these: it is very energy dense, easy to mine and transport, incredibly cheap (so far), and very versatile.

Humanity has never, on a global scale, faced the problem of a reducing supply of energy.

Read that last sentence again and let it sink in.

It has been faced on a more local scale, usually disastrously, as in this Bronze Age example of 'Peak Wood':

There is a strong argument that the growth in wealth and size of the human population over the last three centuries is almost totally due to humans' exploitation of fossil hydrocarbons. Our economic system is dependent on continued growth - not steady state - more than a year or two of contraction will cause serious problems for the current economic and financial systems, peak oil will certainly break them.

Population is dependent on food production, which has increased about four-fold in productivity per unit of land in developed countries over the last century. Some of this is due to better / more productive plant varieties, some due to better knowledge, skills and methods; but most is due to fossil fuels: mechanisation, fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, refridgeration, transportation, preserving.

You will find this article truly shocking:

This planet has one military superpower and it will stop at nothing to secure access to the oil it demands. As Dick Cheney - the current US vice president - said in 2004 (I think): "The american way of life is non negotiable" - and he was specifically speaking about access to sufficient energy supplies and oil. The Iraq invasion was the first large scale military expression of that philosophy.

So, there you have it: peak oil will break our economic and financial systems, cause widespread starvation and be the direct reason for further major wars. By the time things have stabilised in a sustainable way after peak oil I expect the global population to be between 20% and 50% of its current level, that could be any time from about 2020 to 2100. The stabilised 'post-peak' population could be significantly lower than 1 billion but it won't be significantly higher than 3 billions unless something unforeseen and unpredictable occurs like a previously unknown, cheap and flexible energy source, invasion by benevolent aliens etc.

Here are some sites that explain the gory details better than I can...

Richard Heinberg writes and lectures well, this from 2001 sets the scene nicely:
(later it is worth coming back to his Museletter site and reading more
but, for now, I recommend you visit some others...)

This site is fairly pessimistic:
..as you will realise if you get to this page:

Matt Savinar was qualifying as a lawyer when he heard about peak oil, thought: it can't be true, then researched a bit and realised it was. He started writing and talking about it and his life changed completely. He's good at explaining the important aspects:

This site is by a non-scientist who recently discovered peak oil and has done a good job of organising most of the important facts:

A fair summary of current oil supply situation from The Guardian, April 2005:

I have avoided the frequently updated news and discussion sites about peak oil (for now), there are several excellent ones, and have tried to give links that explain the basic background to the peak oil. There is one last such site that hasn't been updated much in the last 3 or 4 years but is an impressive collection of articles up to then. Don't attempt to read too much of it - it would take days - but you will be surprised how much information was available 5 years and more ago. It isn't an optimistic site, as you will guess from its appropriate name:

Happy reading!

If you can listen to audio files like MP3s on your PC here are a couple of good ones (the best way to listen is to save the MP3 file first then listen to that when convenient) ...(both about an hour long and 10 to 20 MB size)
1. Interview Jim Puplova / Matt Savinar about peak oil in general
2. Peak oil and food, a good lecture by Richard Heinberg


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pacrat here...I see you have done your homework and after many hrs this afternoon of hashing through the miles and miles of reading on the subject,other than to learn more details,I am neither suprised or any more afraid of the
oil-age demise than before.
I have discussed it with mother many times.
Everything has a reason,and not just the obvious ones to the common materialistic human...there are many ways we can self-destruct our world and many ways it can come to an end as we know it,be it a huge meteorite,a worldwide plague or just blowing each other up,so why devote one's entire pessemistic outlook to one topic.
Not that I subscribe one certain religion,but,one way or another,the MEEK shall inherit the earth,not the rich and powerful oil-barons.
...and if it takes a backblast from previous and present corruption and misuse of what we have been given to work with to create change and a simpler existence,then that seems the appropriate means.
You and I are less than pawns in the games that hierarchy play,as are all people who have to work to survive.
My wife and I both work,both will be forced to pay more for gas at first,then possibly lose jobs,pensions,utilities....we are getting older,so we probably wouldn't survive long without the convieniences that we take for granted now,but it seems that something that will cleanse this earth of misguided objectivity may well be worth it.
I haven't believed much from the media or our illustrious all-powerful government for years,so,no,I'm neither afraid of what the future holds or death for that matter.
I'm not digging the graves,just waiting and watching....meanwhile,I'm keeping my sense of humour and spirit intact.

5/2/06 21:57  
Blogger Agric said...

Fair comments dearest Pac, some I share. Why this particular apocalyptic topic? Because it might, just, be avoidable if humans grow up, open their eyes and change their attitude and ways. It is both opportunity and imminent threat for humanity.

Some of those who know about this are deliberately scheming, behind their curtain, to be in the best position when it plays out and use it to their advantage. It is to their advantage to keep this quiet and disadvantage for it to become widely known. In a sense I am just doing my bit to try to redress the balance a little.

In the endgames pawns can play an important part. I, too, hope that the meek will inherit (though I have no fondness for most of monotheisms). If things do go the expected way I hope you will be around to help shape what follows, there are very few I would prefer to be there.

Love and blessedbe to you and J

6/2/06 02:19  

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