Saturday, August 19, 2006

War on Tepidity

Jan Rickman

This article in the Nation indicates that even the liberals are beginning to figure this resource depletion issue out. The neo-conservatives figured it out last century. Perhaps the liberals will come up with a plan in the next one.

Life in a Post-Carbon World
Nicholas von Hoffman
The Nation
August 15, 2006

A few weeks ago the Right Honourable Edmund John Philip Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley, took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Lord Browne is a president, also.

His domain is BP Oil, a corporation of more economic importance than Azerbaijan or Georgia, postage-stamp countries in the Caucasus known, if known at all, as Joseph Stalin's native land.

The opening of a new pipeline to carry the crude of the Caspian Sea basin to the oil-worried Western world was the reason for these worthies gathering together. All four presidents have their problems, but only Browne's are worthy of global attention.


The big fact is that the major oilfields around the globe are getting tired and are in decline. In due course, unless somebody finds a lot of undiscovered oil, Browne and his corporate confreres will have an ever-diminishing amount of oil to sell at an ever-increasing price.

Additional assistance in driving up the price of oil may come from politicians in the United States and Great Britain and Israel.

Since 9/11, prices at the pump have doubled. If these three countries go ahead with their hearts' desire, an attack on Iran, gasoline at $7 a gallon sounds about right.

Because more people (China and India) with more money want more of a lessening supply of oil, prices will go into zoom mode before long. But how long is before long? It could be three years, it could be ten or it could be fifteen years--or just when your grandchildren will be going to college or hitting the job market.

For all kinds of reasons, the age of cheap, plentiful oil is coming to a rapid close. And that is a greater, surer and more profound threat to Western civilization as we know it than Al Qaeda multiplied by a hundred. It is well to remember that all the Islamo-fastisto-terroristico-jihadi-fanaticos can only blow up a skyscraper full of people or crash a passenger airliner or incinerate 400 people on a subway train or even get lucky and take out a few more doing their Sunday shopping at the mall with a dirty bomb.

We can survive that.

We can do better than survive that; we can probably prosper. Remember 9/11. Unless somebody you knew was in the building or your business was affected, that horrific event left little more than a blip on the economic radar screen.

Compare that as a threat to the day when oil flows become lethargic oil drips. Then the passenger airliners will be inoperative, the skyscrapers will be emptied for lack of power to run them and the malls will be deserted because there will be insufficient gasoline to get to them--and they will have little to sell.

Currently one of the big debates in the energy field is what will occur if and when all the oil is used up and we find ourselves in what is being called the "post-carbon age." That's a debate for geologists, economists and think tankeroos.

But there is no debate over the steadily increasing price of oil, which is certain to double, triple, quadruple in years to come.

The economic and therefore the political consequences, even if we are somewhat prepared, will be shocking in ways only a few presently understand.

Most of us have been nurtured to believe that after a few adjustments are made by way of "energy conservation" and the "miracle of technology," we shall be on our merry way as before. We buy it when George Bush remarks, almost absent-mindedly, that America is addicted to oil but that he and his allies have the biofuel methadone needed to kick the habit.

Well, methadone doesn't work on heroin junkies, and it won't work on oil junkies either.

If we are to survive, much less prosper, in a time when oil will vie in price with Cristal, we must not only think outside the box; we must get rid of the box.

We must do something Americans have never imagined: Give up on economic growth.

We must abandon the long-held idea that we can grow our way out of every problem, that growth is the path to achieve every national goal.


The old model is out of date.

Either we start working on a new one right now or in too short a time the free and the brave will be fighting one another for a whiff of air-conditioning in the summer or a place by the fire on the cold nights to come. "

Yes, the old model is out of date.

That means you Pork Chop.

That means you Soccer Mom

That means you Disco Dancer.

Wake up, open up, wise up, and cough up

your old ideas, and everything else you think you know.

Cause you don't.

We need to declare war on our bad ideas,

and our tepid enthusiasm for life,

not our fellow sailors.


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art courtesy of Jan Rickman


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Twain, writing about the French Revolution in "A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur's Court".

'There were two "Reigns of Terror", if we could but remember and consider
it; the one wrought murder in hot passions, the other in heartless cold
blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years;
the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred
million; but our shudders are all for the "horrors" of the... momentary
Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe
compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and
heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief
Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn
over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older
and real Terror - that unspeakable bitter and awful Terror which none of us
has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.'

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you like sleep or not?

5:13 PM  

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