Archived Jul 13 2009
Deep thought - July 13
Click on the headline (link) for the full text.
Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
A problem of security
Damien Perrotin, The View from Brittany
A week ago the French government announced that it was canceling the planned recruitment of 5000 policemen. This has hardly been a cause for debate, even in France, for understandable reasons. President Sarkozy, a former Minister for Police, is big on law and order and such an announcement does not really fit within what he claims to be his policy, as for the left opposition, even if it wasn't busy tearing itself to pieces – which it definitely is – it does consider policing as a dirty job, something which must be done but which decent people should not talk about. Yet, and even though it is quite unlikely to make the front page of any remotely meanstream paper, the event is definitely worth discussing, for it highlights an important aspect of the energy descent.
...The immediate reasons of Sarkozy' decision are quite obvious. Like everybody those days, he is desperate for cash and due to European regulations he cannot run too large a deficit or print. Budget cuts, especially those kinds of budget cuts, are hardly absurd. They can help create some maneuver room and liberate resources for more vital, or politically more important, domains.
The problem is that it works only for temporary crisis, something the one we face is definitely not. While its immediate cause has been the subprimes debacle, it is fundamentally a manifestation of our colliding with the Limits to Growth the Meadows Report highlighted thirty years ago. Our economies are dependent upon a steady inflow of high grade energy only fossil fuels can provide and the supply of those is stagnating and will soon enter terminal decline. This means that the resource available to support state apparatus – whether or not they are as bloated as the French one – will become scarcer and scarcer.
(12 July 2009)
Energy Bill Ignores Resource Depletion
The Cultural Economist
Although future fuel shortages and price increases are openly predicted by four Federal Government reports, several books, and multiple documents, Congress refuses to acknowledge oil, coal, or natural gas depletion. There is nothing in H.R. 2454 that even hints Congress understands the consequences. It’s as though energy resource depletion doesn’t exist.
Congressional failure to acknowledge the reality of depletion creates an interesting irony. Congress wants us to believe the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 will create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition America to a clean energy economy. But this bill is based on a basic assumption we will always have unlimited quantities of cheap coal, oil and natural gas. The stated objectives of this bill are therefore rendered useless by the underlying assumptions.
There is nothing in this bill that addresses, or even acknowledges, that oil resource depletion will reduce the production of greenhouse gases between now and 2050. Higher prices and limitations on availability will force a reduction of consumption and a decline of economic activity. By 2020 North American oil and other liquids consumption will have fallen below year 2000 levels. Additional reductions will occur through 2050 and beyond.
(10 July 2009)
Suggested by Linton Hale.
Interview with Carolyn Baker
Lisa Fernandes, Saco River Community Television (video)
Interview with Carolyn Baker about her new book, Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse.
I reviewed Carolyn's book recently on EB here. KS
Peak oil means peak food as well
Michael Lardelli, On Line Opinion
Optimism about our future is compulsory. It is politically incorrect to profess anything else. No matter what problems we face - ecological overshoot, global warming, energy decline, overpopulation - we must nevertheless be optimistic and hopeful that we will find solutions. People who do not believe that we will overcome our difficulties and continue ever upwards on a path of continuing economic growth and progress are "doomers". They spruik "doomer porn". They utter their nonsense because they hate the human race. If we fail and fall it will be their fault for being so pessimistic! They are undermining our resolve and ability to respond. Human ingenuity can always find a way if we only believe it!
I like to think of myself as a scientist (but that is always for others to judge). For a scientist the principal we hold most dear is objectivity. We must try to interpret data without superimposing our own beliefs, values or desires upon it. Even when it tells us what we do not want to believe. Even when the data make us sick to the pits of our stomachs with terror.
I am pessimistic about the future because I have seen and understood the data on resources. I know that oil production peaked in July 2008. (I have seen the unpublished reanalysis of the International Energy Agency’s own 2008 report that shows this conclusively.) I know that our use of other resources - such as water and phosphate - is critically unsustainable. Now that energy is declining there will not be enough to invest in building the alternative energy future that many of us dream of.
The nature of our economic/political system means that the declining fossil energy supply will go to the shorter term priorities of growing food, supporting armies and maintaining (as far as possible) the comfortable lifestyles of an ever-contracting circle of the wealthy. The time needed to build any form of alternative energy infrastructure - and the scale of the expansion needed in the face of the current and worsening energy decline - mean that it will simply never happen.
If I am so pessimistic, why do I bother writing about it? What good does it do? As a scientist I know that you must understand a problem in order to solve it. To have any chance of coping with this developing disaster we need to see it for what it truly is - not pretend that it does not exist (for example, the population problem) or that it will never happen (for example, peak oil). If we do not understand the true nature of the problem the "solutions" we attempt may make the problem worse. Like supporting future population growth through more efficient use of resources. Or growing biofuels on marginal land without considering how you will replace the soil nutrients they deplete. Or planning to electrify of the car fleet without considering the load that will place on an overstretched grid or where the energy and materials will come from to maintain the road network it requires.
If we objectively understand our true situation and what, feasibly, we can do about it then we can take appropriate action and not waste our precious remaining fossil energy on optimistic - but ultimately futile - "solutions". We will not end up where we want to be (there will be no return to the peak of the oil age and the extravagant technologies it supported) but we may avoid falling the entire distance to the brutal bottom of the energy curve that awaits.
(13 July 2009)
Author Michael Lardelli writes:
I would like to point out that the title I had originally given this piece was:
"Make Optimism Our Enemy"
Online Opinion changed it - which is why the essay may appear a little off-topic until the end.