*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

'Peak oil': so what?

You ever heard that canard that 'peak oil' would save us from ourselves?  It won't.  No, I'm here to wipe that smug off your bike-riding face.
- climate change is real, and even if you do not believe it is (like my 'bad-faith' oil-company relative) it still makes no sense to shit in your own sandbox
- speaking of sandboxes, that's why the Albertan Canadian Government has ditched the 'Kyoto Accord', that even China's committed to
- if oil is worth more, you're going to do more and more stupid things to get it, like drill in the Russian Arctic
- there's lots of coal to burn yet, or to turn into gasoline like Britain resorted to in WWII
- humans will burn anything: even the mud under their feet when they've used up the trees.
No, there are only a few ways to get us out of destroying the only biosphere we'll ever get:
- our extinction, from which surviving species will diversify and renew a different biosphere
- our near extinction, from any of many human threats, from war to disease
- much cheaper clean fuels, and better use of water, and of land (the least likely to work)
- much more expensive use of resources by having all 'externalities' built into the price (no, this is the least likely)
It should also be said that if we did not fight wars (40% of world GDP) nor allow our rentier classes to hold most of the wealth, we'd have much less than half the problem we have now.  I know what we should burn!

The most likely scenario is the one that has faced all high-input empires: structural collapse due to resource depletion, followed by a collapse of population, followed by a millennial delay for forests and soils to rebound, followed by a repeat of the cycle.

Addendum: the Alberta scum ruining running my country into the ground have got even more stupid - they want Canadians to boycott Chiquita Bananas for boycotting tar-sand oil.  The 'astroturf' oil-industry organization behind this is called 'EthicalOil.org', of course.


  1. So many people in Australia complain about the price of petrol and now the cost of car registration has gone up. Sucked in. Keep raising the prices until people have to stop and think about if they really need to get in the car and drive half a km to the stop to buy a block of chocolate.

  2. Something is deeply wrong with Anglophone countries, our dependence on the car and 'empty calories', and our deep denial of how that is wrecking our cities and towns, waistlines and insulin levels. I could continue about expecting tax cuts but no reduction in services...

  3. This is pretty much my area, and one of the reasons I really despair for us as a species. So many of the people I've studied/trained/worked with who'd describe themselves as 'environmentalists' miss the point completely. In and of themselves, I couldn't give less of a shit about gorillas and the like, but they are fairly obvious pit canaries.

    "- our near extinction, from any of many human threats, from war to disease"

    The way human society(ies) have set themselves up is very, very recent. And they've been set up during a relatively brief period of relatively stable climate. Climate change isn't just a problem because it will screw up ecosystems (though it is and it will) but because it will really, really fuck up all the human systems we've come to rely on. And of course the poorest will get it in the neck first.

    Lomborg and the Copenhage Consensus caught a huge amount of flak from most environmental groups, some of it deserved, but their focus on human systems is entirely correct.


  4. Someone who has studied it more put it well: "Civilization is a Pyramid Scheme".

    In the end any scheme where you take out more than you put it, or than can naturally replace, is doomed. That is where we are; where the 'Fertile Crescent' was; Rome...

    Curious about your area.

  5. ethical oil?
    That's fucking precious. Kinda like "harmless child porn" or "honest politicians".

  6. 'Harmless child porn' There's a domain name just waiting to be registered. If we repeat it enough times here we might be able to push this post to the top of the google rankings. I'm not checking, though.

    Interesting that you mention the Wright book/lectures, as when I was writing the little screed above I had in mind Jared Diamond's 'Collapse', which wikipedia tells me covers pretty similar ground.

    By training I'm a geographer, which means I know a fair bit about quite a few things, but not a huge amount about any one thing. That said, my masters thesis was on voluntary carbon offset markets in the private sector, so there's a bit of overlap.

    The journey from that to making animal noises at pre-teens to earn a living is, well actually it's probably only too predictable.

    Merry Christmas all.

  7. Well, 'kamo', I can understand your professional route, "a fair bit about quite a few things, but not a huge amount about any one thing": I was a philosophy-major, E.Asian studies minor. Too bad that when once being a generalist was considered a proper education, and a specialist narrow minded, was before our era. Unsure what I'll encourage my hybrid to do, as university is more expensive, less of a guarantee, and a more intellectually disillusioning experience than it was even when I entered over twenty years ago.

    "Voluntary carbon offset markets in the private sector": your take on that would be interesting!

    I have read "Collapse", and though I did not enjoy it as much as "Guns, Germs and Steel" it is not because of the truth of the thesis, but that the latter book had the more challenging thesis: all history you've learned was taught wrong. Not bad for an ornithologist. Of course that gave the academics reason to crow about their fiefs getting laid waste by his arguments. 'The reason the fights in academics are so vicious is because the stakes are so SMALL.'

    Chris, 'ethical oil', 'harmless child porn', and 'honest politicians' are doublespeak, of course. Fucking marketers have either never read '1984', never understood it, or understood it too well. I can believe any of these.

  8. Most schooled people I have come across seem to lack practical skills other than being reliable consumers. So when it comes to questions like education for the little hybrids, we have come to understand that showing them how to do things by themselves is perhaps the best we have to offer. Admittedly, we are late in the game in terms of knowing how to put things together ourselves, but at least we've got a direction.

    If that makes sense.

    As for structural collapse, we can only hope that continues happening in slow motion.

  9. http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/book_files/pb4book.pdf

    spreading the word.