Friday, December 28, 2012

Is It Time To Admit - The Peak Oil Community Was Right?

Before we move on to predictions for the new year, it's worth noting just how many of the predictions that the peak oil community has made over the years are coming true even as we speak. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it's the one group that's been most consistently right about the world we're living in.

Americans driving less? Check.

High energy prices constraining economic activity? Check.

Climate change derived superstorms devastating entire regions? Check.

Weird weather all over the world? Check.

Resource scarcity? Check.

Agricultural output peaking? Check.

Wildfires and drought crippling the Western United States? Check.

Tropical diseases returning to first world countries and spreading north? Check.

The global economy in shambles and attempts to restart economic growth around the world failing? Check

Debt repayments destroying national economies? Check

Unemployment and underemployment rising? Check

Food riots? Check.

Dust bowls and expanding deserts? Check.

Gasoline riots? Check.

Rise of right-wing populism and hostility to immigrants around the world? Check.

Mainstream economists seriously discussing the end of growth? Check.

People having less children and household formation down? Check.

Sail transport making a comeback? Check.

Economies turning to increasingly desperate measures such as tight oil, shale oil, fracking, horizontal drilling, deep offshore drilling and tar sands? Definitely yes.

What is going to take for the mainstream media, the political class, pundits, economists and others to admit that the Peak Oil community called it, and their predictions about the fate of humanity are squaring pretty tightly with events? How much longer can they sweep stuff under the rug and pretend that we're going to have business as usual?

6 comments:

  1. Your last two questions nicely sum up your rhetorical point.

    As to the answers: 1) Do you believe in miracles from God? 2) Essentially forever, or at least until they themselves are swept away by physical events. Admitting that their power and glory are over is just not on the agenda. Not ever. Those are non-negotiable, to borrow a word.

    --Gaianne

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  2. What is it going to take? A miracle. Denial is the most powerful psychological force in humans. The denial of death, for example, drives much human activity. Why would anyone spend most of their lives in misery working for a corporation otherwise?

    How much longer can reality be swept under the rug? Easter Islanders kept sweeping it under the rug until they were basically extinct.

    I predict that the anger of the elites and masses, together, will increase and lead to real, existing fascism and even totalitarianism of the 21st century variety. I predict that nations that have managed to avoid conflict will get into it over resources. I would wager that Russian and China have a natural affinity, despite their historical issues, because Russia is resource rich, and China is growing. Japan is screwed, and will beseech the USA and cause a conflict between the USA and China eventually. Russia is too strong to bully, but too resource-rich to ignore. The USA is too resource hungry to allow China to get the energy it needs, or to allow Russia the freedom to sell its resource to whomever it chooses. Other Third World nations with oil will be pawns in the new great game.

    I expect some crazy elites/leaders to consciously attempt to cause wars and even pandemics and famines as a way of bringing about desired outcomes. I expect they will fail quite a bit, as there is no unified elite, despite what believes in some conspiracy theories believe. E.g., I doubt the Masons are in control. But nature and chaos are definitely in control, along with the random walk of history, driven by the individual decisions of billions. The political class and economic elite have marginally more "control," in terms of causing immediate outcomes, but they will fail at overall control, in terms of medium-term of long-term results.

    There will be blood.

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    1. Nobody's in control. That's the problem. These massive systems require centralized control to operate but also bring about the demise of that centralized control through greed and short-sightedness. That's the paradox.

      I've noted an eerie similarity lately between the political systems of Russia, China, and the United States - the three largest world powers in terms of population, land area, resources, economies, etc. They all have a simulacrum of democracy (except China), they all have sham elections, they all rely on propagandizing their citizens, they all have pre-selected candidates, they all have a revolving door between money and power, they all have massive and growing gaps between rich and poor, massive total surveillance of their citizenry, oveeflowing and harsh prisons systems, and state-sponsored internal violence if citizens decide to protest in any way. I've dubbed it authoritarian capitalism, which is commonly used to describe China, but I believe it will increasingly be the only kind of capitalism there is as the system fails to work for more and more people. As with Communism, only violence and repression will keep the system going in its present form.

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  3. They will keep sweeping it under the rug as long as they have a broom left.

    Publius, elites have been causing wars as long as they have existed. With quite a bit of success, as history shows.

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  4. It's true that some folks were predicting all of these, but the "Peak Oil Community" is far from monolithic and were in general not in agreement on the half of these that are due not to peak oil but to climate change. (A while back I tried to go through some of the arguments made by folks who only focus on one or the other issue.)

    That being said, the folks who had a broader perspective about all the sustainability issues we're facing (e.g. Heinberg, McKibben, etc.) have been predicting much of this.

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    1. That's a good point. I guess I lumped them together because there is an increasing realization that they are two sides to the same coin. I would broadly consider the people I'm referring to as having an "energy and resource aware" perspective on politcal and economic issues. People in this vein in the mainstream, people like Richard Heinberg, Chris Martenson, Lester Brown, James Kunstler, J.M Greer, Charles A.S. Hall, Steve Keen, Nate Hagens, Herman Daly, Nicole Foss, et. al. - they tend to make predictions like the ones I mentioned.

      The other point I wanted to make is that if you want to know what the future is going to look like, put down that copy of Popular Mechanics and listen to these guys!

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