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Reply #65: Don't think it -- or WORSE -- can't happen. [View All]

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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-27-06 09:48 PM
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65. Don't think it -- or WORSE -- can't happen.
Let's look at JUST the "Peak Oil" phenomenon, separate from the USA's terrible balance-of-payments situation, the decline of the Dollar, the financial hemorrhage that is the War on "Terrah", and the other economic diseases vectored to us by the verminous policies of the Bush Administration.

Right now we're on a "bumpy plateau". That's a Peak Oil state. So now, instead of having a predictable oil market, no one knows when the plateau will turn into a decline. Thus, the price of oil is brittle and jumpy. Every time the price changes, instead of changing by a few pennies, it changes by several dollars. And this will only get worse.

Until ...

Until we realize that we've actually been in decline, or post-Peak Oil. At that point, there will be a multi-market panic unless the Gummint steps in and closes the markets.

Why?

Well, in order to avoid a depression, we have to keep our averaged, long-term growth at a certain point. No one is certain what the exact point is, but the corresponding energy consumption growth has historically been 2.5-3% per year. And when I say "depression", I don't mean a recession brought on by the crash of some small financial market composed entirely of paper. No, I mean a depression that happens when the actual wealth of a nation declines -- severely.

In an oil production decline, OPEC and several American oil think tanks have estimated that the decline in available oil will be OVER 5% per year as a result of decreased supplies alone. The decrease in the ability to buy petroleum-derived energy will be steeper because several other factors enter into the equation.

Instead of 3% growth, we'll have a 5% decline. That's an 8% shortfall; the almost-immediate development of a gap of approximately one twelfth of the economic power we need to avoid lapsing into decline, the economic equivalent of a severe catabolic crisis, sometimes called cachexia by physicians; or, more commonly, wasting.

Five years after the end of Peak Oil and into the post-Peak economy, avalable oil will be down 25% and the price will be well over the magic $180/bbl price that petro-economist Matthew Simmons estimated was oil's highest stable point.

Five years after the end of Peak Oil, we'll be able to buy LESS THAN 75% of what we need; and that will cost three, five times as much as it used to. And that's a brief time. We've had the Bush monkey on our back for SIX years this week.

Can you imagine what will happen when a quarter to a half of our required energy disappears, and we have to pay out the sweet patootie for the rest?

Here's the sad, sick irony: residential and domestic use of energy is about 1/8th of the entire energy use, and with some quick thinking and re-engineering, we could cut that by 50% without causing so much as a shiver. But the main problem any energy shortage brings is an impact to the financial and economic system. Small industries and transportation will quickly go bankrupt. So the lights won't go out, and the Internet will probably stay up, and most of us will be unemployed, and be kicked out of our apartments and heavily-mortgaged homes within a few months by a terrified financial class struggling to pay their own bills.

There's also a second fear involved. Over the past 50 years, the entire world has become dependent on high-energy food production. For fertilizer, we use ammonium nitrate recovered from natural gas production, though we can literally pull the nitrogen out of the air with a high-energy conversion process. Each calorie of vegetable-based food we grow requires five or more calories of energy. And it's more critical in Asia, where breadbasket areas have been made out of deserts and steppes.

The impact of a "power-down" on agriculture will be far more profound than simply on our way of life. This is exactly the issue on which the neo-Cons ridiculed Paul Ehrlich, who predicted famines for the 1980s; but Ehrlich didn't take into account our ability to put so much energy into food production. At some point, we WILL run short of "second chances", and the laughing will stop. And keep in mind, this is happening at a time when our climate is changing. If we are at the beginning of a climatic Heinrich Event, the temperature will spike in a few years, and then crash. The weather will turn cold and dry for several centuries.

This is where the dire predictions of "Die-Off" come from -- much less energy, much less food, and much less population in a generation -- or "much less". The USA will fare the best, as usual, but it will still be a terrible situation for most people to deal with. Places like south Asia may just plain starve in entirety.

Bad enough news for you? Well, let me tell you, that's just the start of the Devil's Chain of Causality. Most of those poor, arid, impacted areas will want to survive, too. They are mainly non-Arab Muslim and ostensibly Buddhist nations, and when they start to starve to death, they will be seeking a pound of flesh -- preferably in edible form -- from their rich Muslim cousins and the Developed World. Don't look for the Dalai Lama to start throwing nukes, but the Pakistanis already have nuclear bombs; the Indonesians have a huge population on what amounts to two large and dozens of small islands and a history of leaders who have been corrupt, violent and dumb (the good ones always seem to die young); and then, of course, we have China to deal with.

Is there any way out of this terrifying scenario of the future? Yes -- we can stop the bullshit laughing about "granola" and "Kumbayah" -- and our own outdated antinuclearism, as well as recent cynicism that all anxieties exist just to serve Bush -- and immediately get to work on energy production technologies. Hopefully, whoever is president in 2009 will have enough intelligence to initiate something like the Manhattan Project for energy.

This is one of the strongest reasons why the Al Gore haters should ease up on their spite. We may not need him, or even get him, as President, but we're going to need his expertise -- especially controlling the historically bad habits of the nuclear industry, which will be both vital and demand strict public oversight. Although many reading this may bristle at the prospect of nuclear power, it may be what saves us. And if we have to twist a few corporate arms and kick a few ideological testicles to keep it safe, so be it.

As it is now, we've dallied and dithered so long that we will certainly not be spared at least some pain. This "pain" is the kind of thing that we will want to keep to a bare minimum, since it will entail far more than just waiting in long lines for expensive gasoline on alternate days of the week.

What are we facing? A visitation by a band of very real Angels of Death, who will proceed to establish a New World Order that is, basically, one thousand Holocausts over the next 30-50 years. (This assumes you're not a "holocaust revisionist". If you are, adjust your math accordingly, and then go fuck yourself with some large, sharp power tools available from www.goatse.cx )

That's what a rapid powerdown, followed by an era of famine, intertwined with nuclear blackmail, set in an era of dramatic climate change, would do.

We have a choice: We either roll our sleeves up first thing Monday morning and get to work, or we resign ourselves to a world that will be visited by a half-century of unspeakable horror and mass public death. That's the price we pay for mismanagement of our large, complex "civilization".

I think it will be easier to achieve our planetary salvation through the application of work, creative thought, and a commitment to goodwill. That's the Liberal solution. I think it's the only humane solution. And that's why I advocate it.

--p!
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