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Reply #6: The Shit will be meeting the Fan [View All]

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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-21-04 11:29 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. The Shit will be meeting the Fan
The thing is, it doesn't have to be that way. And second, even if the worst scenario goes down, we could still provide a high level of residential power and have more than enough left for food production and transport. We have hydro power (12%); nuclear (5%); and wind power could easily make a dent in our power needs inside of three or four years. (Personal cars? The personal car of 2020 will probably be an alcohol-powered engine for a modified bicycle.)

But people don't count, and all available energy is going to go to keeping the economy afloat, because our particular form of capitalism requires a 2.5-3% per annum growth rate just to keep from falling into depression. Even if we had limitless "zero-point" or "free" energy, that would doom us to turning the globe into an incandescent ball of rock.

So I think that's the real problem the fact that our society can't manage energy use and economic activity. Our economics isn't just carbon-dirty, it turns too much energy into waste, whether that waste is heat or social waste.

Various "Peak Oil" scenarios have been analyzed, but that oil won't just suddenly disappear. There is actually quite a bit of oil left. It's just more difficult to recover. There's an equation called "EROEI" for "Energy Return On Energy Investment". In absolute terms, we have used between 40-50% of all the oil the Earth has, even figuring future finds into the picture. But less than half of what remains is even recoverable, since it would require more energy to bring it to the surface than the energy the oil contains. After 2020, oil will become a "boutique fuel". But the economics of oil are already changing. As Cavallo wrote, in 1998, oil was $10 per barrel; it's just under $40 per barrel today, and the price of gasoline is a lagging economic indicator. Imagine how the economy will change when oil is $200 per barrel -- not out of the question for 2010, and likely for 2020.

A bunch of stuff will be hitting the fan soon -- the oil is running up against the economics of gravity, China is going on-line with major economic and industrial expansion, the Middle East has turned into a quagmire that could push the USA into tyranny, the climate is beginning to "whipsaw," probably as a first step into the next full-on ice age, there's a tremendous die-off of fauna in progress and since the honeybees are closing in on extinction, huge parts of the flora would be next. The end of the Mayan calendar will be the least of our worries if we continue on our current Bushonomic path.

I'm not just catastrophizing. I think the "synchronicity" we're observing is real and devoid of metaphysical meaning. We've collectively rushed toward the Apocalypse, and ours is the generation that is going to have to face it. We've wrung the neck of the goose that laid the golden eggs, and now we're tearing into the body to find the remaining golden ocytes.

I trust human instinct to avoid that Apocalypse. But you're right, the choice is, do we do it easily, humanely, and with a sense of challenge? Or do we do it in agony, with a human die-off, facing a centuries-long dark age?

I actually think that PNAC and other such schemes are "end-game" projects. Not that I like PNAC, but I can understand why it came about -- the desire for one particular elite to preserve its privilege and seize control of a dying world. Such a fascistic plan actually has "survival value", but it's based on a cynical world-view. However, the Chinese are already clearly thinking in those terms, and if the Muslim world ever finds its Ashoka or Tamerlane, we will enter a very interesting period of history.

The world doesn't have to die. I have no doubt that a 10-year-long super-Manhattan-Project effort could give us sheets of photovoltaic cells at a cost similar to Christmas wrapping and home nuclear reactors the size of water-softeners. But that would be "socialistic", and it's not just the American right-wingers who don't want that -- the oil barons don't want it, American and European plutocracies don't want it, the Chinese "Communists" don't want it -- not until they're good and ready for it, and they're jockeying for position right now. But their empires will also be hurt and their wealth will decline, and they'll realize they waited too long, although a lot of their serfs will be miserable before they decide to start dealing with it.

The solution? Well, I'd like to think that DU is one little part of it.

--bkl
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