In the 1990’s science fiction TV series Babylon V, created and written by J. Michael Strazynski, a Mimbari (watch the show…?!) named Lennier, played by Bill Mumy, from the old Lost In Space series, tells the space station’s security chief, played by conservative radio talk show host Jerry Doyle, that his Kawasaki racing motorcycle, which has just been assembled by said alien, should not be allowed to run on “liquid hydrocarbon fuels”, as this would seriously pollute the atmosphere, a lesson his home planet of Mimbar learned millennia ago.
Well said, Lennier, but the security chief, named Michael Garibaldi, is mightily disappointed, not only because his pet project has been completed while he wasn’t watching, but also because Lennier has given the cycle a clean, non-combustion power source. Now the bike’s engine will roar through its exhaust pipes no longer.
An apt metaphor for our world economy. We like to hear and feel the noise and the power. As a global economy, we have yet to understand the subtle and transforming power of, well, power itself.
Let us begin with the subject of oil as fuel. Oil, being the liquified remains of millennia’s worth of now-extinct creatures of significant size, is the ultimate non-renewable energy, along with coal, which is the compressed solid remains of the plants, not the animals. Every time we burn through a gallon of gasoline, or diesel, or jet fuel, we are depleting this limited store of precious stuff, just like it was whale oil. Whales are still around, of course, but only because humans discovered they could burn the oil of animals that were already dead, and whose deaths and extinctions they were not responsible for.
If we actually make things out of oil, and everything that is plastic is made of oil (www.priweb.org/ed/pgws/uses/plastic) we at least have something to show for the dead dinos we just consumed. All of these uses, have a time limit on the output side, (oil depletion) and much too long a shelf life on the output side (plastics are almost forever!).
Take the example of an American child’s birthday party. The host child invites seven other kids from various neighborhoods, since school might be close by, but the soccer team, or the science team, or the gaming group is spread around town. So, seven parents will drive each child to this central location, perhaps with siblings to be dropped off elsewhere, but probably just the two of them in each car. Fuel efficiency in transportation
Gifts of various sorts, but most made with plastic, will be purchased and wrapped, birthday cake will be served, perhaps on disposable plastic plates, eaten with disposable plastic utensils, balloons, perhaps latex, but more likely mylar, and drinks, served in plastic, not usually paper, cups will all make their appearance. Look at the oil use of this party. Multiply it times the number of children in the US that might have such a party, then extrapolate this out to the developing nations, and see if we even have enough oil left to fuel and manufacture kids’ parties on a global scale, much less run entire economies. Peak oil
For even the most casual observer of human behavior, it is clear that both as individuals and as a collective, We do not make big, fundamental changes until we absolutely HAVE to. For anyone to be optimistic enough to believe that the global economy can transition from a petroleum/coal basis to a renewable, non-nuclear basis, in an orderly, non-crisis fashion, is the height of naiveté. It should be clear that the wars about oil have only just begun.
As supply begins to dwindle, and prices begin to rise past the point that even the producers want, and average citizens in China, India and Africa see that they have missed their chances to have middle-class individualism delivered to their doorsteps, the real squabbles will begin. Globalism Pushing Middle Class Standard of Living Down to
Third World Levels
China, in their ages-old wisdom culture, knows how to position itself for the future. When it comes down to Oil versus their future, they will have subsidized solar panel and fuel cell manufacturing to the point that they will become the new Energy Power Brokers of Planet Earth. The Obama administration took some mild political heat for the solar panel company in California that went bust after getting some help from the Feds; there was very little reporting as to why they were manufacturing at a price point below their costs. China is WAY out in front on the subsidizing of their future industries. Not only that, their public/private or public-only companies are being bankrolled by the income they get from their massive holdings of US debt. A sweet irony, but also a sour one, perfectly suited to the U.S.-China relationship. So where to go from here…? A good question for any US citizen to ask, and to develop their own opinions about. Here is mine.
The Future needs fewer people everywhere, but especially in the most developed parts of the global economy. These people (read You and Me) consume the most resources. The Future needs more things made from renewable materials, and recycled Everything. Paper packaging MUST replace plastic, as every blister-pak and CD sleeve and shrink-wrapped roll of paper towels ( the ultimate contradiction!) makes the Future a little less, well, possible.
The Middle East petro-monarchies, the African coastal nations, the South American state owners of oil production, and even our even-tempered oil-sand miner friends to the north in Canada will all be subject to forces they cannot spend, battle, dig, drill, or talk their way past.
Burning oil is putting all of the carbon stored in the planet over the last billion years back into the atmosphere in about three hundred years. Thankfully for the other animal species, who are not complicit in their own destruction, as Homo sapiens seems to be, there is a very limited amount of time left for this folly to continue.
As I stated earlier in this essay, humans will not make fundamental changes in their modes of thought and behavior until they are forced to by circumstance and survival. We are about to be tested, since if we do not evolve the required cultural and economic will, the necessary psychological and social strength, our planet’s infrastructure will be consumed and not replaced in enough time to avoid global disruption of, well, everything…New Colonist World Without Oil
See you next time, with information and opinion about the world of investing, finance, banking and their chief dysfunctional enabler, government as practised in a modern 24-hour news cycle global fishbowl…