Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Western Hemisphere Deep Integration - Hemisphere as Empire - Part 2

Ever since the original statement of what has come to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, there have been forces within the U.S. Federal government who have interpreted that Doctrine as "....shorthand for American colonialism in the Americas" and "a declaration of hegemony and a right of unilateral intervention over the nations of the Western Hemisphere". Those same forces have also tended to interpret the associated principle of "Manifest Destiny" as "a theoretical justification for U.S. expansion outside of North America."
There has, fortunately, been strong and continuous opposition to these interpretations that has kept such sentiment somewhat in check. Expansion has been subjugated through most of the past half-century to intervention. The operational unit that has been at the forefront of this intervention has been the CIA with its consistent involvement in the politics of Latin America.
With the current and increasing focus on global energy reserves, however, there is growing motivation to go beyond intervention. There have, even during that half century, been a number of cases of American military "intervention", the Bay of Pigs, Panama, Grenada, the drug wars in Colombia, the Iran/Contra involvement, the Cuban missile crisis being the major examples. Whether it be called intervention or otherwise, "In practice, the U.S used the Monroe Doctrine to side with whatever side of Caribbean conflicts favoured the United States". US interests, in its dealings with nations throughout the world, are increasingly and strongly focussed on energy. And the known and presumed energy resources of South America have very much captured the attention of the U.S. administration. The vast oil sand reserves of troublesome Venezuela, the natural gas reserves of troublesome Bolivia, the offshore oil reserves of troublesome Cuba, the offshore oil reserves of Brazil, the presumed reserves of oil and natural gas beneath Brazil's Amazonia region, all have the U.S. administration licking their lips as they face ever-dwindling domestic reserves and increasing geo-political problems in the middle east, Africa, Central Asia and other oil provinces. Even Canada, the now primary "foreign" supplier of both oil and natural gas, is already in decline on its natural gas and conventional oil supplies, and cannot ramp up oil sands production sufficient to satisfy America's future needs.
Through the efforts of the WTO, OECD, IMF, and World Bank the U.S. has gained considerable economic control over Latin America. But that is running into consistent political problems and serious defaults on major development loans. Latin America is costing a lot of money and, with various Latin American countries like Venezuela and Bolivia getting very uppity about sovereignty over their energy resources, the U.S. is getting less and less of what it needs and wants from those investments. The U.S. has attempted to increase its economic influence in South America through the OAS (Organization of American States) and through the proposed FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). The FTAA proposals at this stage are floundering, partly through opposition to it being pushed by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. At this stage the administration are even considering the possibility of allowing U.S. companies to invest in Cuban oil development projects, something that would never have been considered just a couple of years ago. Such is the desperation of U.S. for oil and other energy sources over which they can have some hope of exercising any measure of control, with or without stability.
Heightening U.S. angst about Latin America, and even Canada to some extent, is the frantic pace at which China are getting involved in energy deals in the Americas. In fact, it is that Chinese activity and the expansion/intervention interpretations of the Monroe Doctrine and the principle of Manifest Destiny that are beginning to raise red flags in South America particularly. The ability of the U.S. to "control" the energy resources of South America to ensure meeting future U.S. energy needs are being severely compromised.
It is naive to assume that the U.S. administration and government are unaware of peak oil. With that awareness also comes the awareness that future trans-ocean transportation of energy supplies, whether oil, LNG, coal or other, will be severely compromised on the downslope of Hubbert's Peak. That awareness must lead to the awareness that ultimately beyond peak oil ones energy needs will have to be satisfied domestically or continentally. The easiest and most efficient means of transporting oil, natural gas and coal is by land, through pipelines or using railways. Both of these methods can be buffered against the decline in global oil supplies. But both require a continental base of energy supply.
If the U.S. cannot achieve continental/hemispheric energy security through economic control and political pressure it may feel that the other arm of diplomacy, the military, is the only means left open to them. It may not be enough to be able to isolate North America. The hegemonic aims of the nation may only be achievable with hemispheric energy control.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Western Hemisphere Deep Integration - Hemisphere as Empire - Part 1

Whatever borders and lines men arbitrailly draw on a map there are always powers in operation that wish to see them altered. All too often those powers are strong enough to attempt to do so. Borders separating peoples that have a natural affinity and relationship of language, colour, religion or otherwise are always being look at enviously by some power wishing to bring those divided peoples back together. One need only look at the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland, North and South Vietnam, North and South Korea, China and Taiwan, Pakistan India and Kashmir, Turkey Iraq and Kurdistan, Germany and the former east Germany, and more. In any large national area there are always those powers within the nation that seek to divide it, usually along lines of language or religion or ethnicity. Witness Canada and its factions for Quebec and Western separatism, the U.S. and its civil war and continuing separatism pressures in the south, in California, in the Pacific northwest, and others, the desires and attempts to divide Iraq into autonomous Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions. The separatist pressures of areas like the Gold Coast in Australia. The frequent separatist efforts in the Normandy region of France, the Basque region of Spain. Pressures for autonomy in Brazils Amazonia region, Argentina's Pategonia region, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and of course the political implosion and break up of the former Soviet Union into independentent nations.
Not unexpectedly, whenever there is a serious difference in power - whether that be political, military or economic - between the different parties involved, and particularly when that power is gained due to an inordinate amount of external support, the party with that upperhand of power will generally use that power to have its way in the conflict. Ireland and Northern Ireland are still separate because of the disparity of power that Britain brings in its claims for and support of Northern Ireland. The Soviet Union broke up because it became economically and militarilly impotent against the powers working to destroy it. Quebec is still part of Canada, as is western Canada, because there is not sufficient support, both social and economic, to effectively push the desire for separation. Yugoslavia broke down because the powers seeking division strengthened and the external support from the Soviet Union for holding the nation together disintegrated. North and South Korea remained separated because of the balance of power between their separate supportes, China in the North and the US in the south. The falkland Islands are not part of Argenta because the passion and power that Britain chose to put into the defence of those islands could not be matched by Argentina, despite their proximity. Each such situation of desired union or separation can be analyzed to find out the reasons that it has either succeeded or failed.
The methods used to attempt to bring separate regions of cultural, ethnic or religious similarity together or to break down the unity of a country and drive the cause of separatism are as numerous as the examples. Two key constants to success, however, are money and military power. A well financed rebel army with passion and a will to fight for their cause, and a willingness to wait for the right opportunity, can achieve its aim, when the time is right, with relative ease and speed.
But I want to look at the opposite side of the coin, the building of a large nation or an empire from politically, ethnically, and culturally disparate entities. The building of a nation like Canada or the United States or China or India, or the building of an empire like the British Empire, the Roman Empire, The Soviet Union, the Spanish conquest of almost all of Latin America, save for Brazil. At various times in Human history a nation that has been a pre-eminent power on the planet (or at least the generally recognized "civilized" portion of it) succumbs to the desire to increase their national stature by building an empire. This generally, and unfortunately, is achieved by the invasion, capture, oppression or subjugation of other nations, states and peoples. The Roman Empire at its peak covered almost all of what then was recognized as "the known world". The British Empire was built on sea power, military power, cultural discipline and economic power and covered much of the planet. The Soviet Empire was built in much the same way as the Roman Empire, military conquest and cultural and financial domination of nations around them as they spread out from their core. Hitler attempted to do the same thing by turning Europe into an expanded German empire.
But empire building today is very different and very complex. The Soviet Empire disintegrated because the Soviet Union attempted to hold the empire together with military might, and the political, economic and cultural subjugation of the disparate peoples of the empire. It was probably the last empire where those methods would be used to try to hold the empire together. It was not, however, the last attempt at empire. There are at least three empires being built in the world today. One is relatively obvious, that being the European Union. It is an empire unlike any of the past.
The other two empire builders in operation today are, of course, the United States and China. Both are using very different empire building methods than have ever been employed in the past. Both are being driven by the same objectives: global economic domination and global control of energy resources. And both, I believe, will only pursue the present techniques as long as they gain them those objectives. When, not if, those techniques fail to deliver I believe both will then pursue more traditional and agressive means of achieving the empires they are trying to build. That will be the subject of part 2.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Middle East Crisis and Peak Oil

There is an unfortunate tendency among many peak oilers to translate every global geopolitical event in terms of peak oil. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Those same people will, in the next breath, complain that the world's political leaders are unaware of peak oil and have no plans to deal with it. It has to be one or the other. It can't be claimed that politicians are ignorant of peak oil and at the same time claim that it is the motive force behind everything they do.
There is little question that the involvement of the nations of the western world in the events of the middle east are motivated by the presence of such large volumes of oil in that region. Western nations have been prepared to go to war in order to secure access to oil and other energy resources, and indeed non-energy resources, for decades and centuries. It can even reasonably be argued that most of the major wars of the past century have been a result of energy reserves and access to them.
To project this reality into a peak oil perspective and claim that current global geopolitical events have to do with political awareness of peak oil and the desire to secure the "last" of the world's energy reserves is misguided. The current middle east crisis, as with most previous middle east crises, is about religious bigotry and intolerance. It is about two different peoples seeing a completely different truth in the same set of facts. It is about the peculiarly human frailty of measuring each other by our differences than our commonalities. I have two cats, one a grey American Shorthair and the other a black/white/orange calico. It's odd how they seem not to bother about those obvious visible differences. I think all they see in each other is another cat. Yes, they will squabble sometimes over who eats off which dish at mealtime. But that has no basis in their physical differences. I do not, I must mit, know what their individual religious affiliations are.
I am not going to launch into a pointless polemic about learning to live together. I am not going to break into a few bars of "Ebony and Ivory". I am not above doing either, but they are not the point of this article.
My point here is a simple one. Do not draw connections between peak oil and world events that do not exist. The tendency is regretable that peak oilers looked to such a wide variety of world events as confirmation that their belief in peak oil is not misplaced. But it is a process of forcing those world events through a very narrow filter. The confirmation of political awareness of peak oil and political action to deal with peak oil will come when it comes. Whenever that happens it will be far earlier than the world is prepared to deal with it. Don't rush it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Juggling With Eggs (follow-up on "Eggs, and the Baskets that Hold 'em")

Which of the potential global crises and disasters ahead of us does one prepare for?
That is not a frivolous question. It is not like, "Pick a card, any card." To some degree there are preparations that one can and should make that will stand you in good stead whatever crisis overcomes us first. And, to be sure, the crises ahead of us are not theoretical, not remote possibilities. All are strong probabilities. The common question concerning all of them is; When? Which one will we have to deal with first?
In order to properly evaluate the risk and imminence of the various impending crises it is necessary to evaluate the underlying, mitigating factors involved. What are the variables that will affect when any of those crises will explode upon us and how seriously they will impact global society?
There are two clear and unmistakable mitigating factors common to all of the global crises we are facing; 1) human population; 2) lifestyle and its utter dependence on global fossil fuel usage.
The risk of a global pandemic is exacerbated by our massive human population, our incursion into more and more areas of virgin wilderness exposing new disease vectors, the ease of global travel and the associate potential of quickly dispersing a pandemic to global proportions, the global overuse of antibiotics and vaccines and the resultant overall weakening of human immune systems. At the same time, our ability to quickly, and hopefully successfully, respond to a global pandemic is heavilly dependent on the global medical infrastructure that our use of cheap fossil fuels has allowed us to construct. Once peak oil is upon us and as global society is impacted by diminishing oil and other fossil fuel energy supplies both the ease with which a pandemic can spread globally and our ability to contain and control it globally begin to diminish. One of the first casualties of peak oil will be an accelerating loss of the ease of global travel. Although the risks of a global pandemic are high, therefore, that risk is itself heavilly mitigated by peak oil.
Global overpopulation and its dependence on a human-created, artificial carrying capacity, is itself the most serious problem underlying all of the potential crises ahead of us. That human population, however, and the ability to produce, process and distribute enough food to support that population, is very, very heavilly dependent on cheap oil and other fossil fuels. The green revolution that allowed our human population to explode from two to 6.75 billion people is heavilly dependent on artificual fertilizers (produced from natural gas), herbicides and pesticides produced from oil, mechanized irrigation dependent on oil-derived fuels, and a global food processing and distribution system that is critically dependent on oil-derived fuels. When the global oil goes into decline, therefore, the artificial carrying capacity that supports our current population will begin to decline at an accelerating pace.
Global warming, though it may be debated whether fossil fuel usage is the cause, is certainly seriously exacerbated by our global use of oil and other fossil fuels. If peak oil and subsequent oil decline, coupled with a global decline in natural gas, sees a rush to the use of "dirty" fossil fuels such as coal, oil shale, and peat, our human impact on global warming will, in fact, worsen.
Our global consumer lifestyle, coupled with our massive human population, is depleting this planet's finite resources at a breakneck pace. We are not only looking at near term acceleration of depletion of oil and other fossil fuel reserves but also of a host of other finite resources including a wide range of base metals, arable top-soil, underground aquifers, climate- stabilizing rain forests, potable ground water, arboreal forests, and more. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. If we continue to "consume" earth's finite resources those resources will run out. That's what "consume" means. If we will not alter our patterns of resource "usage" we are looking at near-term very serious resource problems, problems that simply will no longer be able to support "business as usual". That global consumerism was built on and continues to rely critically on cheap oil and other fossil fuels. There are over 300,000 man-made products in every day use that are derived from oil or oil derivatives. Look around your home and see if you can find one product for which oil, in some form, was not involved in its manufacture and distribution.
Oil is at the very heart of human society. All of the man-made or man-exacerbated global crises before us are, to a greater or lesser degree, dependent upon our use of oil and other fossil fuels. Peak oil will, as a result, have a profound impact on all of those global crises ahead of us. Oil depletion will either exacerbate them or, in some instances, oil depletion and its impact on our population and global lifestyle may be a blessing in disguise. The singlemost crisis with the greatest potential for a severe near-term impact on global human society will be peak oil. The only problem is we do not, at this stage, understand to what degree and in what way declining global oil reserves will impact the severity and timing of these other global crises.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Peak Oil Is Not About The Oil

There is something that is very important for people to get theirheads around. Peak oil is not about the oil, not about gasoline anddiesel and heating oil and jet fuel. It's not about cars, SUVs,vans, trucks, busses, trains, planes or ships.Peak oil is about food and our progressive inability, after we passthe oil peak, to produce enough of it to feed our 6.5 billion globalpopulation. Even now, every day over 40,000 people worldwide die ofstarvation, malnutrition and nutrition related diseases. Each 1%gap between global demand and global supply will increase thosedeaths by 10-25%.Food production in today's world is critically dependent on oil (forpesticides, herbicides, agrichemicals, and agricultural, irrigationand distribution fuels) and natural gas (for artificial fertilizers)and clean water from ever scarcer and shrinking lakes and rivers andever shrinking underground aquifers.A shrinking global food supply is not just a problem for the thirdworld. Everybody has to eat and we in the developed world tend tolike to do that far more than those in the third world.Reversion to organic farming methods not dependent on artificialfertilizers and pesticides will not be as easy as the uninitiatedmay think. Our commercial agricultural land is essentially toxicand sterile through our use of petrochemicals and limited-nutrientartificial fertilizers. Commercial agriculture is essentially anexport business, exporting the nutrients from the soil on which wegrow the crops and never re-importing those nutrients. If theagrichemicals on which commercial agriculture relies were todisappear tomorrow, it is reliably estimated that those samecommercial soils will produce between 5-20% of the crops they dotoday, assuming even then that there is sufficient fresh water toirrigate them. It is estimated that it would take 10-20 years ormore to rebuild the natural fertility of thyose commercial soils.Without those agrichemicals that means a drop of 80-95% in theproductivity of those soils until their natural fertility isrestored.The other key factor, of course, is crop pests. Without oil-derivedpesticides crops will be susceptible to invasion by those pests innumbers possibly never seen before. We have, through our use ofpesticides, helped those pests evolve resistance. Commercialfarmers today use 33 times as much pesticides as just three decadesago and yet lose 25% more of their crop to pests than they didthen. We are already losing the battle against crop pests. Whenthe pesticides are gone we will lose the war. That same use ofpesticides have also prevented our crops from evolving their naturaldefences against pests. Our current crops generally have very lowsurvival potential without those pesticides. All of this, ofcourse, parallels our own weakened immune systems because of theover-use of antibiotics, vaccines and other modern medicines, all ofwhich take over the immune response rather than strengthen theimmune system.In closing, this is the important point. People will notreally "get it" about peak oil until they get their heads away fromworrying about transportation fuels and understand the implicationsfor food in our world of 6.5 billion people.

Eggs, And the Baskets that Hold 'em

We are, today, faced with an unprecedented smorgasboard of global problems and crises, the majority of which are either man-made or exacerbated and pushed toward criticality by human activity. Any one of these problems by itself, in the worst case, without concerted and coordinated international effort to head it off, could become a global disaster that could ultimately result in the near-complete breakdown of global human society with the potential loss of literally millions of lives.

Which of these problems do we address? Peak oil? Global warming? Atmospheric, water and soil pollution? Depletion of millenia-old underground aquifers? Topsoil erosion and depletion? Destruction of soil fertility? Unleashing of severe killer diseases? Human overpopulation? Food security? Species extinction? Habitat and rainforest destruction? Chemical saturation? War?
Few would today persist in a belief that all is well. Most people today recognize that there are multiple serious global problems that must be addressed. The problem is where to begin. Which one do we tackle first? Can we tackle them independently? Which one is the more imminent problem and which one do you prepare for? How many baskets are there to hold all these eggs or is everyone faced with having to put all their eggs in one basket? If they can only prepare for one global disaster, which one do they prepare for?

But how can any one person prepare for the anticipated impact of one of these future disasters when the society around them appears to be intent on ignoring them and carrying on business as usual? That's the rub, isn't it? Not many people could enjoy the stigma of being a Noah building an ark in the backyard, absorb the laughter and the ridicule of everybody perceiving them as some sort of cassandra, the boy who cried wolf, chicken little.

Pat Meadows, one of the regular contributors to various peak oil Yahoo groups in which I participate, consistently espouses her "theory of Anyway". Her preparations for peak oil are those changes that she considers right and that feel right regardless of when peak oil occurs or any of the other potential global catastrophes should become more imminent. All of those preparations are geared to continuing self-sufficiency and sustainability.

That may be all the preparation anyone can realistically hope to accomplish. There is such a huge wall of legislation and rules and laws standing in the way of effective personal preparation that one cannot really ignore the business-as-usual mindset of the society around them. There is likely not a jurisdiction in North america that would permit the construction of an outhouse in the backyard and the use of humanure on the garden, for example. Yet ultimately sustainability is not achievable unless all possible nutrients removed from the soil are returned to it.

I tend to strongly feel that peak oil is the most imminent and destructive of the large group of global crises ahead of us. But what if I am wrong? How can one take the chance of putting all their eggs in that one basket when there is a reasonable risk that one of the other global crises will be upon us sooner? I don't have an answer for that. But to use that as an excuse for doing nothing ensures that one will have to deal with the worst effects of whichever crisis hits us first.

Whatever preparations one makes must be flexible and adaptable to whichever crisis first demands our attention, especially when our governments appear to be paralyzed into inaction by the multitude of possible crises. The degree of certainty that governments demand before they take action will, in most cases, mean that whatever action they do take will be too little and too late. A politicians first priority is to get elected. The second priority is to get re-elected.
Picking an uncertain future catastrophe to head off, with the risk that it is the wrong crisis, does not allow a politician to atend to either of those priorities. Telling the voters that there is disaster ahead will guarantee any would-be politician that he will be watching from the sidelines. Any preparation for the crises ahead of us is going to have to be at the personal and grassroots level. Government leadership will never emerge in time.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Canada's Energy Sovereignty, or Lack Thereof

There is an unfortunate tendency in Canada to buy into the cornucopean vision offered by politicians and the media that we are an energy rich nation with sufficient energy reserves of all kinds to satisfy our needs decades or even centuries into the future. And with the simple statistics of reserves and production it is difficult to argue with that. But when you look deeper into those statistics and match that up with our energy needs and the nature of those needs and the realities of who has control over those energy reserves, you get a very different and unnerving picture. Our energy wealth begins to look very much like the American financial wealth which is all smoke and mirrors and built on a huge mountain of debt.

Our energy resources are not ours to do with as we please. We do not control them. Control over Canada's energy resources were put on the table in the NAFTA negotiations. They were quickly and gratiously grabbed off the table. In those negotiations Canada's negotiators accepted the inclusion of a proportionality clause into the NAFTA agreement. That proportionality clause requires Canada, in perpetuity, to make available to the US an amount of oil and natural gas equivalent to our own domestic usage. As Gordon Laxer writes in Will federal parties secure Canada's energy future?, "But, even the best environmental policies will not help much as long as Canada is locked into exporting 70% of its oil and 56% of its natural gas to the US. Under NAFTA’s proportionality rules, we must continue exporting at least the same proportion of energy to the US, even if we face shortages. If Canada conserves energy, as it must, we will export more of our dwindling supplies so that Americans can maintain their SUV ‘fix’." In fact, we are reducing our domestic natural gas usage. As Tom Adams reports in his Globe and Mail article, Natural-gas policy, "Average natural-gas use per Ontario household has dropped by about 10 per cent over the past 10 years." Canada alone, of the three participants in NAFTA, fell into that proportionality trap. As Gordon Laxer points out, "Mexico’s independent policy ensures public ownership and first access for domestic needs."
Both of our two primary energy resources, natural gas and conventional crude oil, are already in decline and that decline is escalating. To replace the reducing oil supply more and more of Canada's oil production is now coming from the tar sands. But, Laxer points out, "Alberta’s tar sands have plenty of oil, but it comes with horrific environmental damage." The extraction and processing of tar sands material requires a tremendous amount of fresh water, in excess of 1,000 litres per barrel of oil. The impact on the sensitive ecology of Northern Alberta will be a terrible price to be paid by many future generations of Albertans.

More important from an energy perspective, however, is the amount of natural gas, production of which is already rapidly in decline, used in the processing and distribution of tar sands oil. According to an article in TheOilDrum.com, "an industry rule of thumb is that it takes 1000 cubic feet of natural gas to produce one barrel of bitumen. The demand for mining recovery is a more modest 250 cubic feet per barrel. Current natural gas demand for upgrader hydrogen amounts to approximately 400 standard cubic feet per barrel. Future hydrogen additions for upgrading into higher quality SCO [synthetic crude oil], may reach another 250 cubic feet per barrel. In addition to this, if no coke burning is taking place, yet another 80 standard cubic feet of barrel for upgrader fuel is to be added. Therefore, a future barrel of in situ produced high quality SCO may require more than 1700 standard cubic feet of natural gas...."
Canada is already building several LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) plants, most thus far in the Maritimes, in order to facilitate the importation of natural gas to make up for our own declining supply. A proportional amount of that imported natural gas, however, is also destined for pipeline shipment to the US.
That use of natural gas to process tar sands oil presents Canada with a double whammy under the terms of NAFTA. All of that NG usage for tar sands processing (already 11% of our total NG usage) is counted in our domestic usage figures. NG usage for tar sands processing has been increasing by about 10% per year. And all of that increase requires us to make available to the U.S. a proportional additional amount of natural gas. Not only are we selling the bulk of our tar sands oil to the U.S. but that very activity further increases the amount of natural gas, an increasing amount of which we are importing, that we must make available to the U.S.
If we continue to allow ourselves to be obliged to increasingly deplete our energy resources to satisfy the insatiable energy appetite of the U.S., we will soon, as Colin Campbell suggested in the ASPO country review of Canada, "be freezing in winter while our natural gas runs the hair dryers in Houston."

Oil Tremors: The Global Oil Tremors Before the big Oil Quake

Peak Oil is The Big One!! The oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s were minor foreshocks. The warning tremors for the big one have been building for over a year now. The time for denial and complacence is over. It's time to make plans to save yourself!
Just like seismologists constantly trying to find ways to accurately forecast the most dangerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, peak oil experts and analysts are trying to find ways to forecast when we will reach global peak oil and begin the inevitable decline in availability leading inevitably to effective depletion and the end of man's energy age. Seismologists are working with hard data from increasingly sensitive, accurate and sophisticated electronic sensors. They only have to deal with political manipulation of the data after it has been gathered and modelled. Peak oil modellers must rely, unfortunately, on human generated data even the production of which is highly frought with political agendas and economic gamesmanship. When you can control the data going into the forecast models it is politically easy to discredit predictions built on even slight deviations from that "official" data.
There was a time, not that long ago, when seismologists enjoyed the same type of reputation peak oil experts do today. They had to privately fund their own research, were constantly under a microscope where every hint of being incorrect was treated as proof that they didn't know what the hell they were talking about, that they were crackpots and doom-and-gloomers trying to panic the population. The press loved to overstate their probability estimates, call them predictions then watch the experts squirm when that "prediction" was wrong. Every past inaccurate prediction was considered proof that the next one would be wrong as well or that any accurate "guess" would be strictly accidental. That same press always wanted to know the worst case scenario then characterized the seismologists as doom-and-gloomers wishing for a catastrophe so they could say "I told you so."
But that has been the stock and trade of big business and even governments toward any system established to try to provide forewarning of problems, of catastrophes, of disasters. Bad news is bad business. Denial makes the world go round. In big business there are no problems, only opportunities. Anything that threatens the foundations of corporate faith and denial must be met with force and quashed. Any attempt to bring to light a problem without a related solution cannot be tolerated.
Every warning system that has been established, whether for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, blizzards, cyclones, global warming, flooding, droughts, all rely on an analysis of past patterns in an attempt to identify future patterns. The more data there is from past events the better will be the ability to identify the patterns that will signal the next event. There is, largely thanks to the improvement in available technology over the past few decades, a building pattern of reliability in the forecasting of hurricanes and cyclones and other potential disasters, and people have become far more ready to accept a margin of fallibility in such forecasts. Hurricane forecasters use a cone of uncertainty to forecast a hurricane's landfall that generally narrows as the hurricane gets ever closer to land. It is becoming increasingly common that people anywhere in that cone of uncertainty will begin evacuating well ahead of the hurricane's landfall.
Earthquake prediction, on the other hand, though steadilly improving, is not yet as accurate and not yet sufficiently believable to most people that they will evacuate an area on the basis of a warning. The difficulty with earthquake and volcanic eruption predictions, as with forecasting systems for any natural event, is nailing down the timing of such an event. Unlike hurricanes and other storms, the build-up to an earthquake is generally not visible, occuring, as it does, many miles underground. Seismologists can, based on what data they do have, be one hundred percent certain that a major earthquake is imminent or that a volcano is on the verge of blowing its top and yet still have to allow for a time variability of weeks, months, even years. The success in calling the eruption of Mount Pinetubo in the Phillipines in 1993 is still very rare. Because of this inability to declare a provable timing on the event the government, business and industrial vested interests in keeping the populace calm turns into a process of keeping them ignorant and depriving them of the information on which they can make their own decisions.
Like seismologists pouring over readings of tremors from their sensors, peak oil analysts know with absolute certainty today that the peak in global oil production is imminent. What they do not know is exactly when that most important event in world economic history will occur. It may be later this year, next year, five years from now. Or it may, as many believe, have already happened. The pattern we see, again like those seismologists do as the event horizon approaches, is that the frequency and severity of the oil tremors is increasing dramatically. Just as that is an indicator to seismologists and vulcanologists that a major earthquake is due or that there is about to be a major volcanic eruption, these tremors indicate that the peak is nigh. Unlike that earthquake and volcanic eruption, peak oil is not a physical event, not something you can film, not something you can see or feel. A constant in peak oil analysis is the belief that we will only know we have reached peak oil well after the event, probably five years or more.
Like with siesmology there are many hot spots that must be watched. There are numerous fault lines running through the peak oil story from which tremors are emanating. There is the infamous SA fault line: that's not San Andreas but rather Saudi Arabia. There's west Africa, OPEC, the Gulf of Mexico, Iraq, Iran, the South China Sea, the Caspian Sea, Russia, Venezuela and Bolivia, China, India, the U.S., and more.
Watching the price of oil alone tells much of the story. Like the sharp signatures on the seismograph paper, the swings in the price of oil on a day to day basis have been getting more extreme and more frequent over these past two years. Just in this past year alone the signs of peak oil have been getting increasingly difficult to ignore. Only a couple of brave peak oil experts however, like Ken Defeyres, have publically stated they believe we are already there. It is difficult to disagree with that view when one looks at all the details.
Like the spastic needle on a seismograph as the event horizon approaches, the price of oil can gain or lose as much as five percent on any given day only to reverse itself on the next. World events which would hardly have caused a midday ripple on the markets just three years ago can now throw the price into wild fluctuations for days on end. Peak oil, which wasn't even on the mainstream news radar three years ago, is now part of the everyday lexicon of mainstream news media. Every day items and articles appear in mainstream news and information journals that two years ago would have been restricted to oil insider magazines. Every day there are news quotes from OPEC officials or insiders in the Saudi Royal family or a senior executive of Saudi Aramco, the Saudi government owned oil company, that would have gone completely ignored and unreported two years ago. At least once a month some Saudi official repeats the promise that Saudi Arabia can produce as much oil as the market needs while at the same time another official is saying Saudi Arabia will no longer be able to meet the world's demand for oil. Every few days some television network in North America runs a half hour, one hour or longer piece on the oil crisis that even a year ago they would not even concede existed. Every day the number of online internet links about peak oil grows by thousands.
The U.S. SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve), which was required to be established by all participating countries by the IEA following the oil scare in the 1970s as a hedge against extreme supply disruptions, was then quickly forgotten by all but the most observant insiders. It is now being watched closely on a weekly basis by not just oil insiders but commodity analysts, stock traders, peak oil analysts and any other casual observers concerned about our energy future. China has just recently announced plans to go ahead with building their Strategic Petroleum Reserve, despite record high prices, in anticipation of a near term decline in global oil availability and anticipation of increased competition and even higher prices. Draws by several nations on their SPR reserves made last year to assist the U.S. following Hurricane Katrina have not been replaced. George Bush has committed to temporarilly suspend additions to the U.S. SPR in a vain attempt to control oil prices. Increased demand has removed any buffer there was in the world oil supply and has seen a general shrinking in the Strategic Petroleum Reserves below the levels required of the signatories to the IEA agreement governing those reserves.
Alternative energy options which were always treated as laughable science fiction curiosities are now being thrown about as the panacea for the nation's energy predicament. The US military have drawn up major plans for powering the military with bio-fuels in preparation for the decline in oil availability. Though there hasn't been a new nuclear power plant built in North America in thirty years nuclear is now being advanced as a necessity for answering our future energy needs. Shunned for decades because of its high production of Greenhouse Gases, coal is now being strongly looked at throughout the industrialized world, and particularly in the U.S. and Canada, as a critical part of future energy security. Natural Gas, on which the nation and the continent have become increasingly dependent over the last two decades, is in rapid decline in the US and now heading into decline in Canada. Governments at several levels are now rushing to construct expensive and dangerous LNG import terminals in an attempt to make up the shortfall in supply. The potential demand by countries worldwide that are building energy plans on LNG imports far exceeds the current global supply capability. It could take more than a decade to build the LNG infrastructure and transport ships to satisfy that demand. Almost half of the OPEC countries, such as Dubai, Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain are increasingly over the past year shifting their focus to natural gas, building LNG export terminals and other facilities to offset the expected decline in future oil revenues and to capitalize on the growing demand for LNG as natural gas reserves in industrialized countries slip into rapid decline. The Canadian tar sands, of which the average American was not even vaguely aware and most of whom could never locate Alberta, let alone the tar sands, on a map, are now cavalierly touted by a large share of the American citizenry and most of its politicians as the answer to America's oil woes. Even the optimists do not believe that tar sands production will ever exceed three million barrels a day. The anticipated increases in production for the forseeable future will not even keep pace with the increase in US import demand.
Government owned oil companies in China, India and several other countries are bypassing the oil markets in the past year and locking in long-term supply contracts with oil producing countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Canada, Chad, and Russia. In the past year the U.S. has passed legislation to allow drilling in the ANWR, have moved toward softening the environmental legislation that precludes drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the U.S. east coast, softened environmental restrictions on coal usage and extraction, and on potential oil shale production in the midwest. Though woefully inadequate the White House has introduced multiple measures in the past year to increase the gas efficiency standards in light trucks, SUVs and vans, bringing those fuel efficiency standards up to what was the average vehicle fuel efficiency in 1970. A large proportion of the US Gulf of Mexico production is still offline after recent hurricanes and as much as 25% of that production will probably be perpetually offline due to the increasing incidence and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes. In his most recent State of the Union address president Bush finally openly declared that "America is addicted to oil" and indicated America needed to get off that addiction.
Late last year Mathew Simmons, CEO of the major oil industry investment firm of Simmons and Company, came out with his landmark book, Twilight In The Desert which warned that the Saudi oil reserve data is badly overstated and that their production is on the verge of going into rapid decline. Saudi Arabia has the largest oil field in the world, Ghawar, which is now delivering ten barrels of water for every barrel of oil indicating it is about to go into steep decline. Already this year the world's second largest oil field, Burgan in Kuwait, and the third largest, Cantarell in Mexico, have gone into sharp decline. These two fields and the Saudi Ghawar field produce nearly 20% of the world's oil. The majority of non-OPEC oil producing nations are now past their peak in oil production with nearly half in steep decline. Three of the OPEC nations have, in the past year, become net importers of oil, several others likely to become so in the next year. There have been serious riots, protests and civil disobedience in several OPEC nations as they have tried to raise the local price of gasoline to slow the draw of precious and dwindling oil resources for local usage. Every few weeks another OPEC country announces plans to construct a new oil refinery, not because of high profits in the value added products they could produce but because the only way they can sell their heavy sour crude is to refine it themselves. The majority of the refineries in the industrialized world are constructed for light and intermediate grades of oil.
Global oil production, despite rapidly increasing demand from the U.S., China, and India, has remained roughly constant at 84mbpd the past two years. Recent reports indicate that, despite record expenditures on exploration and development, we are now consuming nearly ten barrels of oil for every new barrel found. There has not been a super-giant field (over 500 million barrels) found in decades. Those oil fields being discovered are smaller each year and soon the finds may not be sufficient to even bother developing them or the infrastructure to get such small quantities of oil to market. Major oil consuming nations are increasingly looking at politically unstable nations such as Nigeria, Sudan, Chad, Azerbaijan, Lybia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Iran, for both future and current supplies of oil. One of the most telling and salient facts is that no new refineries have been built in the U.S. in the past thirty years and the oil majors are not committing to increasing their refining capacity because we are already well past a global peak in the production of the light sweet and intermediate grades of crude oil and they believe they could not get environmental approval for new refineries designed to process sour crude, the grade that will soon be all there is left.
Does all of this add up to proof that we have reached peak oil? In a court of law it would represent an overwhelming weight of circumstantial evidence on which most juries would bring in a guilty verdict. If you were considering a long term investment in an industry with this sort of current track record you would run the other way. But how much of this reaches the average person? How much does the average politician know, or corporate executive? These are, after all, the people who make the major decisions that affect your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren. They hold the lives of six and a half billion people in their hands. Shouldn't they be aware of something so important? They are! The unfortunate reality is, however, just as with warnings for earthquakes and serious volcanic eruptions, the political and business interests in keeping the population calm and productive far outweigh the feeling of a need to issue a clear warning about a pending energy crisis when there is still so much admitted uncertainty as to the timing of such a crisis. The perceived political liability of a false alarm, especially when the uncertainty in the timing extends beyond the next election cycle, is just far too great. Letting the build up of soft warnings happen through unofficial means and focussing official attention on both denial and creating scapegoats to blame and to continue to point to alternatives that will never be able to replace oil are all seen as far more productive. Even allowing the odd politician, like Representative Bartlett, to sound alarm bells which the administration can ignore is acceptable, as long as there are scapegoats to fall back on when the time comes.
Ignoring the clear warning represented by the oil tremors that have been building globally over these past few years, and particularly in this last year, does not just put one city at risk, or one region or coast or even one country or continent. This is not something that can be handled with a mandatory evacuation of a city. Boarding up your windows won't help. Laying in a four or five day store of food is not the answer. When this one hits it will, like the Christmas Tsunami, spread around the entire world, will sweep away the global economy, though whether quickly or slowly is hotly debated, will gradually or quickly lead to a global depression and truly massive global unemployment, will critically affect our global ability to produce and distribute the food needed by those 6.5 billion people. This is not something that will be limited to poor third world countries in its effect. In fact it will probably have a more devastating effect on the rich, soft, industrialized world. The current generations, save but an aging few, have had no experience with the hunger, poverty and violence that is a way of life in the third world and which is going to build in the industrialized world in the years and decades following peak oil. If you are lucky to have grandparents who lived through the Great Depression ask them what it was like and listen very carefully. The tales they will tell will give you a foretaste of the future you can tell your grandchildren about, if you live through it.

Soil Fertility and Carrying Capacity

Earth's life-supporting environment was created by the very life dependent upon it. It is a symbiotic relationship with both halves of that partnership critically dependent upon the other. Without earth's benign and supportive environment there would be no life. Had life never arisen the oxygen atmosphere upon which all animal life is dependent would not exist.
As we near the end of our fossil-fuel age, the heartbreaking truth we must endure is that our dream of reaching out to the stars is likely never to be realized. We evolved as an earthbound species and will be forever constrained to that reality. We desperately want to believe there are other planets teeming with life. The reality is that, despite an incessant search, the only planet in all the universe that we know contains life is our own earth.
Like so many others I desperately wish SETI would receive that elusive signal from other intelligent life. Perhaps that would convince us all of what we have in common, that we are one us in a universe of them. But there are so many more reasons that we will never receive that signal than reasons that we might. Regardless, the reality is that we will continue to be dependent upon this planet for our existence.
Our solar system is a closed system. Our earth is a semi-closed system, receiving input from only our sun as it, like all stars, slowly consumes itself. The resources this planet contained before life arose are finite. Most of the resources since created by earth's living processes are renewable, not infinite but perpetually recreated by living organisms. Most of those renewable resources are themselves created from earth's finite resources. Life constantly recycles those elements through one living organism after another.
Some of those organisms convert raw minerals and other elements into a form that they themselves and other organisms can utilize. They are made available to the roots of plants which make them available to animal species who eventually return them to the soil when they die. Then the microorganisms start the process all over again. Nature wastes nothing.
Life is still critically dependent on these organisms for extending and maintaining the carrying capacity of the planet. Every ounce of raw planetary resources converted by them to a bio-available form extends and maintains the amount of life this planet can support. In these first few billion years of terrestrial life the most readily available and easily obtained of these finite resources have continuously been drawn upon by earth's life forms.
All finite, non-renewable resources being consumed will eventually be used up. Consumption will generally be at it's maximum at the point where about half of that resource has been used. This is the peak, just like Hubbert's Peak which describes the point of maximum consumption of the world's crude oil supply. Oil, though created from living organisms, is a finite resource. It is renewable only in that the same processes that created the oil we now use can recreate it. But the timescales involved are so long, on the scale of millions of years, that in human terms we must consider oil finite.
The agent using a finite resource builds a dependence on it consistent with the rate at which that resource is being consumed. That dependence is at maximum when consumption is at maximum, when that resource has reached peak and is half used up. As that resource passes peak and its availability declines so too will the agent responsible for its consumption. That is not limited to finite resources. Dependence can also be built around a renewable resource. The number of Koala an area can support is dependent on the rate at which the Eucalyptus trees on which they feed reproduce. Pandas are dependent on the reproductive rate of bamboo. Cheetah's rely on the breeding rate of Thompson's Gazelles. Oil can be reproduced but the rate of regeneration is far exceeded by the rate at which we consume it.
We consume and destroy earth's resources at a rate far exceeding that of all other life forms on the planet. Our activities, unlike those of any other species, are systematically destroying the life-support capability of the planet. Vigorously carried on long enough we will destroy the planet's ability to support any life at all, ourselves included.
Earth's life-support system consists of various components and sub-systems like the water cycle and the carbon cycle. The one component, however, most critical to land-based life, the engine of their life-support system, is top soil, that thin layer of dark, organically rich soil in which plants spread out their roots and upon which animals walk, urinate, defecate, give birth and die. It is in this thin, vital layer of soil that microorganisms convert raw resources and make them available to the myriad forms of life around and above them.
The human body contains trace amounts of almost every mineral on earth; carbon, calcium, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, gold, silver, zinc, copper, iron, aluminium, molybdenum, chromium, platinum, boron, silicon and more. These are derived from the soil through our food. The amino acids that our body's proteins are made from contain only carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur. Our bones are constructed mostly of calcium, silicon, and boron. What are all of those other minerals used for?
All living organisms are vitally dependent on two particular types of proteins that control metabolism, conversion of food to cellular material, functioning of the nervous system, cell regeneration and more. Hormones are the body's internal messaging system. They control, for example, your body's rate of cell reproduction that controls your growth, your nervous reactions, cell division, immune responses and the contraction of muscles. Enzymes are responsible for the conversion of material from one form to another, the physical construction, maintenance and division of cells, the conversion of glucose to energy, and much, much more. There are literally tens of thousands of different types of enzymes responsible for virtually everything that happens in your body.
Enzymes and hormones are built to exacting specifications contained in your DNA. An enzyme may be responsible for combining together a carbon atom and an oxygen atom or splitting apart two joined sulfur atoms united by a disulfide bond. Each does only one very specific function. Most enzymes require a catalyst that acts as an agent in speeding up a chemical reaction (getting the carbon atom and oxygen atom to link or getting the two sulfur atoms to separate). These reactions would otherwise take place at such a slow rate that life could not function. Movement would not be possible. Your body would be unable to build replacements for your damaged or worn out cells. Food could never be transformed into useable material in your body or converted to energy to drive your muscles and nervous system. Enzymes quite literally are the key to life.
You may be aware of the handful of your body's digestive enzymes. But most of the tens of thousands of enzymes in your body are contained within your cells. They are generated there, do their function there, are broken down and recycled there, never exiting the cell in which they are created. Your food may be acted upon by hundreds, even thousands of different enzymes (like workers on an assembly line) from the time it enters your mouth until it is used in various bodily processes or built into a cell.
The key to the enzyme's ability to do it's job, like the assembly line worker, is the tools it has to work with, the catalysts. That catalyst may be a particular vitamin, an atom of oxygen, or more likely an atom of a particular mineral like iron, gold or silver. The minerals in your body not used in the structure of your bones, cells, nerves and muscles are used by hormones or by enzymes as catalysts in completing the chemical reaction they are responsible for. Without it's required catalyst, like the assembly line worker without his tools, the enzyme cannot do its job. If one enzyme in a series of reactions doesn't work the whole series of events shuts down. The enzymes after that can't get their materials. If the body, for example, does not have functioning amylase enzymes which break down starches, all of the bodily functions dependent on the nutrients in starches will not be able to function because their materials are, in a sense, held up at the receiving dock.
It is through our food that we get all of the minerals and other substances that our enzymes and hormones need as building materials and, most importantly, as tools to do their work. The body may still be able to generate the enzymes from instructions contained in the DNA but without their catalysts they are as productively useless as the workers sitting in the cafeteria.
Plants get those minerals from the soil through the help of an army of microorganisms that convert them into a form, very often an oxide, that the plant can use and making them available to the roots of the plant. We are systematically destroying the microorganisms upon which all life is dependent and the overall fertility of our soil. We are doing so;
through our use of agricultural pesticides which kill soil organisms as well as the insects and other pests that we intend to destroy,
through intensive deforestation resulting in millions of tons of critical top soil (and the microorganisms and minerals in that soil) being eroded away,
by exposing forest soil microorganisms that break down dead and fallen material on the forest floor to construct new soil,
through intensive irrigation which leaches vital mineral content of the soil down to levels where it is no longer accessible,
with air pollution which results in toxic chemicals being absorbed into the soil where it kills those microorganisms,
with industrial scale plowing and tilling of the soil resulting in millions of tons of top soil being dried up and blown away every year,
by creating an impermeable layer of hardpan just below the top layer of soil which prevents both plant roots and soil microorganisms reaching the mineral nutrients in the subsoil,
in turning over the soil with the plow which brings deep topsoil organisms to the surface where they are killed by exposure and driving aerobic microorganisms from the top layer of soil deeper underground where they are killed for lack of air, water and heat from sunlight,
with our systematic destruction of the balance of soil nutrients through continued application of artificial fertilizers containing only nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus,
by systematically changing soil ph levels which makes it an inhospitable environment for many of these critical soil organisms,
by systematically changing the symbiotic relationships of soil organisms and plants by destroying the native variety of plants and replacing it with massive tracts of monoculture.
Clearly we cannot continue the destruction of this life-support capability upon which we and all other terrestrial life depend. We must begin making drastic changes now, before it is too late. Sooner or later we will push that system to a tipping point beyond which recovery is not possible. We do not know where or when that tipping point will be. We can only hope that we have not already passed it but we must still proceed with the assumption we have not.
The focus of our effort must be food security. The most critical aspect of our ability to feed our massive population is soil fertility. We must ensure that the balance of the mineral and other elemental content of our soils is rebuilt and maintained and that the soils are repopulated and maintained with the critical microorganisms that convert those elements and make them available to the other living organisms, including ourselves.
We cannot use those processes that allow us to feed over six billion people but destroy earth's life-support capability and at the same time help the planet regain it's optimum carrying capacity. The two are mutually exclusive. The longer we use those destructive processes the greater the risk we will push the life-support system beyond the tipping point leading to its eventual and inevitable collapse. If we pass that tipping point the worst-case scenarios of population collapse become increasingly probable. The global population will inevitably contract, with or without peak oil, with or without global warming or any of the other global crises looming on the horizon. When and how badly depends upon how soon and how seriously we begin to rectify the problems we have created and move toward a sustainable modality of interfacing with this planet's natural systems.

Oil, Be Seeing You

Oil, Be Seeing You

I debated with myself over about fifty different titles for my blog before settling on "Oil, Be seeing you". It is, of course, a parody on "I'll be Seeing you", a vocal of which (by Rosemary Clooney) I have included a link to on the blog. I have been actively involved in peak-oil-related Yahoo groups for years. So many of the messages posted to those groups characterize the current North American and European society as the high-point of human development and premoan the losses they/we will suffer as we slide down the back-slope of Hubbert's Peak. I admit to not being one who views it that way but that is the subject of a future article.

This blog is going to be, in part, a tracking of our journey past peak oil and through the inevitable decline in oil and other fossil fuels. It struck me that, even as we are dealing with the beginning effects of peak oil, people will increasingly have to deal with the wildly escalating cost and then the loss of more and more things which we derive from oil. There are, after all, over 300,000 products in our everyday lives derived from oil. As oil supplies decline something will have to give. How will people react as that happens?

I remember, when I was living in Australia an American friend I had acquired whilst there (I am Canadian) began waxing melancholy one day about how he would love a pack of Good-N-Plenty. So many of his memories of home in the U.S. seemed to centre around them. Not long afterward my wife and I had a powerful hankering for pancakes and maple syrup. It wasn't easy but even in Sydney Australia we found a specialty shop that had Aunt Jamima pancake mix and Log Cabin maple syrup. It was the best meal of pancakes and maple syrup we had ever had.

Which leads me to the name for the blog. "I'll be Seeing You" has always been, to me, my favourite song that expresses the melancholoy and sentimentality of lost love. Our relationship with oil is, in my mind, a love affair. And it seems to me, just like those two experiences in Australia, that as we lose more and more things because of the decline in oil, people will react very much the same way. They will, occassionally rather than constantly (that would get us into the argument about being addicted to oil), have one of those fond, melancholy, reflective experiences about those things they have lost. But like most of those pining over a lost love, those melancholy feelings will eventually fade and they will move on into a new world that has only fleeting but not overly melancholy memories of the past.

Welcome to "Oil, be seeing you".

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I must be crazy! There are so many blogs out there, even just blogs about peak oil which, lest there be any confusion, will be the focus of this blog. What the hell do people need with another one? Well..... it is my hope that through my wierd, eclectic group of interests and passions and my ability to bring together from those interests information that relate in ways others may not see, that this will allow me insights and interpretations you will not find in other peak oil blogs. It is my hope, therefore, that through reading this blog you will achieve a rare and different understanding of peak oil, of its impact on your future and those of your children and grandchildren, and of the increasingly desperate preparation measures we are going to be forced into the longer we wait.

I am, I will admit, not optimistic that we will do anything meaningful to head off the crisis coming at us. We humans, despite our supposed intellect, seem to be prone to responding to crises as they occur rather than using our awareness of that impending crisis to head it off. We are so accustomed to wanting solutions that, partly out of fear of being wrong, we are very hesitant to identify a problem as a problem. We tend to label those who identify problems, especially those who do not outline a solution for that problem, as doom-n-gloomers.

But, my friends, there really are problems too big for any one person to solve or even propose solutions. One of the main reasons for this is that some problems are not solvable within the social framework in which we live. Especially when that social framework is, itself, a major part of the problem. A problem cannot be its own solution!

Peak oil is one such problem. It is extremely complex. It is global. And oil, and the peaking of oil (and the eventual depletion of oil) are critical to the very foundation of our modern global society. Our global society is built on oil. Our everyday lives are filled with over 300,000 products made from oil or derivatives of oil. Our global society, as it is currently constituted, simply will not run without oil

The key factor, of course, is that our global society has evolved over the past couple hundred years, since the inception of the industrial revolution primarilly. The bricks and mortar within which that society operates have evolved over a much longer period than that. If we are facing a future devoid of the benefits of oil, and ultimately devoid of the benefits of other hydrocarbons as well, whether that future is twenty years away, thirty, fifty, or a hundred, it is going to take more money, effort and energy than we can today imagine to re-create that society that can function without those hydrocarbons. To continue to frivolously waste what hydrocarbons we have left in pursuit of a lifestyle that is completely unsustainable and unsupportable without those hydrocarbons is....... dare I say criminal. If it took over two hundred years to build and evolve our current global society, and we have multiplied our human numbers by 6.75 times in those ten generations, it is going to take at least several decades to rebuild society into a post-carbon model. And if we used half our global oil allocation getting this far then it is reasonable to assume that it is going to take at least the half that remains building and evolving the global society that will replace it.

This is the first entry in my blog, a blog that I hope will last as long the internet, or until I kick out, whichever comes first. It will, I assume, take me some time to build up a body of articles in the blog. Some of these early entries will be extracts from my current (Oilephant Down) and future (Midstream Horses, The Tinker's Light) books. Some will be articles I have had "published" on various web sites. Some will be messages I have posted on the various Yahoo message groups to which I belong, some of which I also moderate, one of which (RunningOnEmptyCA) I also own. But I do write every day, in addition to my web activity, and will continue to add new pieces as I write them.