Ruminations of a Rundown Replicant

What If There Isn't A Way Out?

If you want to eye ball your future, here's an interesting post about our energy predicament.

The warnings started in 1956, with the publication of M. King Hubbert's "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels".

In 1972, "The Limits to Growth" expanded the scope. It's a report on exponential economic and population growth with a finite supply of resources. It concluded that, without substantial changes in resource consumption, "the most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity".

In 1973, Arab OPEC producers flexed their muscles with an embargo on oil exports. Over the following decade, the economic importance of affordable dense energy was driven home.

In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 "if current trends continue".

The elites reacted to all the bad news, but the sheep did not.

Humanity had blown itself up. The population was just 4 billion, but growth was out of control. The writing was on the wall.

Would the elites lead the sheep to the promised land? Would they look after themselves?

They set about systematising a kleptocracy so that all the energy driven wealth would flow to them in their sleep.

Industrial capitalism was exported to Asia, replaced by financial capitalism. Unions were marginalised.

The US used an array of financial and military weapons to extract global resources, and to build dependence on its currency and food. Like any good drug dealer would.

The sheep embraced neoliberalism, an ideological front for the agreed theft and deception. Reagan and Thatcher were the actors. They were selling fridges to Eskimos. The rest is history.

The sheep ate credit (and other bad things). They became addicts.

To make up for lost jobs.

To fund new privatised costs, like education.

To pay for rising energy costs.

And, to fund their investment properties and share portfolios. Neoliberal voters are little capitalists. Not workers getting hands mucky.

In the chart above, readers can see oil prices increasing again in 2005. It triggered the GFC a few years later. Humanity was on the brink of economic armageddon.

And, now we're back for more, having learned nothing. The energy tsunami is rising again, but still the sheep can't see it.

They're still ignorant about energy and economics, and they're still being controlled by nasty plutocrats, technocrats and the growing armies of robopaths.

Of course, there are those who understand this. But they're either benefitting and don't want to spook the sheep1, or they're marginalised. Dissension is lost in the inane chatter, censorship and propaganda that substitutes for public discussion.

And, overriding all of that is our evolved propensity to deny unpleasant reality. Put our head in the sand. Pretend it's not happening.

Hubbert knew that energy dense fuel was the key. Of the options, he believed that, long term, nuclear was the only energy source that could free humanity from the drudge of subsistence farming and hunter gathering.

So what happened?

Technology found ways to extract oil from rock and sand and from ocean floors. But the energy investment kept increasing, and the viable new energy from exploration kept falling. Consumption has continued unabated, save for a pandemic hiccup.

Hubbert got peak oil right except for the timing.

The energy roller coaster is cresting the top at over 100 million barrels per day, and it's going to accelerate down from here with great loss of life. Humans shouldn't have found a way to make fertiliser with fossils, but they did. It doesn't matter if machines lie idle but it certainly matters if people can't be fed.

So what about nuclear?

Nuclear and fossil are inseparable. There is no nuclear without fossil.

"Nuclear and modern renewables would not be available because they depend on fossil fuels for their production, maintenance and long distance transmission lines."2

" all contraptions that generate electricity, it is reliant on fossil fuels for every step of its life cycle — oil for transportation (mining, parts, workers) and coal to make cement, steel, ceramics, microchips, and so on"3.

and nuclear is finite.

"...the minerals needed for nuclear fusion are finite, and the “infinitely abundant energy” thought possible at the beginning of the atomic age isn’t possible"4.

Hubbert got nuclear completely wrong.

So how will the remaining affordable dense energy be allocated? It depends on who controls it. The US, China or Russia? It hard to imagine cooperation for the good of all.

Do they decommission ageing and dangerous nuclear reactors before our capacity to operate and maintain them is lost?

Do they use it to feed people? Just their own people or everyone?

Do they invest in fusion plants to defer the inevitable?

Do they keep investing in weaponry? Do they have a nuclear war and just be done with it?

Do they reset with a bioweapon? Will it discriminate? On what basis?

So many options. So little time.

Thank GOD we've got GOD's man. ScoMo will be on to it as soon as he sorts his shoelaces out.

  1. I know sheep is a derogatory term. But it's just to make a point. I really luv ewes all.

  2. Gail Tverberg

  3. Alice Friedemann

  4. Ugo Bardi

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