Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
Newsguy wept when he told us: Earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying...
—“Five Years,” David Bowie
Have you ever stopped to consider what would happen to you if there were no more oil? Think about it, take a look around you. Catalog all the things you rely on to get through the day that are dependent on oil. That fresh produce you ate last night. The hot shower you took this morning. The commute to your job. Your job. The computer that you're using to read this article. The society you live in. There is not single aspect of modern life that is not dependent in one way or another on oil. And the time is coming, soon, at which oil production is going to go from increasing to decreasing. This phenomenon is known as “Peak Oil”.
Jay Hanson, creator of Die Off, a population crash resource page, has thought about life after Peak Oil; the future he sees is grim. He has come to the conclusion that even though, in theory, we could prevent our own destruction, the probable reality will be that Western Civilization is going to buy the farm, and with it, there's going to be a huge population die-off.
The best place to start at Die Off is the synopsis page. On this page, Hanson sets up the story and explains the problem:
Petroleum geologists have known for 50 years that global oil production would “peak” and begin its inevitable decline within a decade of the year 2000. Moreover, no renewable energy systems have the potential to generate more than a tiny fraction of the power now being generated by fossil fuels.
In short, the end of oil signals the end of civilization, as we know it.
The synopsis page has a graphic (right) that shows the situation—how oil has built us up and will take us down as it becomes depleted. Another page, referenced on the synopsis page, explains the graph further.
Hanson explains why oil is so important, and how there's currently nothing to take its place. Not coal, solar, wind, hydrogen, nuclear…nothing. He sums up the future:
The sudden—and surprising—end of the fossil fuel age will stun everyone—and kill billions. Once the truth is told about gas and oil (it’s just a matter of time), your life will change forever.
Envision a world where freezing, starving people burn everything combustible—everything from forests (releasing CO2; destroying topsoil and species); to garbage dumps (releasing dioxins, PCBs, and heavy metals); to people (by waging nuclear, biological, chemical, and conventional war); and you have seen the future.
The blame goes to politicians and economists for the impending crisis. Hanson’s essay, “A Means of Control”, argues that economics is really “politics in disguise”, and upon further observation and analysis, absolutely fraudulent in making money the primary factor of the economy. It isn't. The primary factor of the economy is energy:
Economists are trained to believe that “money” is to the economy what “energy” is to the physical world. This leads them to believe that whatever is “economically” possible is “physically” possible too. What economists fail to realize is that the economy is a subsystem of the physical system, and thus constrained by universal physical laws that they have not studied.
Economists do not know that something must be physically possible before it can be economically possible. Since they only study money, they have no idea where the physical limits, and thus, economic limits are.
Since economists study the prices of everything, they feel they are qualified to issue opinions about everything. But the reality is quite the opposite. Economists first abstract all commodities to money—which of course, obliterates all physical differences between the commodities themselves. This leaves economists uniquely unqualified to know the physical relationships between the commodities they purport to study. Because of their total dependence on the measure of “money”, today’s leading economists do not know the difference between “libraries” and “oil”….
In the section “Politics In Disguise”, Hanson reveals economics to be a disastrous political instrument, making the substitution of reality with ideology a necessity:
The economist’s political agenda is pretty simple: establish a global self-regulating economic system. In order to convert economic students into lifelong politicians, they are programmed via circular argument and “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” (after-the-fact) reasoning to believe the most flagrant violations of reality.
He lists five ways economists see the world incorrectly. The fifth item:
Economists are trained to believe that we will never “run out” of a commodity. This is because as prices increase, we will use less-and-less of it, but there will always be some available at some finite price. Practically every economics textbook teaches this. But every economics textbook is wrong because “energy” is fundamentally different from every other commodity. There is no substitute for energy. Energy is the prerequisite for all other commodities, so if we “run out” of energy, we will “run out” of everything else too.
By definition, energy “sources” must produce more energy than they consume, otherwise they are called “sinks”. By definition, energy sources have “run out” when they consume more energy than they produce. This universal energy law holds no matter how high the money price of energy goes. Economists completely overlook this basic energy law and have misled government regulators all over the world.
So why do economists exist?
Once the economist’s neurons and dendrites are fully programmed (usually for life), economists serve as robotic broadcasting devices explicitly designed to hide the political nature of the economy from the public. In other words, the economist serves no function in society except to protect the ruling elites from public scrutiny while they loot the planet.
Luckily for us, Matthew Simmons, a billionaire energy investment banker and advisor to the Bush Administration (a whole bunch of people themselves who know a thing or two about oil), has called peak oil “the world's biggest serious question”. At least he's talking publicly about the issue, so there might still be some hope.
There is a lot of information on Die Off, more than I could ever cover here. The articles are well-researched and readable. However, it is an old site, no longer actively updated and maintained, so many of the links that Hanson uses to support his observations are broken, but new sources of information are easily available with the search engine of your choice. A companion site of active discussion, the EnergyResources Group, is also available. I highly recommend that you visit both sites.
Copyright 2005, Henry Kastler
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