Sunday, May 2, 2010

Be Afraid

The world won't end in 2012, but life as we know it just might. For those who didn't get the point embedded in the other chart I published a few posts back, here, from the Energy Information (U.S. Dept of Energy) is a more graphic depiction of the depletion of oil supplies, which are projected to "drop off the cliff" in 2012 after plateauing for a couple of years at current levels.

If oil in now at about  $85 a barrel, where will it go when we experience a 5% to 7% drawdown in production? Chevron and other oil producers aren't spending approximately $120 a barrel on risky deep-sea drills because they think they will lose money on it, people.

And how many years will it take to deplete remaining reserves at this rate of depletion? 

Given the hardship and economic turmoil described in this chart, we needn't expect such considerations as the human death toll and environmental consequences of offshore drills and the production of oil from "unconventional" sources (tar sands, deep sea drills) will weigh against the far greater toll should our complex systems that keep our grocery shelves stocked, treat our municipal water supplies, and supply the vast quantities of electrical power we need to live in comfort and have access to comfortable, sanitary living conditions, advanced medical car,and rapid emergency response, never mind the cornucopia of consumer goodies we all feel entitled to.

We are not prepared, nowhere near. We do not have decent public transportation, either for local or long distance travel. We will never be able to build all the nuclear power plants we need once the costs skyrockets due to escalating fuel costs. We do not have the rapid and high speed rail we will need to replace our planes. We do not have the wherewithal either jointly or severally to replace our soon-to-be-unlivable sprawl-burbs with well-insulated housing in dense, walkable towns and cities. We do not have the sustainable agriculture developed that we will need when it becomes prohibitive to use the chemical fertilizers manufactured with oil and gas. Most of us have no savings, let alone a 6 month supply of food. And thanks to the debt debacle of the past decade, we have no capital with which to build the systems we will need to retain our comforts, nor the industries that can supply us with the goods we will need in a different world than the one we live in now.

Maybe the religionists have a point- praying is what you do when you have nothing else left, and it seems appropriate now.

However, we could try to do just a few little things that might help. Since nobody, including all the leftist "greens", seems unduly disturbed by the recent deaths caused by the production of fossil fuels, could we try not to get all hysterical at the mere thought of building another nuclear plant near Chicago, or foam at the mouth because a train loaded with spent nuclear fuel might pass through town sometime. If we can tolerate a mine disaster that kills 29 minors, or a drill rig explosion that claims 11 men and spews oil allover the Gulf, could we front the theoretical hazards involved in a form of electricity generation that has not killed a single civilian in the U.S. or Western Europe in its forty-year history?


consultant said...

Hi Laura,

I'll have more to say later.

I've often said that most people know Oprah Winfrey better than they know their next door neighbors.

You're right. Among the countless problems we face is the loss of "community" in places where most people live.

We don't know each other, and when TSHTF this unfamiliarity is going to be scary. The "we're all in this together" refrain isn't going to work, at least initially, for a people who've been weaned off the notion of working and sacrificing together.

Nudge said...

Writing about our country, as it stands now, is an exercise that always leaves me feeling some measure of futility. Strictly speaking, it is not as if the manpower, money, resources etc necessary to get Project B do not exist here in sufficient quantities to get big projects done. By this I'm speaking of projects on the scale of mass nuclear electrification (as in France), extending European-style electrified passenger rail service to every burg with a population greater than 5K people (something that could have been afforded with the money spent bailing out our richest banks/people), vastly encouraging the development of local farming everywhere (in order to shorten the farm-to-dinner-table distance), mandating energy efficiencies for vehicles & appliances of all kind (hint: our efficiency standards are lower than those of China, especially for automobiles), and more.

We don't do these things because we cannot, rather, we do them because we're not thinking correctly or because we don't want to do these things. Quite literally we can very easily paint ourselves into a corner, so to speak, by ignoring necessary hard choices for decades in a row (see 1950s era speeches such as Rickover's) while the problems and the ossification of BAU continue to pile up.

Everything in this country is money, as if no other concern even exists, and the only signal Mr Market listens to seems to be blunt force trauma to the cranium. Bring on $200/barrel oil, please ~ it's all good.