Re: Life after the oil crash

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Sun Oct 30 2005 - 08:03:47 EST

Glenn wrote:

"Given that saving 1 billion barrels of energy will only move peak oil back by 1 week in time, it almost seems hopeless to even bother trying to conserve. Today we use 30 billion barrels and if we were to cut our use in half we might move peak oil back by 3 months to one year."

Think how much less rapidly the declining end of the production curve would drop if we cut usage in half. This would also give more time for necessary adjustments in life styles and for developing alternative sources of energy. The US uses a quarter of the world's oil, and our lives are not that much better (if at all) than in several other developed countries that use much less, so presumably changing our ways could make a significant difference. But to do so would involve a massive adjustment in attitude that I judge from observing compatriots' talk and behavior is practically inconceivable in the absence of crisis. Almost everyone seems to prefer bashing oil companies. And then there are the many prophets of progress and prosperity ever onwards and upwards. One of the editors of the local newspaper recently evinced such confidence in the power of technology and the free market that he claimed (not seriously) our energy would come from rabbit pellets if all other sources failed. Just give the free market a chance, he said.

So I agree that things look very gloomy even for the fairly short term, but to a degree that's because of the difficulty of getting attitudes to change in absence of crisis.

There's another side to the ethical issues: A sudden drastic cut in usage would cause deep recession (and that itself would cut usage further). Is it right to deliberately destroy our robust economy--that, among many other things, supports a great many Chinese, etc.? However, a gradual phasing in would be far less damaging. Question is, do we have the time for "gradual"?

Another more basic question is, if we have all this wealth, why may we not enjoy its use? After all, we do give a bit to the poor, and we do turn off the lights in empty rooms.

A further consideration is, why focus on future generations when we have enough problems of our own? No one knows the future, so shouldn't we try to solve our many known problems before anticipated problems?

The only way IMO to give the next few generations a chance at a better material life is to get current generations mobilized to recognize the problem and work together to solve (or soften) it--as the US got mobilized during WWII. An apparently insurmountable difficulty is in getting people to recognize the seriousness and magnitude of the problem, that there's any way to significantly soften its future impact, and that it's better to focus our remedies on the unknown future instead of the known present. Jesus said, "...Don't worry about tomorrow...." But ultimately conservation seems like a no-brainer: It's much harder to go wrong with conservation than with profligacy, even though it may slow the economy.


  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2005 3:57 AM
  Subject: Re: Life after the oil crash

  Bob wrote:

>Glenn, thank you for passing judgment on me. I needed to be told how hypocritical I am.

  No less you than I. We are all involved in this. I surely do my share of requiring oil (maybe more than my share given all the traveling I do). We all use energy like it is going out of style. I for one have no guilt over it. The energy we have allows us to live long lives, do things we couldn't otherwise do. Given that saving 1 billion barrels of energy will only move peak oil back by 1 week in time, it almost seems hopeless to even bother trying to conserve. Today we use 30 billion barrels and if we were to cut our use in half we might move peak oil back by 3 months to one year.

  Consider this:

  "The oil consumed directly and indirectly by the average American is equivalent to the
  work output of 135 slaves, unfed, unclothed, unhoused, and paid $2 a day
  between them." Richard Miller, "Time to Debunk," Oil and Gas Journal,
  Jan. 12, 2004, p. 12

  The alternative is to go back to the life our forebears lead, eating rotten meat (that is why pepper was such a prized commodity), and dying young. One of the Goths who beseiged Rome in the 4th century demanded more weight in pepper than he did in gold. Pepper made rotten meat taste better.

  I for one think my profession has benefitted humanity more than just about any other profession. We have more trees today in North America than we had when Columbus came because we quit burning them (yes, those ecologically sensitive Native Americans were really busy stripping North America of its forests). My sad realization 5 years ago was that it would not be enough, that soon we would come to the end of the ride and high energy use might have been a technological trap. 5% of all humans who have ever lived (from 50 kyr ago) are alive today! That is what energy has done for us.

  We are all on a train ride--the entire society is on this train. No one knows how to stop the train which goes faster and faster each year but everyone can see what will happen in the end. If the train keeps going faster and faster, it will eventually derail. Jumping off the train means experiencing lots of pain (no medicines, inadequate housing, poor sanitation, no potable water, high infant mortality etc). Being on the train has benefited millions of humans who now can drink fresh water because of energy, live in airconditioned comfort (I remember as a child not having airconditioning and being miserable in the summer at night). But,on this train are many who think the train is the problem but they don't want to leave the comfort of the train. I am one of those.

  The ultimate winners in this game of ultimate survival may be the Amazonian tribes who never came into the 21th century and who still live off the land in squallor. No one will send a nuke their direction as the rest of the world fights over the last scraps of oil.
Received on Sun Oct 30 08:01:17 2005

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