Sep 222010
 

Commenter Windy had this to say about my post on We’re Doing Nothing About Peak Oil:

“One of the problems with addressing peak oil is there is no alternative and unless the laws of physics change there won’t be one.  All of the so-called alternative energy sources and alternative transportation designs are thinly disguised frauds intended to harvest subsidies from a clueless federal government.  If oil doubles then food prices will double.  When oil is gone then 2/3rds of the food will go with it.  The world population is on the verge of 7 billion and it is likely that in a world without oil we couldn’t support even 1/3rd that.  So when you talk about preparing for peak oil you either have to talk in doublespeak or speak the truth and scare the bejesus out of everyone.  There is no alternative to cheap energy, there never will be at least not an alternative that will support billons and allow for democracies to exist.  You are literally talking about the end of the world as we know it.  The good news is it won’t happen suddenly (unless Russia and China see an opportunity) and it won’t happen soon.  It will happen gradually and you still have a few years to eat drink and be merry.”

I suppose if one’s goal is business as usual there is no alternative. But that’s the whole point of the Transition Movement: we need to get ready for something different. There are alternatives to cheap energy: scaling down, scaling back, living closer to work, working at home, developing local sources of food, getting by with less, driving less, car pooling, using public transportation, rebuilding the train network, higher mileage standards, ridding junk food from the diet, behaving sustainably. Peak oil doesn’t mean no oil. Peak oil means a declining supply of oil.
And, yes, we are talking about the end of the world as we know it. Will it necessarily be worse? I don’t think so. We had great cities and great civilizations before the age of cheap oil. The end of cheap oil will mean lots of good things. For example, it could mean the end of corporate dominance of our food supply. We finally got a chance to view Food Inc. the documentary film which demonstrates how completely our food supply is controlled by a small handful of companies, companies who could give a rat’s ass about health, environment or their workers. There is a lot of focus in the film about the meat industry which essentially provides death and extermination camps for animals, fed on the wrong diet and genetically engineered to provide the tastiest parts of meat. Food Inc. ends with an optimistic beat but I found the film overwhelmingly  depressing. We are so screwed when it comes to our food supply. Corporate greed and malfeasance have reached the point where one looks forward to “the end of the world as we know it.”

The fix is in on the Federal level. There’s no one who will take a principled leadership position.

In his weekly essay Jim Kunstler writes: “What continues to amaze me is that there is no corresponding rise of an intelligent opposition. How did it come to be in our time that Harvard-Yale-Princeton-Stanford and all the other incubators of supposed statesmanship have produced no figures of conviction and good intentions to demonstrate what it means to be resolute amid this grand failure of will?  How have we managed to turn out two generations of lackeys, toadies, stooges, and flunkies from these citadels of power? If there are some competent, resolute adults waiting backstage — undistracted by phantoms related to Darwin’s theories or birth control or religious doctrine of one kind or another — they better enter the scene soon, or the fate of this country will be left in the hands of malicious, dogmatic, nincompoops beating their drums for Jesus, war, and the death of the planet.”

One of Kunstler’s commenters Zen17 had a nice answer: “Those men and women you are looking for are out in their gardens growing their own food, practicing their Tai Chi and learning skills that are going to be of use in the world to come. Trying to hold together a whale of a government, poisoned by Corexit is not their priority now. The system is broken. The only help coming is what we can do ourselves. Detox your body from all the chemicals in the food and meds. Train your body to be fit and healthy. Unplug from all the frivolous distractions and calm your mind. then…..be ready to adapt to Change.”

An important essay by Chris Hedges that was posted on Truthdig last week argues that corporate control of our lives is so complete that, “Investing emotional and intellectual energy in electoral politics is a waste of time.” His solution: “We must build a new political and economic consciousness centered on the tangible issues of sustainable agriculture, self-sufficiency and radical environmental reform.” His rant is worth a read.
There are alternatives to our current predicament. They are personal and local. That’s why it’s important to make some decisions on what we want the future to look like on Lummi Island. To do that we need to make an accurate assessment of what we are going to face. That’s what this blog is about.

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  7 Responses to “Alternatives to Peak Oil”

  1. I would hope you offer more then mindless anti-corporatism.

    Here is where we agree: I do believe a a lot can be done to migitigate the problem. Conservation is our best option and ironically because we use so much energy it may save us in the short term. We could probably cut our energy use by 25-50% just through conservation. I also agree that peak oil does not mean the end of oil. I fully expect oil to be available 100 years from now. The problem is not that oil will disappear but that it will become too expensive. We cannot maintain our current society if gasoline (and all associated hydrocarbons) cost $10 or $20 a gallon. This means shortages of food, declining heath care and chronic high unemployment. But the good news is oil will still be available to those who need it bad enough to pay for it.

    Where we disagree: We cannot sustain 7 billion people without cheap energy. Many will/must die. Not a pleasant thought. We cannot have democracies or constitutional Republics without cheap energy. We will revert back to a tribalism or feudal society where 99.9% of the people are peasants and the few elite control everything. This won’t happen suddenly but it will and must happen eventually. And last and most important; there is no viable alternative to cheap hydrocarbon fuel. There won’t be one no matter how much the government subsidizes it. It isn’t a matter of more time, more money and more research. There is no magicical replacement for oil, NG and coal.

    I do believe it is possible, theoretically possible for humans to transition to a low energy lifestyle and still retain the best things from the 20th and 21st century. But not 7 billion humans. An Ideal world population for such a life might be 500 million humans. But the problem is the transition. It is unlikely that we all will go gently into that good night. Human nature being what it is we will go kicking and screaming and using up the time and resources necessary to make such a transition. Thus it will not happen.

  2. Good points. If oil lasts 100 years that gives the population time to adjust, I suppose.

    What’s your definition of “mindless anti-corporatism?” As opposed to, say, mindful anti-corporatism.

    Also, though anonymity is certainly okay, am wondering if you are an islander.

  3. Sadly I don’t think we can adjust. I don’t think 7 billion ( or many more people one hundred years from now) can survive without cheap energy. Something very bad, biblically bad will have to happen first so that a much smaller population can survive.

    I don’t think capitalism or businesses are bad. I would prefer that about half of the people who now work for government at all levels would become employees of corporations so we didn’t have to pay their salary. Corporations/businesses provide almost everything we have today. They are why my children lived through childhood and why I did as well. I suppose you could come up with an example of some corporation that has done bad things but you cannot possibly think that applies to all of them. If you have a legitimate beef with some corporation or some business practice lets hear it. I just might agree with you.

    I am not an Islander. I have been to many Islands and I love sailing. My favorite island is Stuart Island. Peace and quiet and a beautiful harbor. I am a gardener, a prepper, a retiree, a proud American. I am saddened by what our politicians have done too us and our country. I fear for the future, my children and grandchildren (and everyone else’s children too).

  4. Windy… Why not watch Food, Inc. for examples of corporate malfeasance. It’s on instant play with Netflix. I suppose I could come up with more examples of “bad things” done by corporations but Food Inc. is a good start. Montsanto, Tyson in this film and other nasty corporations like the company formerly known as Blackwater which does things we might have formerly paid gov. employees (soldiers) to do aren’t outliers.

  5. I have watched Food Inc. Do you believe it is true? That is do you believe they told no lies, stretched no truths, ignored no mitigating facts, made no statements they couldn’t prove? I think it was mostly propaganda. Interestingly the man who produced the movie is incorporated and the man who owns the farm who is the person behind the movie is incorporated. So what makes one corporation bad and another good? I think you have to come up with specifics. Then people could look at the facts and make up their mind. I buy the cheapest chicken I can (which is usually Tyson). I don’t care if it was raised with 10,000 other chickens or with half a dozen in someones little farm. I buy beef pretty much the same way. I do prefer sliced pork loin chops over real chops so I pay a little more. Do I care if they raised 5,000 pigs or 5 pigs?? I raise some of my own food, I can some food and I cook all my own food. In fact I have some awesome recipies using bacon grease based gravy and cheap chicken fried steak that would make your mouth water.

    I am not convinced Blackwater is so bad. It all started as a political attack by one party on the other. Now that the government changed hands we no longer hear about military contractors but they still exist. Must have just been a political thingy.

    Other then that Food Inc didn’t like Tyson what do you have against them?

  6. Okay, Windy. That’s enough of you. I know you’re putting me on. See ya around.

  7. As you wish I will not post on this subject again. But for the record I am not putting you on.

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