Friday, 2 January 2009

Technology Rules OK

Remember the Millennium Bug?

During 1999 there were dire warnings that banks would crash, that planes would fall out of the sky, that there would be social collapse, all because the first digit of the year was about to change.

Of course, none of these fears were fulfilled, and none of us really knows whether disaster was avoided by hard work and planning by the back-room boys, or that nothing would have happened anyway.

In any case, during the nine years since then, our faith in the power of technology to solve all impending problems has increased. Most people are completely confident that any disaster will be averted by the clever guys in the back room. Terrorism doesn’t stand a chance against our sophisticated police forces. Meteorological disasters will be foreseen in good time for the authorities to take adequate precautions. Such is our confidence that if the system fails even in a relatively small way – a bank collapses leaving shareholders bereft; a train comes off the rails; we immediately expect an enquiry to find someone to blame and possibly prosecute – and we expect to be compensated.

We have, to a greater or lesser degree, absolved ourselves from responsibility for our own lives.

What a profound shock it was, then, when it was discovered that the Microsoft Zune music player had its own version of the millennium bug, a Leap Year bug! This gadget wouldn’t work on the 366th day of the year!

Now I have never even seen one of these things, but the fact that this problem made international headlines indicates to me that we are relying on others to look after us on an increasingly trivial level.

I was talking to my brother yesterday, and as is often the case when I talk to anyone at all, the subject of climate change and peak oil came up in the conversation. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my brother now accepts that peak oil is imminent – I had previously thought that he agreed with the Prime Minister, that our oil supply would remain ample for our needs until at least 2030.

What I found disconcerting was his certainty that before our diminishing oil supply becomes a crisis, our scientists would find a new source of energy so that our lives will be able to continue as before with no discernable hiatus.

Oh how I wish this was true, but the premise doesn’t stand up even to the most superficial application of logic!

I am afraid that the time is coming for us to start looking after ourselves again. It’s going to be difficult, because the ‘system’ is not geared for it – but over time, I expect we shall manage! I don’t share this sublime faith in our technological age, but I do still have faith in the individuals that make up our race.


Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D. said...

The top story of the year is that global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

Then in July and August of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of "Oil Watch Monthly," December 2008, page 1) Peak Oil is now.

Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

* Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

* Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

* Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst and Samuel Foucher, oil analyst (2008)

* Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

* T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

* U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

* Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

* Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

* Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

* Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

"By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."

With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

It is time to focus on Peak Oil preparation and surviving Peak Oil.

Anonymous said...

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