Sunday, August 01, 2010

I hate it here (updated)

Thought I'd revisit this post from December 2006 (which I was reminded of by a conversation with Byron)

I wanted to use a blog post to write down how I see things panning out. I’ll probably re-appraise this on a regular basis, to see how my expectations are matching up with reality. I am conscious of an element of wishful thinking in the analysis – the simple truth is that I hate the way that the world is presently arranged, and I long for it to end. Maranatha!
One background assumption – I believe that humankind will not change its behaviour until it has exhausted all the alternatives. So this is pessimistic.
Point 2: the impact of a decline will spark a number of positive feedback systems, exacerbating the crisis. The positive side is that there will be some warning of what is coming, for those who can read the signs of the times. However, people will still not believe the scale of what is coming until it is too late. There will be a severe shortage of fuel throughout the West. Governments will ration it; at the bottom of the rationing heap will be the private user. Given the scale of the problem private commuting based upon fossil-fuels will cease, never to return. (This is a good thing. Kill the car! Let us be human!)
Point 3: one key positive feedback system will involve wider armed conflict throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. The key question there is whether the outcome will be an expansionist Islamist caliphate or an eventually nuclear Islamic civil war. I believe that the US/UK leadership is now actively fostering the latter. More widely, the West will outcompete the 3rd World for scarce petroleum and this will provoke die-off, especially in Africa. There are likely to be huge population flows towards the West in the coming two decades. Watch Mexico/US relations on this question, especially in the coming 18 months. Christians should also be aware of the push towards scapegoating of minorities, and be prepared to resist this.
Point 4: The solutions to global warming and peak oil are one and the same: powerdown and renewables. The most important long term question is whether and how far to continue using fossil fuels to preserve people in life, or whether we are able, in this generation, to make an effective change to a lower-energy and renewable civilisation. I do not believe that there are any cost-free options. There are many possibilities for a more peaceful transition; these are what Christians must spend their time working towards, so far as they are able and the divine grace precedes them. The princes of this world will deny them, and the world of the flesh will ignore them. The key issue is how far the angel of death is allowed to come.
BTW “I hate it here” is the title of Spider Jerusalem’s column. Spider Jerusalem is my hero.

6 comments:

  1. No more evil coal? :-)
    Is that the only change? I haven't checked it line by line.

    Does that mean you think you were wrong about timing of peak back in 2006, or that we've been at peak for four years? (I assume the latter).

    And re Mexican emigration in the next 18 months, were you too quick to call this in 2006 and it's now 18 months from today?

    Not being narky. I think this is a helpful post for people to see where you're coming from. In general, I think I'm expecting something more like The Long Descent than sudden die-off and chaos.

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  2. "the West will outcompete the 3rd World for scarce petroleum".

    This will probably be true, but you don't mention China, which will probably out-compete the West, having effectively become the US's bank and credit provider. Its population has lower personal economic expectations than most Western populations while its government seeks to become (and has already largely achieved) the major economic, political and possibly military power.

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  3. Oil prices moved from the $20s to over $100 and attracted billions in new investments but the production of light sweet crude still peaked in May 2005. While new investments have offset the decline of light sweet crude by new production, each new barrel produces less kerosene, gasoline, and diesel than the equivalent barrel of light sweet crude that it replaced. That means that we have a liquid fuels crisis.

    M. King Hubbert warned us about the problem of peak production in the 1950s. By the 1970s analysts used his methods to predict a global peak between the late 1990s and the mid 2010s. (The actual year was dependent on access to accurate production and reserve data.) While Colin Campbell, Kenneth Deffeyes, Jean Laherrère, and others were sounding the alarm the BP Statistical Review, CERA, IEA, and EIA continued to accept inflated reserve figures and spun positive scenarios. It took the book, Twilight in the Desert, to get the analysts off their butts and look at the data. The depletion estimate was increased and the optimism faded. Few people noticed or cared and nothing was done.

    I disagree that killing the car would be good for humanity. The automobile has made our lives fuller, longer, healthier, and more satisfying. Without fossil fuels we would be poorer and less numerous. Nostalgia for the, "good old days," is based on illusion, not reality.

    Islam is a political and economic failure but for some reason most people are confused and overestimate it. I believe that their error comes from a mistaken attribution of the initial spread of Islam to strength. But that is not the case. Islam spread rapidly because most conquered lands were poorly governed and shackled to the brutal old Roman tax system. It is no surprise that when the first caliph promised that all that accepted the new religion would be relieved of the poll tax most converted. The offer was never a choice between Christianity and Islam but between bondage and liberty and as would be expected by any rational individual, most chose liberty. Even non-converts were better off because the new regime extracted far less in taxes than the previous one.

    But Islamic rulers were not good at governing. They made the error of farming out tax collection to local governors who diverted revenue into private treasuries. The Islamic empire quickly fractured into local kingdoms of sultans, viziers, and local tax magistrates and Islam has never been a credible external military or political threat since.

    While the argument of civil disturbances in the Middle East is sound, the same can be said of much of the West. Europe, the US, and the UK are bankrupt and their economies can’t handle a major increase in energy prices for long. The US will have to adjust by cutting its use of transportation fuels by 50% or more and by scaling back on its military activities. Taxpayers will demand an end to the occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most troops stationed abroad will be called back home and the use of liquid fuels by the military will be cut drastically.

    Taxpayers will fight back against the political class. The subsidized underclass will see funding for programs cut substantially. The wasteful and ineffective federal wars on drugs, illiteracy, poverty, want, obesity, inequity, etc., will end.

    On a positive note, it is likely that resource rich states like Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska and Texas will nullify federal laws designed to transfer wealth to Washington. The anti-statist sentiment will gain momentum and the federal government will be cut by 50% or more as politicians are forced to stay within the boundaries set by the Constitution. In the case of the UK, it will continue its slide towards irrelevancy as its big government policies fail and its high taxes force members of the productive class to countries that promise to tax them less. Things will not improved until a new Thatcher is elected and has the guts to do what must be done.

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  4. And BP, trying to drill with inadequate care and technology, are wasting the oil that God put there for our grandchildren.

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  5. Part one...

    I hate the way some groups of humans (essentially Luddites and Marxists,
    but they call themselves "Greens" and other concealing names) are trying
    to destroy the good in the world. The good, in my view, means primarily
    the whole array of wonderful goods and services that are (or used to be)
    made available to us by the operation of Adam Smith's invisible hand.

    ...

    This is almost certainly not true. If it were, the price of oil (the real
    free market price, without the kind of punitive taxes Europe puts on it)
    would be so high that alternatives such as methanol and ethanol would be
    competitive and not need subsidies. That hasn't happened yet.

    To the extent oil is scarce anywhere in the world, the scarcity is being
    deliberately caused by politicians. Usually this is done by making the
    oil-field (or coal or shale field) a "protected wilderness" after some
    Green group invents and publicizes yet another phony emergency which can
    only be alleviated by stopping production.

    I only hope the masses someday learn to disregard these wolf-criers, so we
    can have sensible government again instead of government-by-induced-panic.
    But first we must pry the school system out of their hands by privatizing
    it: the purpose of the public schools seems to be to make everyone gullible,
    at least when left-wing people are doing the lying.

    ...

    As I said, when there is a real shortage, the price will rise enough to get
    people to shift to substitutes, some of which are already available.
    Government rationing (or worse, laws against hoarding and speculation) only
    interfere with this price mechanism, thus creating the shortages they claim
    to be preventing.

    ...

    If you think living without the car would be a good thing, you should try
    it. Move to some poor country in Africa where nobody has a car. I've been
    carless for a few years, and all it has done for me is to make me waste
    hours on what should be quick errands, and put most leisure activities out
    of reach.

    "Let us be human" indeed! That means using our brains to make life as
    comfortable as possible, and to eliminate needless work such as walking.
    The car is man's greatest enabling technology -- more important than even
    the written word -- and anyone who would take it away is a public enemy.

    I believe that everyone has the human right to be able to buy all the
    conveniences the invisible hand can provide.

    ...

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  6. Part 2
    I believe that Islamism (the political movement, as opposed to Islam the
    religion per se) is very much like the Green movement -- its real core is
    hatred of people like ourselves for being rich and, especially, for being
    living examples of the fact that no one needs to be poor. And I believe
    that the people who believe that way are readying themselves for war --
    and Green politicians in rich countries are deliberately making us unready
    so we'll have to surrender when that war arrives. Which is idiotic.

    Even those who believe that depriving humans of technological comforts will
    somehow make us more "human" know perfectly well that it will also kill
    most of the world's population. Greens (not all of them, but the leaders)
    don't care because it will put them in position to be bosses of "Ecotopia".
    Similarly the Islamist leaders expect to gain power from such a Fall. The
    rest of us need to wake up and resist, now, before they gain the power to
    wreck the world!

    Two major things need to happen to save us.

    1) Widespread public acceptance of the fact that ALL green "scientists"
    are liars, that "Climategate" was typical -- and that Julian Simon was
    right about scarcity and Ehrlich was wrong.

    2) Public condemnation in the West, and an end to tolerance, of Islamism.
    Every religious teacher and religious organization should be required to
    make, and follow, a public pledge to respect the human rights of other
    people not to follow their religious laws -- and to leave their religion,
    and even to make fun of their religion. Groups and individuals that won't
    accept this rule, or that break it, should be banned for the same reasons
    Nazis are banned in France, Germany, Holland, and several other countries.

    There is more oil and coal in the United States and Canada than the world
    will use in the next 20 years, and that's just the "proven" reserves: too
    much of our country (and others) is unexplored. For that matter, we don't
    really know that it takes millions of years to form new oil.

    I say, let's do all the drilling we can here at home, and abandon the
    Middle East to its residents (so long as they don't attack us). Invite
    the Jews to move here instead of continuing to defend them over there.

    Then let's use our economic advantages and technological toys to persuade
    the Arabs to overthrow their dictators and embrace a market economy, much
    as Hong Kong has caused China to liberalize without a fight.

    The Mexicans who want to be in the US are already here; the border is a
    sieve. I'm only worried about their gangs, and the best solution to that
    will be to legalize drugs. If that doesn't happen, we may need to sack
    Chihuahua again as we did in 1918.

    This has never stopped. Today's "witches" are the drug users, and in some
    parts of the world, gays. When Christianity stops rejecting those people,
    I'll gain considerable respect for Christianity (FWIW, I'm an atheist).

    When switching to renewables makes economic sense, it will happen
    voluntarily. Any attempt to hurry the process is misguided in many ways
    and will increase the cost, whether we resist or not (and we will).

    Your fan,

    John David Galt
    Sacramento, USA

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