Most people do not know that this past October, the Federal Reserve dumped a batch of risky derivatives contracts held by Bank of America upon the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), meaning that the U.S. taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook for repayment of losses for depositors. The amount of derivatives held by Bank of America? $75 TRILLION. TRILLION, not billion. Written out, it looks like this: $75,000,000,000,000.00.
To give you some perspective of how huge that number is, consider this:
As of December 8, 2011 the gross (U.S. national) debt was $15.05 trillion, of which $10.39 trillion was held by the public and $4.66 trillion was intragovernmental holdings. The annual gross domestic product (GDP) to the end of June 2011 was $15.003 trillion (July 29, 2011 estimate), with total public debt outstanding at a ratio of 100% of GDP, and debt held by the public at 69% of GDP. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt (Internal cites omitted.)
As of 2010, the World’s Gross Domestic Product in U.S. dollars was $63,123,887,517,709. This data comes from the World Bank. http://data.worldbank.org/region/WLD
In other words, the derivative bets placed by BOA, and the risks of their default now transferred to the U.S. public, is 5 x our national GDP. So we would need every dollar produced in the United State by every single person for 5 years to pay off those derivatives alone. As for the world, those derivative bets exceed our gross domestic product by 18%, so every dollar earned by every person in the WORLD for a period of 1 year and 2 ½ months would be needed to pay off BOA’s bets, if they all went bad.
“The Fed’s approval to move derivatives from Bank of America’s holding company to the depository unit directly puts the U.S. taxpayers on the hook. The FDIC cannot handle any large banking failure with its depleted Deposit Insurance Fund and would have to immediately tap its line of credit with the U.S. Treasury.” http://problembanklist.com/fdic-to-cover-losses-on-trillion-bank-of-america-derivative-bets-0419/
Except there is no line of credit in this solar system that can cover such a loss.
IN CONSENSUS, [January 1, 2012].
THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE PEOPLE.
WHEN, in the Course of Human Events, it becomes necessary for the People to dissolve the Political Bands that have connected them with some, and divided them from others, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the concurrent and equal Station to which the Universe and Nature entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of the People requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to acknowledge and engage in the Shift, which is manifesting among all Peoples of the Globe and in the hearts of individuals, to a universal and moral governance of their affairs, divorced of the artificial divisions heretofore pertaining.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all People are created equal, that they are endowed, through their creation, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these Rights, institutions are Created by the People, deriving their Powers and OBLIGATIONS from the Consent of the People, and for the singular purpose of serving the best interests of that People. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers and Obligations in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shown, that People are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to create new structures for their future Security.
Indeed, such has been the Sufferance of the People; and such is now the Necessity which compels them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the nation, whose own Declaration of Independence informs this Declaration of Intent, is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over People, wherever those People may have become inconvenient to the Economic and Power Designs of the Government evolved therefrom. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.
That the United States has committed genocide upon the many Peoples who have stood inconveniently in the way of Empire, including without limitation, the millions of Native Peoples of the North American continent, millions of Vietnamese, millions of Iraqis, millions of Latinos, and millions of African Peoples;
That the United States has incinerated, poisoned and annihilated hundreds of thousands as the only nation, in the history of the World, to ever employ nuclear weapons intentionally upon a civilian population;
That the United States has employed for a too-long epoch a regime of slavery, and when forced by outrages naturally caused by that system to abandon the open institution, has used its laws and its wealth and its weapons to further the same ends by other means;
That the United States has, by force and the threat of force, taken the lands of Free Peoples, confined those Peoples within boundaries of unsustainable grounds, stolen their gold, poisoned their waters, taken their children, mutilated their murdered warriors and wives and children, and called those Peoples “Sovereign” so that it might avoid any prospective responsibility for the abject destitution and destruction of such Peoples;
That the United States, through the machinations of its Congress, Executive and Judiciary, has elevated the corporation over the Individual in Rights and Powers, given the corporation the rights and privileges of natural People while denying the same to natural People, and at the expense of natural People;
That the United States has turned its laws toward the creation of structures and systems that funnel the benefits of production to its elites, while socializing the costs of such production upon its own People and Peoples of the World;
That the United States has poisoned the waters, the air and the soils of all lands of the Earth in furtherance of its avaricious pursuit and acquisition of unwarranted wealth and power;
That the United States has permitted its Public Policy to be misdirected toward the waging of unending war, again in obeisance to motives of profit and control, and to those motives, has killed its own youth, and caused them to kill unnumbered Peoples of the World;
That the United States has justified its militarism by dishonest platitudes concerning the rights of People, while acting in every hypocritical circumstance to deny those voiced inalienable rights to its own People and to the multitudinous other Peoples of the World;
That the United States has permitted and extended the practice of bribery of its public officers, to the extent that the ballot of the People has no significant meaning in the selection of the People’s leaders and the formation of Public Policy;
That the United States has squandered the natural resources within its own national boundaries, and in every place around the world, including those commons of the World lying at the bottom of the oceans and in the atmosphere, and by lies and deception and misinformation, has lulled the American Peoples into the sleeping belief that the profligate waste can be sustained forever, knowing that it cannot;
IN every Stage of these Oppressions, the People have Petitioned for Redress; sometimes peacefully, and sometimes by resort to the only means left to them, in their exercise of the right residing in each person to defend themselves. The human deaths and misery attributable to such oppressions are beyond explication. The repeated Petitions of the various Peoples have been answered only by repeated Injuries. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.
The United States presently sits atop an empire of historical breadth and depth. Every People has been impacted, and their respective interests and rights have been of no importance in the face of the extension of Empire. In the name of its People, the United States has assassinated innumerable precious voices, has overthrown leaders elected upon the hopes of the People casting their ballots, and has brought upon Inconvenient Peoples the wrath and destruction of the most lethal military ever constructed. She has imprisoned her own People at the highest rate of any nation, and subjected them to measures of control and indoctrination such as to entirely cloud informed discussion and comity. She has alienated her communities, her neighborhoods, her families, and even each individual, each from the other.
The United States, as a nation, does not bear these guilts alone. However, the infestation of the Systems of Government by economic and financial influences has so globalized the Oppression that no real distinction can be drawn between the maker of Empire and its managers and enforcers. This Empire extends to every corner of this World,
We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
WE, therefore, the PEOPLE OF THE EARTH, in GENERAL COUNCIL Assembled, appealing to the Universal Truths that Manifest in the Rights of Every People for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of this World, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these Peoples are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT PERSONS; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the various nation states and of any and all of their agents and artificial constructions, and that all political Connection between them and the nation state, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT PEOPLE, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT PEOPLES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of RIGHT AND MORAL RESOLVE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Hello readers (all 1.5 of you). Sorry for the hiatus, but I still need to pay the bills, and I was ensconced in a large and laborious project over the past week or so. Now I’m busy trying to catch up on all the other things I put aside, as well. But I did get a chance to read a bit today. This piece by Noam Chomsky is stellar. I love the way this guys understands our society in such a global way. Here, for your reading pleasure, Noam Chomsky:
Over the past few months, a veritable explosion of scientific debate and literature has been running under the radar (apparently) of the MSM, concerning a potential new alternative energy source that, if realized, would relegate our petroleum society to the dustbin of human history. In fact, if the potential is realized, then the human race could rightly lay claim to a most stunning reversal of fortunes, and give credence to the optimists who have steadily ignored our increasing perils with the thought that “something will come along.” Perhaps they got this one right.
In 1989, electrochemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons “reported anomalous heat production (“excess heat”) of a magnitude they asserted would defy explanation except in terms of nuclear processes.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion As the Wikipedia entry goes on:
“The media reported that nuclear fusion was happening inside the electrolysis cells, and these reports raised hopes of a cheap and abundant source of energy. Hopes fell when replication failures were weighed in view of several reasons cold fusion is not likely to occur, the discovery of possible sources of experimental error, and finally the discovery that Fleischmann and Pons had not actually detected nuclear reaction byproducts.” (Cites omitted.)
This was an event I took note of then, an event that excited me. I kept track of it for a year or two, but as indicated, subsequent researchers were unable to reproduce the effects, and Fleischmann and Pons were essentially discredited. It was disappointing to me. But … not so fast.
It seems that the “cold fusion” (a controversial term still today) Fleischmann and Pons reported on remained sufficiently rigorous and intriguing that people kept pursuing it. And not just people: governments, too. Japan and India were leading governmental sponsors of the research. Although by the late 1990′s, the hypotheses had been criticized so roundly as to make the term “cold fusion” a dirty word in science, certain corporations, such as Toyota, and governmental entities, such as the United States Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center pushed on.
The term “cold fusion” is variously known today by a number of different acronyms, depending on which hypothesis/theory the scientist discussing it adheres to. There is (seemingly the most popular) LENR (low energy nuclear reaction), CANR (chemically assisted nuclear reaction), LANR (lattice assisted nucler reaction) and CMNS (condensed matter nuclear science). There appears to considerable controversy as to whether any “nuclear reaction” is occurring at all, but it seems increasingly clear that something is happening.
What that something is also is a matter of debate. Generally, the idea behind LENR is that metal electrodes, such as palladium or nickel, are energized within a solution of “heavy water,” which is water in which the hydrogen atom is “heavy” in that carries a neutron, which ordinary hydrogen lacks. Deuterium is actually a stable element found naturally in sea water. What appears to be occurring (in my very layman terms) is that the excitation caused by the enervation (which can be by electrical current, etc.) permits the fusion of the hydrogen (or deuterium) and the nickel or other metal. The result is the transmutation of the metal into a heavier metal, the reduction of the hydrogen, and the release of a huge quantity of energy. (Some accounts have noted transmutation of nickel into copper. I have not researched this enough to speak on that.) Here is a site that explains these matters in substantially more detail and with far more erudition, along with explaining some of the issues presently in controversy: http://pesn.com/2011/05/31/9501837_Cold-Fusion_Number-1_Claims_NASA_Chief/
The upshot is that if this technology is, in fact, viable, it presents us with an energy source that is clean, non-polluting, and more efficient than even oil. It would, literally, save us from the cataclysm of peak oil, albeit leaving us with the still intractable problem of being vastly over-populated.
So who is paying attention to this? Well, check this out. For starters, the U.S. Navy, as previously discussed. And NASA. http://blog.newenergytimes.com/2011/05/06/nasa-working-on-lenr-replication-and-theory-confirmation/ And, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. http://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/BarnhartBtechnology.pdf These institutions are VERY interested in this technology at this time, and the DIA has specifically noted that the number of experiments that demonstrate verifiable claims (including numerous laboratory explosions) is increasing. (See the DIA paper for a picture of an unfortunate French experiment.) But, sadly (and not unsurprisingly), the United States is way behind the curve on this research. As it turns out, Russia, China, India, Israel, Italy and even Greece are ahead of us in this research. Or, if you think about it, maybe that is truly fortunate. After all, given our society’s preoccupation with unbridled profit and lack of concern for people, perhaps this technology would be better disseminated if it were in other hands.
So here we are. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way out of the peak oil morass that does not involve the mass extinction of 5 billion or more people. Maybe, just maybe, we can develop an energy source that does not poison our oceans, our water, our air and our children. I guess we’ll see, eh?
You will not find a more eloquent, courageous and principled moral statement anywhere. This statement is on a moral par with Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail, and he goes to prison for all of us. Coming on the heels of my post regarding Peak Oil, I am compelled to post this statement, made by Tim DeChristopher to his sentencing federal judge. It is the measure of moral action that each of us should be prepared to undertake, and to accept, as the cost of taking right action. Here, in his own words: http://www.peacefuluprising.org/tims-official-statement-at-his-sentencing-hearing-20110726#comment-36345
Ya gotta love Ron Paul. Well, maybe not love him, but I at least admire his tenacity and perseverance. And also his point:
On Tuesday, Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig testified before the House Financial Services domestic monetary affairs committee, which Paul chairs. (I’m drawing this information from here: http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope/2011/07/27/the-meaning-of-a-dollar/) Paul, as was the case when Bernanke testified two weeks ago, is really wanting someone at the Fed to explain to him why the U.S. Dollar is “money.” (See the testimony of Bernanke in response to Paul’s questioning here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NJnL10vZ1Y)
Dictionary.com defines money thusly:
http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [muhn-ee] Show IPAnoun, plural mon·eys, mon·ies, adjective
This is a topic that has come up tangentially in a few comment boards and blogs I’ve looked at over the past week. It also came up in a discussion I had a couple weeks ago. The amazing thing about “Peak Oil” is that it so easy to see and understand in every day conversation, if someone bothers to think about it. Unlike economics and politics, which seem so complex and subjective, obscure, and prone to, literally, violent positions. But oil is just oil. It comes out of the ground, and we use some every day, and way off into the future sometime, everyone understands there won’t be anymore. But few people think about it beyond that.
Try this, though: The next time you’re having a political discussion with someone, throw “Peak Oil” into the conversation. Just throw it in there and see what happens. You’ll know when to do it. It will be at that moment when you just want to say, “Yeah, but it doesn’t really matter because…” There, that is your spot. Throw it in there: “Peak Oil.” It stops everything. Which is interesting, because the topic is really about imagining stopping everything.
It is one thing to imagine something like that, and quite another to experience it. The disconnect comes because people don’t want to imagine it. It is uncomfortable. In fact, that is one of the things that disappointed me about the article that motivated this post (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/07/201172081613634207.html); I wanted more juicy imaginings about particular difficulties that could be foreseen. There is little of that there, but hints of it. So, let’s imagine it now.
Let’s start with setting up our premises.
1. Supply: Oil reserves are declining, and the extraction of oil is becoming more difficult and more costly. There is a wealth of data that supports this premise, and I can dig that up if you want me to.
2. Demand: Oil demand is generally seen as increasing, although this is not necessarily so. As was stated in the Al Jazeera article, “Meanwhile, world demand for crude oil grew at nearly two per cent each year between 1994 and 2006. In 2007, global demand peaked at 85.6 million bpd, but decreased in 2008 and 2009 by a total of 1.8 per cent, reportedly due to rising fuel costs.” Demand, at some level, will be determined by the costs to supply the oil, and the ability of consumers to afford it. I actually see demand continuing to fall, even as prices rise, or rather, because the prices are rising.
3. Scarcity & Price: It is axiomatic that as these supply and demand factors continue along their inevitable trajectories, the price of oil will rise. The question people often ask is, “How much?” In fact, there is no ceiling. Because they’re not making anymore, and because we will continue to use oil so long as the return exceeds the cost, it is conceivable that one gallon of gasoline in the future could be virtually priceless. You might scoff at that, but let me ask you this: How much would you pay for one gallon of gasoline if you knew it was necessary to save your life and the lives of your children and partner? Would you trade all of your material possessions for a chance at life? If that point seems a little extreme, it is only because we haven’t finished imagining.
4. Applications: So what do we use our oil for? Well, it turns out, nearly everything, in some measure.
Consumer Products: The computer you are reading this on is constructed in large part using synthetic materials produced as various long-chain polymers, which are of course developed most easily from oil. Anything plastic has a high likelihood of having originated as oil. Nylon, polyethylene, polyester. So, to lay out a sketchy, wholly incomplete list of things made with oil: ropes, fertilizers, plastic baggies, cars, computers, dishes, Vaseline, clothes, upholstery, carpet, signs, windows, remote control devices, vinyl fencing, telephones, certain perfumes and cosmetics, and maybe just one or two toys.
Power & Communications: What about the electronic signals that result in a readable media? Both the electricity, and the communications that permit you to read something I wrote from anywhere in the world, are highly dependent on oil. So your cell phone and even landline communications are implicated here, as well. Even beyond the ungodly cost of putting communications satellites into orbit, all of those cell towers, switching stations and equipment runs on … electricity. The United States produces 71.4% of its electricity from fossil fuels, which of course includes coal and natural gas, two commodities that are similarly finite. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_ele_pro_by_sou_fos_fue-electricity-production-source-fossil-fuel Electricity production depends not only on the fuels used to wind the magnetos, but also the infrastructure itself, the equipment needed to extract the energy from the oil and to transform it into alternating current. And so even if we miraculously develop an abundant alternative energy source, we cannot use it without an enormous investment in infrastructure.
Transportation: Cars. For that matter, consider a Dodge Ram 2500, with a 6.7L Cummins diesel, 4×4 of course. Lots of us have those up in this country, and they’re damned useful. But it runs on oil. Even the cars that are being developed to run on electricity, still depend upon oil, as discussed above. And what happens when gas hits … what? $10 per gallon? Never happen? Before the international releases of strategic oil reserves last month drove down prices, Germans were paying over $8.50 per gallon. In April, some gas stations in the U.S. were charging over $5/gal. But gasoline will become even more dear than that. Try $50 per gallon. When? It may be a few years, perhaps not until 2020, unless we have another Black Swan event crop up. (Those damn Black Swans seem to be multiplying lately.) But other experts are not so sure, and some project that acceleration to occur by 2014 or 2015. And once that price accelerates, it will not be coming back down.
By the end of this decade, be prepared to pay $100 per gallon of gas, if you can get it all. So, what are you doing with that Dodge Ram now? Well, you’re not selling it. No one else wants it either, or they have their own already. A bicycle will be worth more than that truck, not just in real terms, but in monetary terms, as well.
But the question of how you are going to get around is a personal one. Transportation is a huge issue beyond our personal movements. It’s not like we didn’t get around the world before we started using oil to power motors. But we did it with sails, and hooves, and feet. But beyond moving people, we are moving food, tools, materials, energy itself, anything of a tangible nature that needs to be moved from one place to another. And as we know, the cost to transport is always marked into the cost of the product at its destination. So if you want to move grain from Ukraine (which isn’t happening right now due to drought) to Australia, you haul it from the granaries by train to the port, where you load it onto a tanker, which then transports it to its destination. But what is the cost of that transportation if oil is priced at $500/barrel, as opposed to $100/barrel. The cost is prohibitive, and there are no local markets that cannot beat any price the Ukrainians want to offer … even free. But what if there is no local market?
Production: Transportation doesn’t even scratch the surface. Well, yes it does. But there’s more. That grain produced in Ukraine was grown using petroleum-based fertilizers. It was planted, tended and harvested using mechanized equipment that runs on oil. The tractors, trains, trucks and ships themselves were produced by industrial processes that depend on oil. The mining, transportation and refining of the metals used to produce vehicles and equipment depends on oil. The fish you see in the supermarkets were either caught by vessels powered by oil, or were farmed using processes that depend on oil. The beef, pork and chicken you buy at the supermarket and grill in your backyard wouldn’t be there without feeding that livestock with grains and other materials that had to be also grown and transported. Even water for drinking is cleaned and transported using oil. Our human waste is cleaned using electricity, meaning that by extrapolation, in the United States, 71.4% of that too relies upon fossil fuels. Timber is harvested using oil. Nails and screws and saws and drills and drywall and shingles and siding and stoves and refrigerators and nearly everything involved in constructing a home, commercial building or factory is subsidized by the profligate use of this compact, stable, transportable, and heretofore cheap source of energy. And get this: Even the development of alternative energy sources depends on oil. As an example, ethanol from corn is subject to the same energy constraints as that grain out of Ukraine. Energy development requires the investment of energy, and right now, the only real game in town is oil. Your job depends on oil.
5. Wages: It is no secret that for the past 40+ years, real wages have declined as measured against inflation (the cost of goods and services). You have to be careful about what data you review. For instance, the United States Department of Labor will tell you that real wages have actually increased slightly, but they factor in the cost of benefits such as healthcare, and attribute that as an increase in income for the worker. In doing so, they throw out the fact that those healthcare costs have themselves increased exponentially. The bottom line is that while oil climbs in price, our ability to pay for it does not increase. Moreover, as oil prices increase, the ability of employers to continue to employ people in a productive capacity is reduced. In other words, as external costs of production (materials, shipping, taxes, regulation, etc.) increase, employers are forced to reduce capital costs in other areas if they wish to continue selling their product. The easiest place to do that is wages. They either lay people off and increase the productivity of each individual worker, or they reduce, or at least do not increase, wages. Also, because governments are subject to the same market forces, and they find their own ability to maintain their operations at current levels reduced, the reaction is rarely to cut back on their own operations. Instead, they either shift costs to the citizens, reduce services provided, or tax. (This is a whole other conversation.) No matter how they go about it, the direct impact is felt by the individual citizens or their employers, further depressing real wages and job creation.
6. Costs & Returns: Everything we purchase, make, sell, trade or gift involves a cost-benefit analysis at some level. Take, for an example, a fishing trip. If I want to go salmon fishing for the weekend, I need to pay up front for a number of things: fuel to drive to the river; food (which I would need to have anyway, but which inevitably involves unusual luxury items); state costs (licenses, tags, etc.); and equipment and materials devoted to that endeavor (poles, fishing line, hooks, roe, weights, etc.). If I am fantastically successful, I will bring home six Chinooks, at a cost of perhaps $5/lb. More likely, I’ll bring home one or two, with my cost per pound at $15-$20. Maybe I’ll bring home nothing, which is usually the case for me, which means I risked $300 and realized no tangible return whatsoever. Now, if I want to eat salmon, that is a different calculation entirely. I would never run into Fred Meyers and plunk down $300 on a wheel for a chance of getting 0-6 whole salmon. What’s the difference? In the former situation, I was buying not the fish, but the time, the experience, the connections with my buddies. In the latter, I am buying a product. In fact, I would rarely pay $15/lb. for fish when I can eat just fine on farm-raised tilapia at $2.59/lb., but if I really want to eat salmon, I have lowered my risks, stabilized my costs and defined my returns by heading to the grocery store. But what if gas prices rise to $10/gallon? The salmon at the store now costs $40/lb., and a trip to the river becomes prohibitively expensive. And so I’m definitely staying home and eating tilapia … or burgers.
The point of this example is to demonstrate that people are willing to risk capital so long as the potential returns can be justified. But as prices rise, the investment rises, even while the potential realized benefit remains the same or declines. At a certain point, the investment is not sufficiently incentivized to justify it, and the consumer turns away. It becomes a losing proposition to eat salmon, and so I just don’t. This is not welcome news to the commercial fishermen, the grocery store, the shipping industry, or the local bait shop.
7. Location: Where you are factors substantially into how you will be affected by a critical shortage of what Charles Hughes Smith (www.oftwominds.com) calls the FEW resources — Food, Energy and Water. As shipping costs increase, the transport of products cannot be sustained. First, the products become expensive, then prohibitively expensive, and finally there is no rationale for shipping product from point A to point B at all. If the product cannot be produced locally and shipped economically, it won’t be available at any price.
What this means to me will be different for you. Here, where I live, we have hydroelectric power and geothermal springs, energy sources that do not depend on petroleum at all. We also have water, stored in our mountains throughout the winter, and poured into our aquifers, lakes and rivers during the Spring melt. Sometimes we have more, and sometimes less. There is substantial forage for livestock and cropland than can be irrigated by gravity-flow diversions. We are truly blessed here. Now contrast that with Phoenix, a city of 1.5 million souls. There is no imaginable way to sustain that population in terms of water alone if its transport is not economically accomplished through cheap oil. And the same things can be said of nearly every major urban area in the world. Some places, such as Mexico City or New York, numbering in the several of millions, are wholly dependent on lengthy supply lines for their FEW resources, the very resources necessary to survive.
In simple terms, the longer you have to transport something, the scarcer and more expensive it will be, and with the collapse of affordable oil, that means that many places will no longer have access to sufficient resources at all.
8. Ramifications: If supplies are dwindling and becoming more expensive to produce, and demand remains at or near the current levels, then the scarcity and price equation cannot be avoided. And if everything we make, and most things we do, depend on that particular energy source, then it follows that those products and services will also increase in cost.
As the cost-benefit factor plays into the scarcity-price equation, it becomes increasingly clear that I can afford less and less, and I therefore must make prioritized choices as to where I will apply the capital available to me. It is up to me to ensure that I maximize my own personal returns on the sparse capital available to me. I have to do that to survive. I am not alone, and because of that, my own decisions are echoed and amplified by the millions other people engaging in their own analyses and decision-making. My personal choice, because it is rational, is repeated, magnified, and applied globallyby millions of others. And the results are stark.
Eventually, it makes no sense to fish commercially for salmon. No one is buying it, and it costs a hell of a lot to produce. So that goes away. Meanwhile, receipts from fishing licenses and tags fall precipitously, until the Department of Fish and Game is wondering why the hell they are maintaining and operating these expensive fish hatcheries. Plus, the hydroelectric power that made the hatcheries necessary in the first place have become critical to the supply of non-petroleum based energy. Fish mitigation efforts are costly, and increase the costs of the hydroelectric energy, as well. By now, people are more concerned about getting food into their homes, and less about maintaining a fishery they no longer have the ability to enjoy. And ocean-run Chinook go extinct. The commercial fishery collapses. Shipping is reduced as product is no longer shipped in from Seattle. The stores’ shelves no longer feature salmon.
We can apply this calculus to everything.
When you actually do take the time to consider the implications of peak oil on our present civilization, you can see that the civilization, globally, has been grounded, built and expanded upon this cheap energy source. Our world cannot be sustained otherwise. If oil had never entered the equation, or if we had exercised the wisdom to recognize its finiteness, we would not have the population that we do, nor the cities, the infrastructure, nor widely available food, energy and water. We have built our civilization on this energy source that is going away soon, and when it does, our civilization cannot be sustained as it is.
People will die. A lot of them. Billions. There is no way to cast that fact other than as the greatest tragedy in human history, caused by our instinctual need to exploit any resource until it no longer sustains, and then moving on to the next one. But there is no “next one” in the wings right now.
My children, and likely I, will live to see the end of personal oil-driven vehicles, of golf courses and subdivisions, of abundant food and energy and water. We will live to witness the extermination of billions of people through starvation, thirst, disease and war. We will have the opportunity to start over, and to ensure that our people going forward act in sustainable ways. As a civilization, it is likely, albeit not guaranteed, that we will retain much of the knowledge we carry into this calamity. And learn a lot more. The Earth will appreciate a break from our relentless exploitation. And we can all learn to live more simply, closer together, and more harmoniously. We’ll see, I guess.
[Sorry folks, I wasn't able to link to this article for some reason. I'll work on that.]
“The Federal Reserve, in a push to control the often wayward communications of its top officials, issued detailed rules on Tuesday dictating what they can and cannot do.”
“The move is part of a broader effort at making the Fed appear less detached from public concerns following criticism during the financial crisis that policymakers were too kind to Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.”
This is complete double-speak. This move isn’t to make the Fed “appear less detached from public concerns.” It is to make the Fed MORE detached from public concerns! This is not about transparency, which is what we need the most right now. It is about obfuscation, pure and simple. Let them speak! Let us decide!
This is bad. That was so ineptly done, that it boggles the imagination. I’m going to have finish this tomorrow.
I had an interesting interaction yesterday, and it really impacted me at a radical and fundamental level. As I took a smoke break at the office (yes, I still smoke), I looked over toward the front of the building and spied someone lying in the grass. The person appeared to be sleeping. I assumed it was one of the tenants of the building catching a nap, or maybe one of their clients, biding time before an appointment. An hour or so later, I saw the person was still there, and started watching. After a few minutes, the person stood, and I could see it was a young male, I would estimate in his early twenties. He was dressed only in his underwear. The young man stretched and walked over to a nearby vinyl fence separating the business parking lot from the neighboring property. He then grabbed the top of the fence, and banged his head on it a few times, pulled the top of the fence to-and-fro, banged his head a couple more times. He then stood with his belly against the fence, and urinated on it.
My observations quickly led to a reassessment of the napper, and I can’t say it was positive. His affect appeared agitated, perhaps drug-induced. He returned to his spot in the grass (right behind my car), and sat down. At this point, I decided to observe him more closely. I returned inside the building and went to the front, where I could observe him through a window. After a very short time, the young man picked up his few belongings — some clothes and a plastic bag containing some apparently light items — and began walking back along the side of the building, toward the side door from where I had originally observed him. I followed from inside the building.
The young man walked along the east side of the building. My office is located on the northeastern corner, so I went there and watched as he walked around that corner, and behind the building. (My building is fenced on three sides.) I continued following, as he traversed to the west side, where he put his clothes on, shorts and a t-shirt. He then returned to the east side of the building, where he laid down directly underneath my office window. My desk and chair are directly in front of this window. The window has blinds, which were turned downward but not shut. He lay down on his stomach and cradled his head in his arms.
I was concerned at this time. I strongly considered calling police to have him removed from the site, as he clearly did not belong there. I weighed the action in my head as I watched him lie beneath my window. He could tell he was being watched, as he sat up a couple times and looked around, each time laying back down. And I contemplated. I wondered if perhaps he was homeless — a very distinct possibility in these times. Nonetheless, it was nearing the end of the workday, and I was not desirous of him continuing to be right outside my window as I left my office. Should I call police? Should I ignore him?
And then, as I watched his feet dawdle, in their flip-flops, a thought occurred to me. What if that was my son? What if one of my sons were to find himself in that very place, with someone like me secretly staring from behind blinds? I wondered what had brought him there, and whether he was hungry. Tears welled up into my eyes, and I instantly knew my course of action. I had an apple in the refrigerator from a lunch I had not quite finished a week or so past. I had a water bottle I had earlier emptied that day. I went to the kitchen and retrieved the apple, and filled the bottle with tap water, and I went outside.
I exited from a door near where he was laying, and he instantly stood up. He positioned himself in the middle of the side lawn as I approached. And I asked him, “Are you hungry?” He looked at me for a second and said, “What?” I repeated, “Are you hungry?” and added, “Do you want this apple?” His breath went out of him, and it was clear he had been holding it. He smiled, and took the apple from me. I then handed him the water.
The young man seemed to feel a need to explain himself, and began a fragmented story about police and the “psych ward.” But that wasn’t why I was there any longer. I looked at him and said, “That is all I have. This apple and water.” He looked at me and said, “Wow. I didn’t expect that,” and his eyes watered up. I nodded to him and turned to go back inside. He called to me, “Thank you,” and I told him he was welcome. I never saw him again after that.
Speaking only to what I experienced, because I cannot presume to speak for him, I had turned my fear into compassion, my protectiveness into caring, my anxiety to kindness, and that apple and water did far more for me yesterday than it would have if I had ingested them.
I came home that night, and watched the waxing moon, nearly full, floating among stars and flirting with the clouds, at peace, and feeling whole.