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LATEST BLOG ENTRY
Friday, December 14, 2007 3:30:57 PM
In 1956, the year of my birth, M. King Hubbert predicted US oil production would peak in 1970 and decline irreversably thereafter. At that time there seemed to be as much oil in the US as we could ever want and Hubbert was a laughing stock. 24 years later, US production peaked in December 1970 and as Hubbert predicted it's been in steady decline ever since. Not even the Alaska deposits could reverse the trend. Now the Prudoe Bay deposits are in decline to the point where oil has to be batched to pump it over the Brooks Range. Since the 1970 about 27 of 51 oil producing regions have gone into decline. Canterel in Mexico, one of the largest fields discovered in the western hemisphere is now in double digit decline. In a few years Mexico will have to stop exporting oil to the US and service its own demand. The same is coming true for Iran. Venezuela's production rates have peaked despite the massive deposits of heavy crude. The big mystery remaining is Ghawar in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have made noises about upping production, but so far it's just noise. Some sophisticated analysis of Ghawar shows that from the geology and what is known of their production rates, it seems to have plateaued. The Saudis are no longer the swing producer. In any event, the May 2005 date for the peak of conventional crude seems to be real.
Peak Oil means only one thing. The global RATE of oil production is at its maximum and can only decline thereafter. It doesn't mean we've run out of oil. Hardly. Roughly half the oil still remains, as Hubbert predicted. The problem is the all economies and monetary systems are based on continual growth. Money is really a form of debt that requires continual growth to service that debt and its interest burden. Energy, or the capacity to do work, underpins growth. With no growth in energy supplies, the system grinds to a halt as the chain of payments breaks down. But that's only where the difficulty begins. A decline in available energy causes the engine to sputter. The second half of the oil supply is more difficult to recover as it diminishes. The NET energy available declines even faster. That's because deeper, heavier, more sour, crude requires more energy up front and yields less net energy on the back end. So the energy available from the second half of world reserves will not go as far as the first did.
Look around you and ask yourself what do I see that has not been made from, powered with, or transported by fossil fuels? Agriculture has been transformed into a process of using soil, natural gas, and oil into food. This computer I'm typing on is made mainly of oil. The silicon in the chips depends on natural gas for refining. Clothing? Same story. If it isn't made from oil directly, it requires it to grow the cotton and process it into a tee-shirt.
So what does this have to do with Firefly, you may well ask. The current system of production and governance will not survive the coming shortage of energy. Some people will choose the Browncoat way. They'll band together for their common benefit. But it will be more than that. As Mal said, they'll do for each other and not always try to gain the advantage. That's where the similarity ends. In the real world we're pretty much stuck with this one planet. Space flight for the masses or even the few will likely never happen. Imagine Serenity as a village instead of a spacecraft. Imagine Kaylee keeping the windmill going, Book telling parables after dinner, Simon attending to the sick and injured with rudimentary means, Mal a reluctant village leader, Wash a sailor, and Jayne as crude and irksome as ever. River would be left to herself to develope her own interests and talents instead of being coerced into becoming a weapon for corporate greed.
I'm looking forward to a future where adversity brings out our better traits. As the cheap energy era recedes, we'll loose mainly what broke our connection to nature. People will have to relearn skills of making and doing for themselves. We'll have to think in terms of generations ahead and preserving relationships in the now. It won't be easy. It will be interesting.
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