A Hard Winter is Coming

 

October 20, 2012

 

Studio del picco di produzione per petrolio e ...

Studio del picco di produzione per petrolio e gas – Study of Peak Oil and Gas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Fall has fell, as they say around here.  The remains of the summer garden disappeared into the compost bin, although the early fall lettuce, spinach and onions on the side porch live on.  The poplar tree in the front yard stands resplendent in yellow-orange, while the maple across the sidewalk has begun its own transition to flaming red.  The cold, wet bluster of the past week, which will turn mostly warm and sunny in the week ahead, gave me a chance to catch up on some reading around my favorite blogs and news sites and reminded me that winter is not all that far away.

 

In my reading, this week, a couple of articles caught my eye and, in thinking them over, reminded me that, in spite of the cold blustering of last week’s political debate and the warm, sunny assurances that, if we just institute Mr.X’s economic and energy policies over President Y’s (or vice versa) all will be well, again, the reality is that a peak oil winter is coming – with all its attendant consequences – and neither candidate is offering anything to solve the problem or temper those consequences.

 

For those of you who are new to the blog or are still a little fuzzy about Peak Oil and its consequences, I’d highly recommend you read the articles.

 

The first one, written by Gail Tverberg, of the Oil Drum, for Business Insider, goes over the latest Energy Information Agency oil supply data and the attending graphs and explains where the global energy supply stands as of this latest report. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-new-eia-oil-supply-data-confirms-your-peak-oil-fears2012 4?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TheMoneyGame+(The+Money+Game)

 

To understand why neither candidate is offering any realistic policies to address the problems, you’ll want to read the second article, byDan Bednarz and Allana Beavis, over at the Energy Bulletin.  Although Dan writes about the health system, the problems, consequences and solutions he writes about here (which none of the politicians want to deal with) are applicable to all our complex systems, both in the US and globally. http://energybulletin.net/stories/2012-09-14/neoliberalism-degrowth-and-fate-health-systems

 

Once upon a time, the world was able to pretty much poke a pipe into the ground in oil producing areas and get a gusher of cheap, easy to access conventional crude oil from fields that would last thirty to fifty years before they peaked and began to decline.  For every barrel of oil it took to produce such a well, the world got 100 barrels of oil back.  That’s no longer true.  The International Energy Agency said a couple of years ago, that overall production of that oil peaked worldwide in 2006 and has been declining since then. As the large oil fields around the world peak and decline, not only does it become harder and more expensive (and thus a lower return on the energy invested) to produce it, we are increasingly dependent on other more expensive and hard to produce sources of oil and gas to make up for the falling supplies of conventional oil to keep pace with world demand. And, the energy returned on investment for some of these is five or less. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

 

The giant oil fields of the past are gone.  We haven’t found a new one in decades.  The deep water beds and shale beds we are drilling now may seem vast, but the oil and gas are in pockets that are mere puddles, comparatively, and that peak in around five years, so that we must continually drill new wells to basically keep running in place.  The “oil” sands and “oil” shales produce not oil, but oil precursors that are not only expensive to retrieve, but must be “boiled” out of the sand and shale and then refined into a synthetic oil at great cost.  We are literally ripping off the tops of mountains to obtain a coal that is not only more expensive to retrieve, but, for the most part, dirtier to burn – some of which we convert to liquids that can be used like oil. (Another expensive process.)

 

No, we are not “running out of oil”.  What we are running out of is cheap, easy to access oil in a globalized economy that cannot maintain constant growth on expensive and hard to access energy sources.

 

When I was a teenager back in the mid fifties, you could buy gasoline at the cheaper stations in middle America for twenty-five cents a gallon.  Now, you couldn’t buy an eyedropper full of gasoline for that price.

 

We’ve been told we’re in a temporary recession and that, if we just get the right energy/fiscal/economic policies in place, we can get the economy booming again.  As with the global oil plateau we’re currently on, we may grow the economy somewhat before falling back into recession, but unless we find some magical new source of cheap, easy to access energy soon, the days of booming economies are gone.

 

As with our fall weather around here, we will have our cold and rainy days and our sunny, warm days.  But,whether we like it or not, for most of us a cold, harsh winter is on the way.  With our politicians kidding themselves and us, we’d better take this time to lay in the firewood and get ourselves ready for that winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Responses to A Hard Winter is Coming

  1. eugene12 says:

    Agree with your point of view. And if I’m reading it right, when the “solutions” come ie cut the social support system first it follows a deeply held American value: women, children, disabled and old people first.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Eugene, welcome to the blog. Yep, I’m very afraid that’s what is going to happen. If they weren’t so determined to keep the Empire going as long as possible, they’d start the cuts at the top, where they belong. But you’re right, (although I guess I’d call it a deeply help Imperial value :D). I think most Americans (even some of the wealthy ones) understand that promoting “the general welfare” means we don’t throw those poorest or most vulnerable overboard first!!

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Mark N says:

    Hi Ozarker, I completely agree with your take on peak oil.

    I feel that industrial civilization needs a growing base of cheap oil because industrialism is a ponzi scheme. It requires constant growth to service continually growing debt. The debt is a necessary component of industrial civilization because of the massive amounts of upfront capitol needed that are inherent to industrial processes. Industrialism never paid for itself; it just passed the bill over to the public sector while the elites pocketed the profit.

    When the global oil supply peaked per capita, around 1979, industrial countries turned to government spending and fraud to keep the ponzi scheme running. We now await the final destruction of the global financial and economic system as the world has lost the driver of economic growth (cheap oil). The system will destruct as you can not finance GDP growth with debt for ever. 2008 was the warning shot across the bow, the signal that industrial civilization had entered a terminal phase.

    When the financial and economic systems give out so will the ability to finance hard to extract energy sources. With the loss of the global economic/financial system comes the end of the green revolution, converting fossil fuels into food. Then the harsh realities of industrial overpopulation and environmental degradation are unleashed on a confused and passive consumer.

    The time has come to man the proverbial life boats for the mighty Titanic is sinking. Not that many on the ship know that yet, the band plays on. My lifeboat is a remote Ozark Mountain homestead and I will now devote my life to attempting a sustainable life in balance with nature. If we learn nothing from the horrors of the industrial experiment then it will have truly been all folly. We must first and foremost live in balance with the earth; all other roads lead to hell.

    Glad I found your blog keep up the good work!

    Mark

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Mark, I’m glad you found the blog, too. I absolutely agree that we’re going to have to learn to live within nature and it’s limits (and bounty). I’ll be seventy-two next month, so my little lifeboat is necessarily here in town (Springfield), but I live in a pretty good community where people are disposed to helping one another in all sorts of disasters. It’s for sure, though, that wherever we build those lifeboats, now’s the time to get cracking on it. 😀

      Thanks for your comments.

  3. graveday says:

    Heavily tongue in cheek Eugene, which is so close to eugenic. Not hygienic though if it is the wrong set of cheeks.
    Twenty year old kid knocked on my door about a year ago saying he would wash my car for five bucks. He comes around right regularly now for whatever work I can provide, but he is not skilled, has been in and out of prison, and seems to have a black cloud over him.
    He is surviving, but that is the best I can say. I hope he never goes postal, because I can sense the rage just under the skin and have told him as much.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Grave, same around here. There’s always something needing repair around here, so I try to find neighbors with those skills or just general skills to hire. Have a licensed roofer, independent contractor, who lives just down the street. He came over and gave me a good deal on some repairs from the straight line winds that headed our last storm. A young man with a wife and baby from down the street came by a few days before, offering to take out that ever-growing jungle on the north side of the house and trim the trees and hedges for $10. I asked him what he’d want to paint that little side porch, so he’ll be by at the first of the month to do those things. Both of these help them, but it also helps me (and keeps the money in the neighborhood).

      We must help each other out every way we can (and build community in the mean time) if we’re going to have a chance to survive this slow collapse. I just don’t see any other way out.

  4. graveday says:

    And I don’t just give him five bucks. I give him four times five because he does a great job.
    And because I can. Yesterday he came by again and it was about to rain, so no car washing, but I had him spread compost on the garden and do some general cleanup.
    I’m going to see if one of the organic farms around here might take him on as in intern. He expressed a glimmer of interest in the idea.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Grave, absolutely. People are so desperate for work, I sure will give this guy more than he asked for if he does a good job. And the guy who gave me such a good deal on repairing my roof last week? He told me his wife had worked at the store next door when it was still a GO-Convenience Store and was one of the ladies I used to give my excess veggies to. Never know, I guess, what will come around back to you. 😀 Community building in action – LOL.

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