Peak Oil Anarchy

Peak Oil is indisputable, inevitable and -- probably -- imminent. As the Cheap Oil era ends & oil supplies grow ever more scarce, our consumerist, earth-eating economy will go into convulsions & industrial civilization will teeter on the brink of collapse. Best be prepared! Peak Oil could herald a Golden Age of Anarchy. In Leviathan's ashes, we could create new decentralized communities of mutual aid, solidarity against oppression, & egalitarian harmony. May this be a map to the terrain ahead!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Converging Ecological Crises: Are We Up To The Challenges?

By Dr. G.F. Hartman / Monday, July 31, 2006

There is a very substantial volume of highly credible writing, for anyone that wants to see it, that warns us that humankind has only a few decades left in which to ‘get it right’. We face demographic challenges and global ecological disruptions on scales like nothing that people have seen before. This is no longer news; the information is out there. In spite of this, most people in North America are still ‘sleepwalking’ into the future.

Part of the quandary we face is that the more complex and long range the issues are, the less suited our political system is to meet them, and the less inclined people are to think about them. For the politician, discussion of mega-environmental issues and the politics involved does not attract votes for the next election. Indeed, thinking beyond the next election does not fit the agenda in our power-obsessed political system. For much of the public, discussion of impending crises is apt to lead only to dismissal – ‘doomsday talk; now lets see who is winning the hockey game’. It is a societal failure that, at a time when we need political people to share responsibility as we face rough seas ahead, there is neither leadership nor vision. There is no one at the wheel.

I urge that readers do not escape by ‘turning me off’. Our children and grandchildren will not be able to ‘turn off’ the massive impacts of the changes that are converging around us now. The denial of today, is the parent of the disaster and discomfort of tomorrow.

If there was such a thing as a report card on humanity, at the beginning of the 21st century, the failing grades would outnumber the passes and pluses. Ecological and demographic dangers are not offset by the positive and encouraging things that are occurring. Not only that, when we do look at issues, the examinations are too often only skin-deep. If and when media coverage is given to large-scale environmental crises, the coverage is on a single problem basis. In addition, mass media coverage is, far too often, absorbed with the symptoms of problems rather than base causes. Blood and tears sell, penetrating analysis does not.

What is crucial to understand and face up to, is the fact that we are not confronted by a single issue such as climate change, depletion of oil, or loss of fish resources, serious as each of these may be. We are, in reality, confronted by an inter-connected complex of environmental and resource loss and/or breakdown challenges that will shape the societies of the future. The elements within the list of challenges are formidable:

  • We add about 70 million people per year to an already overloaded planet. Writers who hold the darkest vision suggest that after reaching 8 or 9 billion people on earth, environmental collapse will drive human numbers back by two thirds. Like almost everywhere else, we are ‘in the game’ in B.C. Here, we add about 50 thousand per year to our own province with its southern portions already people-stressed.
  • We are at, or past, ‘peak oil’. The major reserves have been located and we are now using them up. There are no comparable and flexible substitutes for this energy bonanza, laid down over millions of years but consumed in only one or two centuries. The sub-urban sprawl of North America, the long-range transport of food, the operation of our great sky-scrapers, and life built around the automobile are all in peril. Read J.H. Kunstler’s “The Long Emergency”. The influence of declining oil supplies will affect nations, worldwide. In Canada, declining supplies and increasing costs of oil and gas will be critical to people living in colder regions, wherever these may be as climate warms up.
  • Climate is changing with a powerful array of potential impacts on water availability, forests, fishes, infrastructure, health conditions, and livability of many regions without cheap energy. See Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”, or read the book. Although the impacts of climate change are many, the people of central B.C. are living with one of major importance to their livelihood. The eruption of Mountain Pine Beetle from Clinton to Fort Nelson is, in large measure, due to changing winter climate conditions.
  • In association with increased CO2, ocean pH is decreasing, i.e., acidity is increasing. The effects of such change on corals reefs, and production and composition of marine plankton, are not known. Prof. D. Pauly, Head of the Fisheries Centre at UBC, in a recent interview on CBC radio, regarded ocean pH change as enormously significant and risky.
  • Freshwater resources of the world, and of many parts of B.C., are dangerously over-taxed with use, or are being degraded. It is projected that by 2025, between 2.4 and 3.4 billion people will live in conditions of water scarcity or stress. Considering local examples, here in the lower mainland of ‘Supernatural British Columbia’, groundwater is being heavily charged with nitrate from chicken farms. Nitrate is well above the level of 10mg/L, the acceptable standard for drinking water. Worldwide, about 460 million people depend, almost entirely, on groundwater reserves that are being used faster than replenishment. Such use includes that of the 450,000 km2 Ogallala Aquifer underlying eight U.S. states. When that aquifer is depleted, American water users will come to Canada for water. If such required water is deemed to be of “national security” to the USA, you decide how much, and how effectively we will be able to “negotiate”.
  • Major fisheries of the world are under assault. According to a study in the scientific journal “Nature” (2003), industrial fleets have fished out about 90% of all large ocean predator fish – tuna, marlin, swordfish, sharks, cod, halibut, skates, and flounders. This done in the last 50 years. Midwater fish species, that were at one time considered unusable, are now being fished down as well. Pacific salmon are in decline from central B.C. southward through the US Pacific Northwest. Freshwater fish over much of the world are put in jeopardy by forestry activities. Much of this is covered in a book by T.G. Northcote and G.F. Hartman, “Fishes and Forestry: Worldwide Watershed Interactions and Management”.

  • Since the dawn of agriculture we have lost about half of the earth’s natural forest. The annual, worldwide, loss of natural forest is currently about 120,000 km2 per year. Tropical forests are under assault from both the forestry and agriculture sectors. Boreal forests across the world are at risk of loss due to climate warming.
  • Our perennial demand for economic growth, which invariably results in conversion of ecosystems to human use, reduces biodiversity which ultimately affects the stability of these systems (See http://www.countercurrents.org/cc-dawe030406.htm)

  • Functional ecosystems of the earth provide us with vital services such as water treatment and detoxification, waste assimilation, regulation of air quality, control of erosion, regulation of local climate, spiritual fulfillment, and many other things. These services, valued at near 33 trillion dollars per year, have been put at risk by our collective activities. The “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report” (2005) states that 60%, 15 out of 24, ecosystem services evaluated are being degraded or used unsustainably.

On the ‘plus side’, there are important positive elements:

  • Awareness of our plight is increasing, and hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups are actively involved in dealing with environmental issues.
  • Means and scale of communication have increased. Television and the internet, if used responsibly, have wonderful potential to inform and connect people. The David Suzuki shows have increased awareness among tens of thousands of viewers.
  • The powerful documentary movie and the book, “An Inconvenient Truth” by Vice- President Al Gore has reached million of North Americans.

The list of demographic, environmental, and resource challenges indicates the powerful but unbalanced array of processes occurring on our planet. One way or another, some or all of these will affect people everywhere. Many of these dangerous and disturbing processes are interconnected, and the interconnections lead back to the reality that excessive numbers of people and their consumptive demands are overstressing the planet. As it stands, and as we behave now, increasing crowding and “shortages” will exacerbate the ongoing lawlessness and civil strife on earth.

I believe that the next few decades will make it even more clear to us that we can not sustain the kind of social and economic systems that have prevailed over North America. Environmental and resource changes will force us into a very different relationship with the earth. It will be one that involves less consumption, less waste, and less travel. Life may, indeed, be less comfortable. Our legacy may be that future generations look back at us with dismay and resentment.

If we go back to biological principles, every animal species on earth lives in some state of balance with other species and the physical environment. Whether it is an experimental population of meal worms in a jar of cereal, a population of snowshoe hares in the Arctic, or salmon in the Fraser River system, the numbers go up and down, but they don’t rise indefinitely. We too, are bound by this ecological reality. Compounding technology, as we have too often used it, has served only to increase, our numbers, our developmental pressures on the environment, and ultimately, the distance we may fall when the system collapses.

The convergence of ecological crises demands that we go further than trying to deal singly with climate change, or depletion of oil, or some other issue. It demands that we move to ‘steady state’ economies and populations, not those growing like mad. It demands, also, human behavior in which we are part of the system, not an increasingly dominant element within it. Politically and socio-economically, we will have to make a quantum shift. The challenge of doing so, and having a vision-driven role on the earth, beyond growth and profit, may be one of the most difficult that we have faced, or will have to face, as a species.

The political systems of today seems to be quite unsuited for dealing with the massive and complex ecological and social challenges that are either here or on the horizon. These challenges eclipse most of the issues that currently occupy our politicians.

I believe that we should seek some type of forum, however chosen, whose role it is to understand ‘macro-issues’, and to inform and encourage elected people to get them to deal with challenges that may not be popular in the short term. I do not know exactly what the structure of such a forum might be, but we need a ‘long-term brain’ for government. As part of the foundation for this, we need awareness.

This critical foundation requires that we recognize and begin to understand the full nature of our situation. The extent to which we can do this, and have some influence on our own future rather than having nature make the decisions for us, may tell us just how much we deserve the “sapiens” in Homo sapiens, the Latin species name we have given ourselves. We had better be “sapient” (wise) because ‘nature bats last’.

G.F. Hartman

July 2006

Born in Fraser Lake, Dr. Gordon Hartman is known the world over as one of the most knowledgeable scientists on any fishery. He has a Ph.D. in zoology, was the scientist in charge of a major fish-forestry research project, held senior positions in the provincial government and the Yukon government; He has taught at the university level for about six years (University of Guelph and Addis Ababa University) and spent three years in Africa with CIDA for two, and FAO for one. He thinks he has written about 80 publications, scientific, or managerial, or philosophical.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Worldwide Protests Slam G8 Support of Nuclear, Coal, Oil

The protests included large "banner drops" in multiple cities, protests of coal and oil companies, and rallies at the U.S. embassy in London and the Washington, DC home of U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman. On Friday, protestors showed up at Bodman's home, demanding that the United States and the G8 abandon the focus on nuclear, coal, and on oil wars as "energy security." They chanted "No Coal, No Nukes, G-8 shut it down!" No arrests took place.

"The G8 countries represent just 15 percent of the world's population but they produce 45 percent of all human emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas," said Ethan Green of Rising Tide North America, a group that publicized the July 15 protests against climate change and the G8 in the United States.

"Poor, indigenous and environmentally vulnerable communities should not bear the brunt of disease epidemics, droughts, floods, melting ice, rising oceans, hurricanes, and other catastrophes caused by the global climate change that rich countries are responsible for due to our prodigious burning of coal, oil and gas for energy," said Green.

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Protesters Condemn G8 Support of Nuclear, Coal, Oil

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - Demonstrators blockading a main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg were arrested on Sunday as they protested the Group of Eight, G8, statement on Global Energy Security that includes support for nuclear power. They blocked the entrance of a hotel on the Nevsky Prospekt which was used by participants of the G8 summit.

Protesters from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Minsk, Chishinau, Warsaw, Kiev, Cardiff, and Berlin took part in the demonstration, displaying posters saying "No G8!" in Russian and English.

Russian riot police arrested all of the 37 activists and cleared the roadway. Some of the activists sat down and had to be carried away, others were forced to leave the street in what they said was a brutal manner.

"We wanted to voice our demands to not develop nuclear energy," said Olga Miryasova from Russia's Network Against the G8.

The protesters staged their demonstration to coincide with the G8 summit at Strelna where the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union wound up their three day meeting today.

The sit-in took place despite the growing suppression of dissent by the Russian government in recent years. Russian authorities preemptively arrested over 200 activists before the G8 summit and forbade protesters from leaving an alternative conference in St. Petersburg held on Saturday.

The G8 statement on global energy security advocates nuclear energy as one way to address global climate change, yet environmental activists warn that nuclear energy cannot be considered a positive way to reduce carbon emissions and combat global climate change.

"Nuclear reactors are dangerous, extremely expensive, take many years to build, and require massive government subsidies," the demonstrators said in a statement.

The activists say they would like this funding to be used to quickly reduce carbon emissions through energy efficiency measures, development of renewable energy sources, and restoration of damaged wetland and forest ecosystems.

In coalition with the protests in St. Petersburg, international demonstrations occurred on July 14 and 15 in numerous cities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Germany.

The protests included large "banner drops" in multiple cities, protests of coal and oil companies, and rallies at the U.S. embassy in London and the Washington, DC home of U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman.

On Friday, protestors showed up at Bodman's home, demanding that the United States and the G8 abandon the focus on nuclear, coal, and on oil wars as "energy security." They chanted "No Coal, No Nukes, G-8 shut it down!" No arrests took place.

"The G8 countries represent just 15 percent of the world's population but they produce 45 percent of all human emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas," said Ethan Green of Rising Tide North America, a group that publicized the July 15 protests against climate change and the G8 in the United States.

"Poor, indigenous and environmentally vulnerable communities should not bear the brunt of disease epidemics, droughts, floods, melting ice, rising oceans, hurricanes, and other catastrophes caused by the global climate change that rich countries are responsible for due to our prodigious burning of coal, oil and gas for energy," said Green.

On Friday, as a part of the Global Day of Action Against the G8 a small group of protesters demonstrated in front of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Sydney, Australia. The five protesters displayed signs, shared vodka and iced tea, discussed the implications of the G8's continued existence, and expressed solidarity with the protesters in Russia.

In fear of a larger demonstration, the consulate was closed to visitors, part of the street was cordoned off, and at least 10 police officers guarded the area near the entrance.

In Canada on Tuesday, a demonstration is planned at the Sidney, British Columbia office of federal Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn, to protest the withdrawal of support for the Kyoto climate protocol by the recently elected Conservative government.

The protesters, organized by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, will hold a brief rally with speakers, songs by the Raging Grannies, placards, and banners, followed by a petition drive to passersby in downtown Sidney, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the provincial capital of Victoria.

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is calling on the federal Conservative government of Canada to "at the very least, honor Canada's participation in the Kyoto Accord by working to achieve its emissions targets for Canada of six percent below 1990 emissions levels by the year 2012."

The protesters fault the Conservatives for "scrapping Canada's obligation to meet Kyoto's emissions reductions targets, falsely stating that it's impossible to meet the targets."

They object to the elimination of over a dozen major federal climate change programs, including the C$1 billion dollar Partnership Fund which was to be used for climate change projects for five provinces, as well as the EnerGuide Program to provide rebates to Canadians who buy more energy efficient appliances.

The Wilderness Committee says a leaked government document shows the Conservatives are "working to delay, obstruct and sabotage progress during negotiations among Kyoto signatories by trying to weaken emissions reductions targets, with a goal of eventually eliminating the entire agreement."

Instead of reducing greenhouse gases, the demonstrators say the Conservatives are granting "huge subsidies to the highly destructive Alberta tar sands industry and the oil and gas industry in general."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

May 6, DC Petrocollapse Conference: Culture Change and Sustainable Post-Petroleum Living


The DC Petrocollapse Conference
www.petrocollapse.org

Surviving Peak Oil: Economic Doom or Transformation?
Culture Change and Sustainable Post-Petroleum Living

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FEATURING DC PREMIERE OF THE NEW DOCUMENTARY FILM:
"The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil"

You are invited to attend!
All Souls Unitarian Church
16th and Harvard Streets, NW, Washington D.C.
Columbia Heights Metro Station
Saturday, May 6, 2006 9 am - 7 pm

Speakers at the DC Petrocollapse Conference will include peak-oil author Richard Heinberg. Experts on peak oil, small-scale agriculture and alternative energy will discuss "petrocollapse," the imminent failure of the petroleum infrastructure to continue to provide the myriad goods and services that our consumer economy has grown accustomed to. Multimedia presentations and multiple films will demonstrate solutions to the audience.

At The Petrocollapse Conference we will ask

* What are we facing now as the economy prepares to hit the wall
known as resource limits? Will growth suddenly implode?
* How will Peak Oil (a geological phenomenon) and petrocollapse (an economic and social phenomenon) effect food supply and other services we depend on?
* What mitigation strategies are possible?
* What is the role of the market in determining how severe the
effect of shortage stemming from geological depletion will be ?
* Upon upheaval, deprivation, and a restructuring of social relations in a "new" local economics system, will we choose to create a sustainable culture?

DC PETROCOLLAPSE CONFERENCE SPEAKERS WILL INCLUDE:
*Albert Bates Global Ecovillage Network; author
*Diana Leafe Christian Communities Magazine
*Richard Heinberg Author, The Party's Over and Powerdown
*Michael Kane From the Wilderness publications
*Jan Lundberg Oil industry analyst; http://culturechange.org
*Jenna Orkin Moderator; World Trade Center Environmental Org.
*Joel Salatin Organic Agriculturalist, http://polyfacefarms.com
*Mark Robinowitz http://Oilempire.us; author, Permatopia
*David Room Post Carbon Institute; Global Public Media


YOU ARE INVITED TO ATTEND!
Register online via PayPal at http://petrocollapse.org/register.html

Scholarships, work exchange arrangements, and "sliding scale" discounts are available for students, activists, and those who can't afford the $100 registration cost. Send us an email with the details of your situation, and/or what time or energy you may have for volunteer activity for the conference. Send to conferences@culturechange.org

No one will be turned away at the door for lack of funds, so long as space is available. However, seats are filling fast, so you are encouraged to register ASAP!

For more information, visit petrocollapse.org and
check out the DC PetroCollapse Conference press release below

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MEDIA ALERT -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DC Petrocollapse Conference: May 6, 2006
All Souls Church, Unitarian 16th & Harvard, Washington, D.C

A conference on the effects of peak oil and the growing global energy crisis will take place in Washington, DC on May 6th at the All Souls Church, Unitarian from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. Speakers include peak-oil author Richard Heinberg.

Conference organizer and speaker Jan Lundberg is a former oil industry analyst who ran the market research firm Lundberg Survey. Lundberg, who quit serving the oil industry so he could put his knowledge to use to protect the environment, says "M. King Hubbert, who developed the theory of peak oil, observed that we do not have an energy crisis but rather a culture crisis. This fits with the theme of the Washington DC Petrocollapse Conference that there is no technofix for our energy dilemma. Society will have to bring about a closer level of community and rediscover what grassroots economies are all about."

The May 6th conference will feature Richard Heinberg, the most-read peak oil author (The Party's Over, and Powerdown). Films and music will be also offered as part of a varied program to stimulate discussion and action by attendees. Heinberg and Lundberg and others will perform music including oil-satire songs. Films will include premiers of "Our Synthetic Sea" (plastics pollution in oceans) and "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil."

Lundberg says the Petrocollapse Conference asks, "What we can do in advance of the social upheaval and chaos that may produce a 'national New Orleans,' to prepare or mitigate? What will the future look like during and after a transition to non-petroleum living?"

For more information, see http://petrocollapse.org

Friday, March 31, 2006

Peak Opportunity! Earth Liberation and the Oil Endgame

Published in Earth First! Journal, Eostar (March-April) 2006
and online at http://PeakOilAnarchy.blogspot.com by Acornista

By now, all radical environmentalists—if not all humans—should be aware of the fatal ecological effects of civilization’s unsustainable energy binge. Yet many of us have been slow to grasp the true gravity of what our rapid depletion of non-renewable fossil fuels portends.

We must recognize three essential points about civilization’s imminent energy future: First, the unfolding “energy crisis” is real and will soon manifest as chronic oil scarcity. Second, industry is seeking to quickly and quietly implement a nightmarish swarm of ultra-dirty oil “substitutes,” ranging from coal-to-oil “liquefaction” in Appalachia to nuclear-powered “heavy oil” mining in northern Canada and biofuel plantations in South America. Rather than presenting feasible solutions, these “alternatives” are unsustainable and ecologically destructive. Third, we cannot cling to the hope that scientists will unveil a magical cocktail of clean, oil-free “alternative” technologies that will power a benign “new civilization.”

Unless societies learn to sharply reduce their ecological footprints, any large-scale energy alternatives will ultimately prove ineffective because they would prolong and intensify destructive practices. It is time to seriously consider that our best hope for a biodiverse Earth and a biocentric future for humanity would be civilization’s collapse. Let’s dream our post-petroleum utopias unapologetically wild.

To liberate the Earth and ourselves from the carnage that oil elicits, we need to clarify where civilization is going, as well as where our movements are coming from. Attempts at environmental legislative reform through emissions standards, “smart growth” regulations and the Kyoto Protocol have failed to deter oil’s speeding devastation. Grassroots struggles to restrain the petroleum economy’s spread and to spur lifestyle shifts toward renewable energies have been far too weak, late and limited to halt overarching ecocidal trends. Despite countless small-scale victories won by indigenous and eco-activist resistance, hydrocarbon hunger has metastasized globally, placing civilization on a collision course with its own decimation of the Earth.

But it is our very gluttony for fossil fuels that presents the single greatest threat to our unsustainable civilization. A startling body of evidence is now foretelling the beginning of the end of oil’s heyday.

Peak Petroleum?

This unique geological opportunity is called “peak oil,” the moment of global maximum oil production, when approximately half of the Earth’s total oil supply has been pumped and remaining reserves offer decreasing yields. Extraction at any individual oil field follows a bell curve; production increases, plateaus and then declines irreversibly as the supply is exhausted. Peak oil is merely the extrapolation of the behavior of individual oil fields to the global supply.

In any field, the purest oil is always the most accessible and, thus, the first to be extracted. As oil disappears, the crude becomes increasingly difficult to refine. Production costs escalate and more energy must be used to bring lower-grade oil to market. When this happens to the global supply, consumer prices will skyrocket to offset the costs. Finally, oil production will require the expenditure of more energy than it yields and will become prohibitively expensive. Collapse will result not from the disappearance of oil, but from the vanishing of cheap oil.

Although we won’t recognize the moment of peak oil until it has already passed, many clues signal that it is near. In November, Kuwaiti officials announced that output from the world’s second-largest oil field was “exhausted” and declining. Shortly after, speakers at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil’s annual conference all agreed that global oil decline would certainly begin before 2010. Some argued that we are peaking now. More than 50 oil-producing countries have already peaked. Global discovery of oil reserves peaked in the 1960s, and big finds are now rare. The average find is 50 million barrels. This sounds huge until you consider that humans consume 84 million barrels every day. US oil production peaked in 1970 and continues to decline, even as Americans devour 25 percent of the global supply. Only the vast oil fields of Saudi Arabia sustain the illusion that petroleum-based civilization can grow forever. But this is not so. Ninety-five percent of Saudi output comes from only six fields, which all show signs of petering out.

False Hope on the Depletion Slope

Opinions differ widely about what peak oil means for humanity. Some permaculture enthusiasts are advocating boldly optimistic visions of graceful “energy descent” down the oil-depletion slope. They hope that geologically imposed limits to reckless consumption will compel societies to adopt ecofriendly alternatives. At the other extreme, many capitalist intellectuals are confident that civilization, led by fresh waves of technological innovation, will seamlessly adapt to oil decline. They predict that oil depletion will be a “non-event” due to the implementation of other unconventional fuel sources that will significantly offset dwindling oil reserves.

One such “solution” is the exploitation of tar sands in arctic Canada’s Mackenzie Valley. Approximately two tons of tar sands are required to produce a single barrel of oil, with more than one million barrels being extracted every day. This process strips soil and rock from forests, boils oil out of sand with hot water and leaves behind giant cesspools of wastewater. Since the 1960s, the extraction of tar sands has damaged more than 80,000 acres of forest and wetlands, and plans call for production to triple by 2015. Moreover, the tar sands industry is extremely inefficient, necessitating huge energy inputs to produce comparatively modest yields. To supply the industry’s voracious energy needs, a new infrastructure of massive natural gas pipelines and nuclear plants has been proposed.

A similar, even dirtier process is the mining of oil shale. Located on about 16,000 square miles of land in remote parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, oil shale represents an estimated 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil—enough to meet US oil demand for nearly 100 years. The extraction process is so obscenely heat- and water-intensive that it has only been attempted experimentally. Nevertheless, the Department of Energy projects yields of “200,000 barrels a day from oil shale by 2011, two million barrels a day by 2020 and ultimately 10 million barrels a day.” In January, the Bureau of Land Management awarded six new 160-acre leases to oil companies for the development of oil shale extraction on federal lands in Colorado and Utah. Currently, the corporation most deeply invested in oil shale is Shell.

In the US, coal-to-oil refineries are now on the drawing board in Montana, West Virginia and Wyoming. But eastern Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County—an economically depressed region dependant on waste dumping, coal mining, waste coal burning and prisons—is likely to become the site of the first such plant. Construction on the refinery is scheduled to begin this Spring and could be complete by as early as 2008. This facility will be a heavily subsidized pilot project that could pave the way for larger and more numerous coal-to-oil plants throughout the US.

Another proposed option is the harvesting of methane hydrates, which are frozen methane crystals found on the ocean floor and in arctic permafrost. Methane hydrates are extremely plentiful—estimates suggest that the global supply may be double that of all other fossil fuels combined. For this reason, methane hydrates seem like a great energy source capable of fueling unlimited growth for centuries to come. Predictably, it’s not that simple. Just as methane hydrates represent a tremendous source of potential energy, they also present a huge quantity of stored greenhouse gases. (Methane is more than 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.) A level of methane hydrate extraction capable of supporting the world’s energy needs would leak staggering quantities of the gas into the atmosphere, exacerbating the existing threat of global warming. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that the extraction process could make seabeds unstable, resulting in habitat destruction and even giant tsunamis. Nevertheless, the US has earmarked $47 million for research into methane hydrate energy.

As for biofuels, we should look skeptically at any “solution” that Monsanto officially favors. Small-scale organic biofuels might be worthy of eco-activist support, but the biggest beneficiaries of industrial biodiesel are sellers of genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. Plus, those enriched by the establishment of biofuel markets in the wealthy global North are rarely local farmers but rather foreign mega-growers of palm and soya oils. In 2006, a Florida-based importer called—no joke—EarthFirst Americas, Inc. plans to ship more than 100 million gallons of palm oil-derived biofuel into the US from Ecuador. That’s more than the US biodiesel industry’s entire 2005 yield! In Malaysia, Indonesia and South America, where labor is cheaper, water more abundant and crop yields higher, the spread of soy and palm plantations is a leading agent of rainforest destruction.

Citing these and other untapped sources of energy, cornucopian capitalists adhere to the unwavering belief that scientific innovation and private enterprise will generate a solution to oil depletion. The public follows their lead, believing that—at the very worst—peak oil will mean buying a hybrid car or a new furnace. But many who have seriously researched this issue are confident that peak oil spells doom for modern metropolitan, growth-oriented economies. Fossil fuels are essential ingredients in the production of plastics, pesticides and herbicides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, electronics, computers, and even components of high-tech “renewable” energies like wind and solar power. During oil decline, mass-produced items that consumers now take for granted could quickly become luxuries, then relics. The entire capitalist framework—defined by global mass production and dependent upon a resource-hungry infrastructure—would likely collapse.

Peak Opportunity!

We don’t have to panic or lose hope in the face of this scenario. What might oil decline mean for anti-capitalist unrest and Earth First! agitation? Be imaginative! The heightened vulnerability of dominant institutions offers extraordinary potential for social insurrections, ecological uprisings and tactical ecotage. The advent of oil decline should embolden us to step up action to stop our culture’s worst oil-enabled abuses against the Earth, from mountaintop removal mining and forest clearcutting to industrial agriculture, suburban sprawl and resource wars.

In order to take full advantage of this opportunity to bring down oil-based civilization, we must work to minimize the ability of Earth-destroying industries to adapt to fossil fuel scarcity. This means defending wilderness and undeveloped areas—the Arctic Wildlife Refuge; coastal and offshore marine zones; highland hotspots like the Green River Valley and Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, Colorado’s Roan Plateau, Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and the Otero Mesa in New Mexico—from new oil and natural gas speculation and extraction. Globally, it means doing more to collaborate with and support allies—from Colombia to Nigeria to Iraqwho are at the frontlines of physical struggles against neocolonialist oil exploiters and the militaries that shield them.

But our foremost task is to fight the ultra-dirty oil substitutes that industries are gearing up to implement. All of these will require huge investments of capital before they become economically viable. All will demand the creation of a completely new infrastructure before production and delivery can begin. Many will necessitate extensive legislative and diplomatic attention before they can be implemented in accordance with state, national and international law. And some depend upon significant adaptation on the part of consumers.

Every one of these new sources of energy is vulnerable at some crucial point. By studying the economic, political, legal, technological and even social requirements that these new industries will have to meet, we can proactively target them where they are weakest and prevent them from establishing a firm foothold.

By fighting to minimize civilization’s ability to weather the peak oil storm through the use of unsustainable “alternatives,” we can hopefully accelerate civilization’s collapse and preserve what remains of our planet’s ecological integrity. In the ashes of industrial monoculture, thousands of neotribal nomadic communities, autonomous ecovillages and bioregional confederations uniting them could bloom amid rewilded landscapes. The oil endgame might be our last opportunity for full-fledged Earth liberation. Will we seize it or let it slip by?

Acornista edits reclaimthecommons.net and peakoilanarchy.blogspot.com. This critter can be found dropping nuts and bolts of (purely poetic) resistance all over squirrel country this Spring and Summer. Despite favoring a “no civ” over a “new civ” outcome, Acornista believes that both sides should collaborate strategically together to take down oil civilization.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Anarchism and the Peak oil Argument

[POA note: This is a very good analysis, albeit written in tortured and almost unreadable language. It's hopefully the beginning of a deeper conversation among anarchists about peak oil, but it's WAY TOO LONG to republish in full here. Check out the complete essay here -- and both there and at Infoshop.org, there's some interesting discussion in the comments sections.]

by Terry S
Published on March 21, 2006 at Anarkismo.net
An anarchist analysis of what peak oil means for the fight for a free society

Peak Oil is a subject that has not been addressed much in the Anarchist community and it's relevance to it. This is something I wish to discuss here and begin what is probably a very important debate and our response to it. Peak Oil is one of the major issues facing humanity and will result in great changes. It interlinks with many subject areas largely because of the ubiquitous role of energy in society. It is essential that Anarchists are aware of and understand this issue and it's far reaching consequences and are not caught off guard and are ready to take advantage of the changes that will occur to bring about a better world, rather than allow society to be led down the destructive path of capitalists and other dominating power structures.

Some of the references that I have seen of Peak Oil in anarchist writings appear to dismiss it as some sort of capitalist inspired shortage or something. The evidence does not indicate this at all...

The important consequence of this for Anarchists, at least in North America, is that it will be hard for the corporate media to hide the jolt from Peak Oil, although they will do their best. It is something that will hit most people. It is precisely in these sort of situations when people awake out of corporate / state induced slumber and may become receptive to an analysis of what is happening and begin to question the status quo...

What tends not to get discussed anywhere is the combination of Peak Oil, the Greenhouse Effect and the general trashing of the global environment.
Chances are in the panic down the back-side of the Peak Oil slope, there might be a rush to all sorts of different fuels, like lower grade oil, tars, coal, wood and so on -- and the amount of carbon dioxide released per unit of energy will actually be even higher. It will be a brave person who tries to stop this mad rush. Desperation will see environmental standards and safeguards consigned to the dustbin... The reactions are therefore likely to exacerbate existing environmental problems and if society and politicians continue their denial in the face of the facts, then the actions and "solutions" they take are likely to be reckless.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mission Accomplished! Operation Iraqi Liberation (and Peak Oil)

[POA note: Finally, someone states the obvious. But the other reason why the Bush regime wants to suppress Iraq's oil production, unmentioned by Greg Palast here, is so the USA has a readymade reservoir of oil available to be tapped after peak oil hits the global oil supply. Due to over two decades of artificially suppressed oil production, Iraq will be the last major oil producer to reach its geological peak of oil supply.]

Bush Didn't Bungle Iraq, You Fools -- By Greg Palast -- 25 March, 2006

Get off it. All the carping, belly-aching and complaining about George Bush's incompetence in Iraq, from both the Left and now the Right, is just dead wrong. On the third anniversary of the tanks rolling over Iraq's border, most of the 59 million Homer Simpsons who voted for Bush are beginning to doubt if his mission was accomplished.

But don't kid yourself -- Bush and his co-conspirator, Dick Cheney, accomplished exactly what they set out to do. In case you've forgotten what their real mission was, let me remind you of White House spokesman Ari Fleisher's original announcement, three years ago, launching of what he called, "Operation Iraqi Liberation."

O.I.L. How droll of them, how cute. Then, Karl Rove made the giggling boys in the White House change it to "OIF" -- Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the 101st Airborne wasn't sent to Basra to get its hands on Iraq's OIF.

"It's about oil," Robert Ebel told me. Who is Ebel? Formerly the CIA's top oil analyst, he was sent by the Pentagon, about a month before the invasion, to a secret confab in London with Saddam's former oil minister to finalize the plans for "liberating" Iraq's oil industry. In London, Bush's emissary Ebel also instructed Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, the man the Pentagon would choose as post-OIF oil minister for Iraq, on the correct method of disposing Iraq's crude.

And what did the USA want Iraq to do with Iraq's oil? The answer will surprise many of you: and it is uglier, more twisted, devilish and devious than anything imagined by the most conspiracy-addicted blogger.

The answer can be found in a 323-page plan for Iraq's oil secretly drafted by the State Department. Our team got a hold of a copy; how, doesn't matter. The key thing is what's inside this thick Bush diktat: a directive to Iraqis to maintain a state oil company that will "enhance its relationship with OPEC."

Specifically, the system ordered up by the Bush cabal would keep a lid on Iraq's oil production -- limiting Iraq's oil pumping to the tight quota set by Saudi Arabia and the OPEC cartel. There you have it. Yes, Bush went in for the oil -- not to get more of Iraq's oil, but to prevent Iraq producing too much of it.

You must keep in mind who paid for George's ranch and Dick's bunker: Big Oil. And Big Oil -- and their buck-buddies, the Saudis -- don't make money from pumping more oil, but from pumping less of it. The lower the supply, the higher the price. It's Economics 101. The oil industry is run by a cartel, OPEC, and what economists call an "oligopoly" -- a tiny handful of operators who make more money when there's less oil, not more of it.

So, every time the "insurgents" blow up a pipeline in Basra, every time Mad Mahmoud in Tehran threatens to cut supply, the price of oil leaps. And Dick and George just love it. Dick and George didn't want more oil from Iraq, they wanted less.

I know some of you, no matter what I write, insist that our President and his Veep are on the hunt for more crude so you can cheaply fill your family Hummer; that somehow, these two oil-patch babies are concerned that the price of gas in the USA is bumping up to $3 a gallon. Not so, gentle souls.

Three bucks a gallon in the States (and a quid a litre in Britain) means colossal profits for Big Oil, and that makes Dick's ticker go pitty-pat with joy. The top oily-gopolists, the five largest oil companies, pulled in $113 billion in profit in 2005 -- compared to a piddly $34 billion in 2002 before Operation Iraqi Liberation. In other words, it's been a good war for Big Oil.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The End Of Civilization

[POA note: This is a very long essay, & we're reprinting only the first part of it here. The whole thing is a crash course in everything we've been learning & concluding about the rationale behind (the USA govt's manipulation of) current events for the past half year! So read it all, & pass it on...]

By Dave Eriqat
13 March, 2006
Countercurrents.org

I had a mild epiphany the other day: it’s not President Bush who’s living in a fantasy world, it’s most of his critics who are. I’m no apologist for Bush – I neither like nor dislike him. He’s no more significant to me than a fly buzzing around outside my window. So permit me to explain my reasoning.

People look at Bush’s invasion of Iraq and see a miserable failure. But a failure to do what? Democratize Iraq? Eliminate Iraq’s WMD arsenal? Reduce global terrorism? If those were, in fact, the reasons for invading Iraq, then the invasion would have to be classified as a failure. But what if the real reason was to secure Iraq’s oil supplies, perhaps not for immediate use, and perhaps not even for use by the United States? Then the invasion of Iraq would have to be judged a success, a “mission accomplished,” so to speak.

Or take Bush’s seemingly irresponsible handling of the domestic economy. How can any sane person fail to understand that cutting revenue while increasing spending will produce deficits, and that those deficits cannot increase in perpetuity? Sooner or later that accumulated debt has got to have consequences. Bush appears to be acting as if there were no tomorrow. But what if there really were no tomorrow, financially speaking? In that case, the reckless economic policies of today would not only be irrelevant, but might actually be shrewd. I mean, if one knows that he is not going to have to pay back his debts tomorrow, then why not borrow money like crazy today? In fact, if civilization is coming to an end, then why not use all that borrowed money to stock up on guns and vital resources, such as oil?

Now, I’m just one person. And I’ve been closely studying economic, environmental, and energy issues for only a few years. And I’m no expert. Yet I’ve come to the conclusion – and I don’t want to be a “Chicken Little” here – that civilization as we have known it for the last century is doomed. Our wasteful manner of living – heck, the sheer size of our human population – is unsustainable. Everywhere you look you can see signs of strain on the Earth, from spreading pollution of the air, water, and land, to disappearance of life in the seas, to depletion of natural resources. Something’s got to give. Things simply cannot continue as they have.

If I can see this, I would guess the United States Government, what with its thousands of full time experts, probably can too. Now, if you are the government (and I don’t mean Tom “I am the federal government” DeLay), and your experts tell you that civilization as we know it is doomed, what do you do? Well, for starters, you do not tell your population of sheeple. That would precipitate panic and result in premature doom, which would consume the government along with everything else. Above all, government seeks to survive, so you would maintain the facade of normalcy for the benefit of your population while you use what time you have left to prepare, as quietly as possible, for the inescapable future.

What will matter in this future? Commodities, principally energy, food, and water. Everything else is secondary. Money is far down the list in importance.

So how would you, the government, prepare for a future world in which commodities are king? By securing today as many of those commodities as possible. Hence, the U.S. government’s binge of military base building throughout the commodity-rich regions of the world. What would you not worry about? Money. The only concern you might have for money is to prevent its premature demise. Hence, the smoke and mirrors used to paint a pretty but false portrait of the economy. Some will argue that the government needs more than just energy, food, and water to survive. True, but by controlling the bulk of the world’s key commodities, everything else can be procured, including human labor and loyalty.

In preparing for the future demise of civilization you would also seek to increase the government’s power as much and as rapidly as possible. Why? To maintain control over those increasingly precious resources, and equally important, to control people – especially your own people – by force, if necessary. Viewed in this light, the government’s aggressive pursuit of power during the last five years makes perfect sense. Ironically, President Bush got it right when he reportedly referred to the now totally eviscerated United States Constitution as a “god damned piece of paper.” That’s really all it is anymore.

So what fantasy world are Bush’s critics living in? The fantasy world in which civilization can continue as it has in the past. That we can continue to improve the standard of living of everyone in the world if we just return to a more sharing and egalitarian way of life, like that which we enjoyed between World War II and the mid 1970s. This is a fantasy. The Earth has finite limits. We are finally starting to grasp that fact with respect to oil. But oil depletion is merely the first in a series of coming crises ensuing from the finite confines of our planet. The fundamental problem – and I’m not a Malthusian – is that there are simply too many people for the Earth to sustain. This is why fish are disappearing from the oceans, why the supply of oil is unable to keep up with demand, why the globe is being deforested, why animal and plant species are going extinct, why water wars are in the offing. Perhaps if people were wiser and more willing to share, and implicitly, less greedy, we could sustain the more than six billion people on Earth, but, alas, such idealism does not describe human beings.

The one thing that has enabled the human population to grow to the immense dimensions we see today is oil, the resource facing the greatest challenge from depletion. As the oil supply diminishes, in the absence of herculean efforts to use oil more efficiently and fairly, large numbers of human beings will die off. Before then, soaring prices for oil will probably destroy the economies of the countries most dependent on the stuff, if not the entire intricately linked world economy. This is what I mean by the end of civilization. Of course life will go on. But it won’t be anything like what we’ve been accustomed to. Life will be more like that of the Middle Ages, in which a few wealthy lords controlled all the resources and possessed all the power, and the rest of the people – the lucky ones, anyway – were veritable slaves under these lords. In many ways that state of affairs exists today, but it’s unseen by all but the most observant individuals. The future I’m talking about, though, is considerably more spartan than what the worker bees enjoy today.

I believe that what we’re witnessing today is the inception of a titanic and protracted competition for survival: between countries, between civilizations, between governments and their people. Moreover, I believe the Bush administration is the first to recognize this competitive future, which explains its fundamentally different – seemingly feckless – behavior compared to past administrations. Bush’s favored courtiers, which include corporations, are profiting today and will become the new nobility in the coming New Middle Ages.

Finish reading this essay here