now would be a good time to do them
Friday, April 28 2006
The media is full of tales of gas price woes. Reporters loiter at gas stations with microphones, occasionally interviewing consumers as they gas up their vehicles, multi-ton upholstered rooms that are largely used to transport individual 150 pound carbon-based lifeforms at 10% the speed of sound. Those still driving SUVs are like people who have stayed at a party too long, not knowing it's so like, totally over. It's been a party, cheap oil, and that party could keep going so long as the keg was full.
My stomach turns at the reaction of politicians to the present fuel price crisis. Irrespective of party affiliation, they pander to the foolishness of their constituents. Where were they when scientists and Chicken Littles were talking about the end of oil? Now they're doing what their consultants have suggested, claiming that there is no problem, but that oil companies are simply gouging their customers. It sounds righteous and supportive, but it's pure demagoguery. I hate oil companies and the world they've brought us as much every bit as much as the next sensible guy, but they don't have the power to formulate a crisis this big. And they wouldn't even if they could; clearly they're about to have a hammer drop down on them and if they'd actually raised prices through collusion by now they'd have enough sense to be dropping them again. But they have no control; oil is a finite resource on this planet and the global demand for it grows exponentially. It doesn't take great math skills to understand that eventually petroleum supplies will dwindle to insignificance. Long before then, though, global human behavior will have had to change dramatically. Everything we do, make, and eat depends on petroleum. Replacing it will not be easy; there are no easy substitutes available now and none are in the pipeline. I get the feeling a massive human dieoff is not too far in our future.
Unchallenged things one hears said these days include "We can just drive electric cars!" and "Hydrogen comes from water, and we have plenty of that!" Remember, oil comes from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and we have plenty of those too. What we don't have plenty of is the arrangement of those things in their energy-rich forms. All our hydrogen lies at the bottom of tiny energy wells, bound up with oxygen or carbon. And "electricity" requires energy to produce. Furthermore, most remaining American oil wells require nearly as much energy to run as they produce. The same goes for ethanol and even photovoltaic panels. We're fucked. If there's anything you need to do that depends on modern luxuries, now would be a good time to do them. Go drive that Maserati 185, lose your license, and no longer be permitted to drive.
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