Peak Oil and Depopulating Asia
transcript: Sly Foxx Morning Show, Robert's Creek Community Radio Sept 27 04 9:07AM
Sly: Welcome back gang for our final segment this morning and our guest, long time Creeker and now surprisingly famous global futurist, Stan Doffish of Pacific Fringe Consulting. Hi Stan good to see ya again.
Stan: I was misquoted in the Vancouver media. I did not advocate depopulating Asia to protect our standard of living. I was actually trying to draw attention to the real danger, given policy and service sector path dependence, of the Bush Administration's radical unilateralism given peak oil, the Bottleneck, the
Sly: Whoa. whoa Stan. Hold on. Peak oil? You have made headlines on the net for depopulating Asia. Explain that Stan. What do you mean by depopulating Asia?
Stan: Hi Sly. I repeat I'm not advocating at all depopulating Asia. I'm just saying that the path the US took in occupying Iraq for oil ends up in a horrible logic of a future Administration deciding that in the upcoming turbulence and resource crisis it's them or us and acting preemptively. I don't even think it's possible, but we need to think these thoughts to understand the evil places we could go.
Stan: "Depopulating" is the euphemism for killing all the livestock affected by a disease as a preventive business measure to preserve markets, etc. The "depopulating" of all Fraser Valley poultry operations because of the chicken influenza outbreak is a recent example.
Depopulating Asia means using modern weapons to kill off the Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Muslim--Russian maybe--peoples in an attempt to head off the coming war of resources predicted with the end of oil and Wilson's Bottleneck.
When Bush seized Iraq - using Saddam as an excuse - it was the first step in an endgame for the remaining oil reserves necessary for our way of life. Peak oil is upon us, but very few understand the consequences. Very few understand the importance of the signal that the US is sending about how the US is going to react to peak oil.
Sly: Hold on just a minute Stan old man - Killing all the people in Asia? Peak oil? What's peak oil?
Stan: M. King Hubbert was a US oil geologist. He looked at records for oil discovered, wells dug and production and predicted in the 50s that production of oil in the continental States would peak around 1970. It did. Since 1970 US wells have produced less and less oil even with new discoveries and increasing technology for better oil recovery.
A school (for lack of a better word) of oil geologists and other oil production experts have used Hubbert's methodology to try and predict the peak of global oil production - there is a finite supply of oil. The range of predictions for when we will reach peak production - followed by a steep decline in production - begin with 2002 in the worst case scenario, through a spectrum of predictions to a very optimistic 2050.
What does this mean? - I can see your distress with what I'm saying Sly. Will we instantly run out of oil tomorrow or next month or in a couple of years? Should you switch to gas?
Oil industry expert Andrew McKillop - check out his wisdom on the net - has tried to think through the complex consequences and, to simplify, he sees little chance of cooperative restructuring from our fossil fuel economy; he predicts first a mini-boom as oil prices rise to $75+ a barrel then another great depression.
The problem I was trying to draw attention to when I was cheaply misquoted was that human history doesn't point to a reasonable or scientific solution to the serious, global-scale, problem of the end of oil.
Jared Diamond - you've read Guns, Germs and Steel Sly? No - well Jared Diamond is a learned American scientist and he has been researching the collapse of civilizations like Easter Island and the Mayan civilization in Mexico and one of his unsurprising conclusions is that you get a lot of warlord infighting when resource depletion or climate change gets severe. And this warfare gets in the way of possible cooperative solutions such as migration or better organized irrigation.
Sly: Well you're sure a downer this morning. So our civilization is going to collapse? Stan, don't we live in the best world ever?
Stan: Yes we do but at enormous expense.
Sly: Enormous expense? To who?
Stan: To future generations. Maybe even to us. Richard Heinberg, who is a peak oil expert, put a great sci-fi description of our present unbelievable waste of an incredibly precious resource up on the net called A Letter from the Future. Look it up. We are completely submerged in an oil economy and most of us have not a clue how special and transient the oil economy is.
The best depiction of the past century of human endeavor is exponential growth of the world's population based on an exponentially growing world economy based on the utilization of this incredibly cheap fuel. What happens when there isn't enough oil to keep growing?
Americans use 25 barrels per capita yearly (BCY). A Japan or Italy size economy has a 10-12 BCY. The global average is less than 4.7 BCY. China and to a lessor extent India are following the US in rapidly expanding their economies using the technologies of cheap oil. The high prices for oil today are a dawning understanding that there isn't enough oil being pumped today to supply everybody. Poor Third World countries are already priced out of the market.
Sly: But higher prices and the market mechanism will mean more oil found in the future..
Stan: Bullshit. Sorry, bull tweety, the market mechanism will mask the onset of peak oil until the steep decline of production can't be hidden any more. If you read
Sly: Look Stan we already went through a scheduled break - we can do that folks on laid back Creeker radio - but we're running out of time and I'm still really confused. Are you predicting that the US and China will fight it out over oil, over declining oil, after Hubbert or whatever his name was?
Stan: The US has signaled that it won't cooperate in finding possible multilateral solutions and what I've been trying to get on the menu for public debate is that down the road, down the unilateralist policy path the US is taking today, the US might not even wait for end-of-oil wars. Bush has acted peremptorily in Iraq as part of a geo-strategic foreign policy to use the US military to secure needed resources -oil, for now, - for America's future. People today have to think through where this unilateralist path takes us in the future.
The end of oil or severe resource depletion is predicted as part of the Bottleneck analogy developed by the esteemed American scientist Edward O. Wilson in his book The Future of Life.
Sly: The future of life...?
Stan: Look Sly the universe is now figured to be at least 13 billion years old; the Earth 4 1/2 billion - the odds against Armageddon have never been better, but a good many people out there are preparing rapturously for naked bottoms floating up to join Christ. Don't sell your season tickets.
Now look, I'm no apocalyptic person. Nor am I paranoid that Cheney was behind 9/11 or any of that crazyness. Wilson is perhaps America's foremost scientist and super reasonable. Read his wise little book. Life in some form will go on, but the present human-caused Sixth Extinction could easily include us.
As Wilson points out in his Bottleneck chapter - available to everyone on the net - when humanity exceeded 6 billion people we had achieved at least 100 times the cumulative biomass of any previous animal species. Biologically we should anticipate some return to equilibrium.
The 21st century will be a turbulent time even without the coming end of oil. Even if we can find enough oil or mine methane hydrates or new solar technology. Whatever. And we are heading into trouble with the international rule of law in shreds, with our nascent multilateral organizations like the UN marginalized, with
Sly: Hold it! Hold it! Hold on Stan. More doom and gloom. This is where you get to depopulating Asia?
Stan: What was the last book you read Sly? You think your opinion is equal on subjects you know nothing about. You've always been much more concerned with hustling Smogs or our local braided armpit variety, with - God knows its been a while since we been in Club Zero together - bisexual erect slugs out in the rainforest now Sly? Obviously peak oil or Wilson's Bottleneck or Jared Diamond aren't searches you do on the net.
Sly: What's this slander got to do with anything?
Stan: You're just like my fellow buds at work at Termoil completely caught up in cheque to cheque living and shopping. You don't know what service sector path dependence is cause you can't get away from paying the shadows to get out of the cave and look around in the real world.
You laugh at me as a "futurist" but I just read and have freed up my life so I can get out of the rat race and look around. We both smoke a little bud, but, as the gentleman used to say, you still got your mind up your bum.
We are all caught up in the tyranny of the present. We all have jobs, mortgages and cars with confidence that the future will be the same as it is now but better. How many kids you got now Sly? How far..
Sly: I've got three. What's the matter?
Stan: How far do any of us look into the future and what information do we use? Reasonable people, highly trained experts, predict a very difficult near future unprecedented in our million year existence 'cept perhaps for the previous Bottleneck that probably reduced the human population to less than ten thousand of us 70,000 years ago.
The average guy can't deal with these timeframes, with anything but right now. He/she is incredibly sophisticated and knowledgeable today, but that knowledge is day to day or within specialized disciplines predicated on day to day. Both a knowledge of history or even a good bridge player's skilled planning for alternative card possibilities, an ability to conceive of alternative futures, are sadly lacking.
As a species we learn in our individual upbringing the particular skills needed to survive right now and reproduce. Whether you live in Dahka, for example, or like most of us here in the Burbs you learn what you need to know to survive- driving, using a cash machine; how to change channels, etc., etc., And this preoccupation with the present - combined with $ 500 billion + globally worth of positive feedback in the form of advertising - means that only a very few are aware and thinking about alternative possible futures.
By the way there's this new movie out called The End of Suburbia 'cause suburbs are only possible thanks to cheap oil.
Sly: We gotta go. We're almost at news time.
Stan: What we need is a much strengthened global framework for cooperation and governance. We desperately need a strengthened international rule of law.
Sly: We have to go now Stan...
Stan: And Bush is taking us in precisely the opposite direction and the path he is choosing for us all will be very hard to back up and get out of if we go much further
Sly: Bye Stan. Nice having you on again.
Stan: And depopulating Asia is a possible move down the path Bush is taking us.
Sly: Bye Stan. Good luck as a futurist.
by Bill Henderson
[Yes, folks, the radio show is fictional, but unfortunately, peak oil might be a true story.--Ed.]