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“Energy Resources and Our Future” – Speech by Admiral Hyman Rickover in 1957

Admiral Hyman Rickover , The Oil Drum
M. King Hubbert made his views about peak oil known in 1956, at a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute. Many people don’t know that only a year later, in 1957, Admiral Hyman Rickover started trying to publicize the fact that fossil fuels are finite, and were likely to peak in the first half of the 21st century. Many of the things he said then are words we wish people had listened to years ago:

Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare.

Today the automobile is the most uneconomical user of energy. Its efficiency is 5% compared with 23% for the Diesel-electric railway. It is the most ravenous devourer of fossil fuels, accounting for over half of the total oil consumption in this country.

I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants–those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age.

On May 14, 1957, Admiral Hyman Rickover gave a speech to the Minnesota State Medical Association called “Energy Resources and our Future.” This speech was posted in December 2006 on the Energy Bulletin, and also appeared on The Oil Drum. This speech was made available by the work of two people: Theodore Rockwell, author of The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference, who had this article in his files, and Rick Lakin, who sought out the article and converted it to digital form. Since the speach is one many will want to read, we are repeating it again.
(14 May 1957)
In the comments, TOD editor Gail Tverberg writes:
It seems like we got a whole package of beliefs when we found that fossil fuels could make life better and better:

  1. Things will get better and better forever.

  2. If we invest my money properly, we can participate in the ever-increasing prosperity.
  3. If we have enough money, all our problems will be solved.
  4. We don’t really need extended family, because the money we save and government programs will take care of our problems.
  5. We don’t need traditions any more, because things are changing so much.
  6. We don’t need churches any more to pass on traditions and belief systems. He who dies with the most toys wins.
  7. Television and what it portrays models what our life is about.
  8. Parents don’t need to educate their children on traditions, values, and what is important. That is the role of schools.
  9. It is possible and reasonable to retire at an early age, and expect the money we have saved plus social security to take care of us.

Once we have bought into this belief system, it is very difficult to start thinking in terms of what a declining world is likely to look like. I expect the people with the most money, and the most belief that it will solve all their problems, will be in for the biggest shock.

The Future is Now: The End of Cheap Oil

Bill Miles, Palestine Chronicle
This is one of the more difficult articles/reviews I have worked on. I have been well aware of Peak Oil for a while, but never did I gather so much information in one sitting that simply spelled out doom and gloom.

I live alternately surrounded by the incredible amazing flexibility and beauty of nature contrasted with the ever-present artefacts and contrived superficialities of humanity crafted on the basis of ample and cheap fossil fuels (as well as its benefits of agricultural wealth and medical advancements). Since the 1960s environmentalists have been sending out warnings about the future of our environment if we do not care for it. They have been mostly ignored until now, when global warming concerns have proved a direct threat to individual lives as well as possible future lifestyles. At the same time, the industrial era based on cheap fossil fuels that created the climate change is rapidly drawing to a close – in what form humanity survives that closure is open to debate, but debate is not what is needed.

… Depressing? Yes. Optimism? There is some room for it, but only if we recognize that the paradigm shift is already underway and that action to a more positive, minimalist lifestyle needs to start, before nature demands it of us in more dramatic fashion.

… Conclusion

The reader may be now as thoroughly negative about the situation as I am. I would be exceedingly happy if all these predictions were in error and that none of this would happen. It would be a cause for celebration if someone did find the techno-fix for the loss of oil that everyone seems to talk and marvel about without producing any concrete results. Unfortunately, there is too much valid information to deny the end of oil. …

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.
(11 August 2008)

Peak oil, meet peak bandwidth

Tim Wu, Dallas Morning News
Americans today spend almost as much on bandwidth – the capacity to move information – as we do on energy. A family of four likely spends several hundred dollars a month on cellphones, cable television and Internet connections, which is about what we spend on gas and heating oil.

Just as the industrial revolution depended on oil and other energy sources, the information revolution is fueled by bandwidth. If we aren’t careful, we’re going to repeat the history of the oil industry by creating a bandwidth cartel.

Like energy, bandwidth is an essential economic input. You can’t run an engine without gas or a cellphone without bandwidth. Both are also resources controlled by a tight group of producers, whether oil companies and Middle Eastern nations or communications companies like AT&T, Comcast and Vodafone. That’s why, as with energy, we need to develop alternative sources of bandwidth.
(10 August 2008)
Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School and the co-author of “Who Controls the Internet?”