We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is the Oil Industry Dying?

Click here to access article by Richard Heinberg from Pacific Standard.

I've been waiting quite a while to hear from one of the peak oil theorists to respond to the current oil glut and low prices. This article is an excellent response.
Money is effectively a marker for energy, and we can borrow and spend money now on costly energy with the promise that we will pay for it later (hence the massive build-up of debt in the oil industry). But if cheaper-to-produce energy and higher prices don’t emerge soon, those debts will eventually become transparently un-repayable. Hence what is inherently an energy crisis can appear to most observers to be a debt crisis.

The problem of eroding energy profitability is hard to deal with partly because the decline is happening so fast. If we had a couple of decades to prepare for falling thermodynamic efficiency, there are things we could do to soften the blow. That’s what the peak oil discussion was all about: It was an effort to warn society ahead of time. Once the dynamic of declining energy profitability really gets rolling, adaptation becomes much more difficult.