Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hiding from Reality
Against Libertarianism

Suzzane Wright on a blog site entitled The Whig had a good crack at the libertarian philosophy.

I couldn't help toss in my $0.02 worth. Being the lazy procrastinating sod that I am I've posted the comment. You can read Suzzane Wright's article if you like, it's just as interesting as her photo - on The Whig.


I think the reason libertarians (viewed in somewhat more general terms regarding their philsophy than say, Libertarianz!) get such little support is because at a very fundamental level by far the majority of the population have an intuition that the philosophy is flawed. And they are not far wrong.

If we assume libertarians advocate for the maximisation of individual rights and laissez-faire free market economics (I'm happy to be corrected) as well as private property rights. We can say this, these somewhat Benthamist ideals will of course benefit the individual but only insofar as he continues to deny the truth of such behaviours impact on society as a whole.

The libertarian adheres to the utilitarian ideal that we all necessarily want to maximise our individual utlity largely regardless of any consequence (and if there is to be any consequence the market will indicate as such). Thus, such a philosophy has us all rushing toward a global shit heap at ever accelerating speeds.

This philosophy would argue that in order to solve the problem of a depleting resource (for example) we must simply deplete it at a quicker rate - the "market" in combination with technology, will continue to provide cheaper and more efficient substitutes. The corollary to this of course is that eventually technology will provide an infinite amount of energy (for example) for free, thus allowing economic growth to happily continue ad-infinitum.

Libertarian philosophy would defer action or recognition of future options until a crisis is so clear and evident that it becomes detectable through market and monetary mechanisms, by which time in reality, it is mostly too late.

How in a world supposedly guided by science and reason such an ideology would take precedence over other senses (those informed say, by science) has me baffled. The idealisation of the free market is bizzare given the markets inability to act as an indicator of anything at all in the longer term - Dotcom bubble, Enron and LTCM collapses come to mind.

The argument against libertarianism is well rehearsed, (Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons) "but", in Kuhns words, "there are always some men who cling to one or another of the older views, and they are simply read out of the profession, which thereafter ignores their work." ACT and Libertarianz showing in the recent election... Perhaps ironically a market indicator itself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Mumbo-Jumboism of Infinite Resources

The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn’t deliver the goods.
John Maynard Keynes

I often find myself having to "let go" of the irritation that builds up as a result of my increasing observations of abject stupidity, or is it just ignorance (otherwise known as wishful thinking) - perhaps a bit of both, not only in the general population but by those who ought to know better. I refer to a short article by
Jerome Corsi on WorldNetDaily.com entitled Is Oil Peaking Today. Corsi, in an unabashed promotion of his own book Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil Corsi courageously argues that "energy resources are infinite not finite".

Given the inherent ambiguity of such a statement, clarification begs.

Surely the "energy resources" that we are interested in are the ones that we have access to. It may be interesting to assume that the entire energy resouces contained within the universe are infinite, but this does us no good. We can't mine uranium or pump oil off planets in other solar systems (let alone other planets within our own solar system), hence we must relegate such suggestions into the absurdity basket. Corsi could well be referring to solar power, seemingly infinite, however I'm yet to see an A320 Airbus running on solar panels.

In employing the popular
straw man strategy, the obfuscationists tool of choice, and in order to set up comparisons to failed doomsday predictions Corsi argues "peak oil theorists argue we are running out of oil". No, we argue that global oil production is about to peak, we argue that new discoveries are not making up the shortfall between demand growth and currently depleting feilds.

Corsi like many of his contemporaries actually misses the point. In fact we began running out of oil the day the first barrel was pumped. But this isn't the point. See any of my previous and numerous blog entries for further explanation.

Most of the demand growth is coming from transitioning economies. China, India, many parts of "the third world" are barrelling at ever increasing speeds toward a western styled living arrangement, a goal that will never be realised. No one would argue that in order to develop economically nations must grow their energy consumption. It’s a simple fact, the worlds most developed nations consume the most energy. We can't increase economic growth and at the same time reduce energy consumption. Energy = Work, more work requires more energy.

Furthermore, if you want to believe that we can continue growing and expanding energy consumption infinitely upon a planet with a fixed surface area, let alone a finite mass then I suggest you see your psychotherapist, before returning to school to repeat elementary grade science.

Yet blinded by the mumbo jumbo of wishful thinking Corsi, fails to understand the most rudimentary principles of scientific methodology. It may well be desirable to concoct pseudo-scientific or teleological stories to suit our economic purposes however, nature does not adapt a resource to its artifactual function.

Corsi following (the discredited) Thomas Gold (abiotic oil thesis) (and sounding like a bit like Lamark) argues that fossil fuels aren’t even fossil fuels. You see it is this level of sheer fuckwittery that you need to descend to in order to refute the argument that such resources are finite. Unfortunately the abiotic oil thesis doesn’t have much to say about why the North Sea oil wells are depleting at almost 50% per year. As Jim Kunstler puts it, “because they were drilled so efficiently with the latest technology”. Nor does it explain why the majority of non-Opec oil is now in decline, nor why the massive Burgan Oil field in Kuwait (second largest oil field in the world) is in decline. If the abiotic oil thesis were true, why would it be that oil production in the US has been in steady decline since 1971.

Don’t worry folks, the answer (we are assured) to all these questions is “the market” and don’t forget “the markets” bosom-buddy “technology” – because as we all know the only way to solve the problem of a depleting resource is to deplete it at a faster rate. A bizzare piece of faith in a world supposedly informed by science and reason, that we would place our faith in some sign or signal from the free market as a long term indicator of anything at all and at the same time ignore explanations of a more scientific or geological nature.

We live in a world obsessed with individualism, clamouring for choice, economic growth, consumerism, suburban expansionism, globalisation, V8 drive-in heaven, yet by a elegant circular reasoning the same technology that makes our way of life possible, born of science itself seems to provide the hubris required to scoff in the face of reason.

Within this increasingly arational wacko-libertarian society characterised by diminishing returns on our investments in rapidly evolving societal complexity it is
no longer acceptable to place limits upon anything. In contrast panglossian optimism and teleology has replaced logical validity. All we need to is wish a particular outcome into existance.

Thus the slogan of the new mumbo-jumboists : truth is a weak excuse for a lack of imagination. We might like to believe that there are no limits to human ingenuity. However this tragically does not translate to there no limits to anything - in attempting to solve unsolvable problems it seems we've adapted a popular childhood esteem building motto and applied it to industrial civilisation.

I cannae change the laws of physics Captain
Scotty to Captain Kirk (attributed).

Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
Will Durant

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kuwaiti Burgan Oil Field Peaks
Rodney Hide buries head in the sand

Pumping oil for almost 60 years the Burgan oil field in Kuwait is the second largest in the world (second to the Saudi Ghawar field). In an interview with Bloomberg Farouk Al-Zanki Chairman of the Kuwait Oil Company described the field as "exhausted". After failed attempts to keep production at around 2 million barrels per day the production rate has fallen to around 1.7 million and the company is spending around 3 million per year simply to maintain current production. The future for the second largest oil producing field looks bleak.

With such revelations it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny the peak oil hypothesis yet Rodney Hide continues to scoff in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Makes one wonder what would have to actually happen for Rodney to accept that the times they are a changing. I imagine a NZ in the depths of depression, starved of the oil we are all totally dependant upon, hundreds of thousands unemployed with Rodney Hide arguing "it's all in people's heads, the market will provide"...

Hide's fallacious (straw man) attempt to refute todays claims based on incorrect argument's made in the 1940's is laughable (at least to any first year philosophy or logic student) - I guess that's what we call politics. I suggest Rodney Hide take a look at the most recent models provided by the ASPO. It is this data that requires refutation, it is this data that Hide needs to turn his attention to. Unfortunately in a typical Hidean post-hoc obfuscation we fail to detect any honest debate about peak oil. His entire rant is invalid. What we know about oil production, supply and demand today is considerably different to what we knew in the 40's.

Although much of the non OPEC oil has peaked and the production difficulties of the Arab nations are beginning to emerge those continuing to flatly deny the peak oil hypothesis are starting to develop an aura of abject stupidity. We can wish all we want, that won't change the facts.

Several nations (France, Sweden, Iceland) have already recognised peak oil and have began planning. We ought to join them.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cluelessness, Democracy and Suburban Hell for Everyone
"Freedom is the recognition of necessity" (Hardin, 1968)

Those enamoured by liberal democracy (in an idealistic way) are often guilty of incorrectly assuming that (and I think I've said this a few times) contained within the slurry of half-arsed ideas that our information-overloaded society offers, there is at least one idea that if enough people believe it then it must be true.

Peter Cresswell who runs a NZ blog site called Not PC provides a good example of greed oriented fuckwittery and complete and utter lack of foresight, let alone "I want to leave a place that my kids or grand kids will want to live in".

Cresswell thinks suburban sprawl is a good thing! Cresswell opposes anyone and anything that seeks to slow development and growth in favour of "leaving it to the markets" - in other words leaving it to the greedy fucks that will turn the world into a shoebox apartment for a fast buck.

When people like Cresswell get his way, we simply decrease the amount of time between now and when we are all living in a shithole. If Cresswell had his way we'd do stupid things like slice up millions of hectares of currently productive farmland so him and his plonker libertarian mates can have (totally unproductive but esthetically pleasing) lifestyle blocks complete with Ford Explorers and McMansions - of course the poor people can all live an hours happy driving away from the city in exurbian ghettos.

Anyway, in response to his blog titled Countrywide Zoning is Unwanted Government Control I posted this comment.

Peter, I often read your blog, and I often think that instead of actually thinking about things you simply regurgitate misled dogma and flawed idealism. This article/blog entry and your recent obsession with endless economic growth predicated upon urban sprawl and the bloated property market confirms my observations.

Interestingly there is an increasing group in society, those that anguish over such things as population growth but are loathe to relinquish any of the privileges that they now enjoy. Furthermore contrary to the techno-hubris that we've assumed over the last century, the set of "no technical solution problems" contains members. We do not, as libertarian economists would have you believe live on a planet that can sustain endless economic growth, or expansionism. If the people of china wish to live like all of us in the west we'd need about another 3 or 4 planets worth of resouces.

There are limits on a finite planet and I expect the consequences of pushing those limits are beginning to manifest themselves now. Recommended research, if you can be bothered (why would you, we live in a democracy, if enough people believe something it must be true aye.) The Tragedy of The Commons. (as a starting point). Suburban sprawl and growth is part of the problem. Not the solution. You can't solve the problem of depleting resources by depleting them at a faster rate.

Update 1. 22-11-05
As an epilogue to this, PC's mates compelled to illogically support their brain-dead leader continued for some time to regurgitate the "Suburban sprawl is good!" message under the weak guise of "choice". One respondant claimed "the law of abundance" to be a law of nature, see my first paragraph above for a response to that.

Actually what's going on here is the vehement defence of a living arrangement and economy that is increasingly disconnected with reality. Hardin (1968) argues

"natural selection favours the forces of pyschological denial. The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers"

The difference between "choice" and a 6 and a half billion people owning a quarter acre block in suburbia seems to be something Peter Cresswell and his mates either haven't or don't want to consider, the latter a clear illustration of Hardin's point, the prior simple ignorance.

If Cresswell and his obese on consumerism junkies ("because it's my choice") wish to continue with their plans for suburban sprawl then we'd better start sending troops to the middle east since the remaining (2/3's of the world's oil supply) is there and that's what it takes to sustain suburbia.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Peak Oil: An Austere Future
by Steve McKinlay

This article was published by the NZ Futures Trust in their e-Future Times Journal, Volume 15, September 2005.

I recently noted the dead link - NZ Futures Trust have reorganised their web site. I have republished the article below.

Peak Oil: Ramifications for NZ in the 21st Century
By Steve McKinlay
June 2005

Increasingly commanding world attention is the phenomenon of Peak Oil. Peak oil is the point at which the maximum production of oil is attained after which a gradual irrecoverable decline follows. Peak oil has enormous implications for modern industrial society, both economically and socially. The following article examines our society; it’s dependence on oil and the forthcoming peak.

The Age of Reason
The fundamental promise at the dawn of the 20th century was the democratisation of modernity. The ideology of modernity prescribes rational thought as the ultimate liberator informing us to the truth about the world and ourselves. The road to progress therefore would be one built upon true knowledge, knowledge informed by science and logic, free from superstition, dogma and ignorance. And lets face it science mostly delivered, not only did it put men on the moon but it laid the foundation for our modern all-mod-cons way of life. The last century, upon the foundations of science and logic was one characterised by great technological advancement. We have become accustomed to the belief consequently that there are technological solutions to all our problems, we like to call this human ingenuity.

However the 21st century dawns under the spectre of an ever-increasing pluralism. Science and rationalism is in decline in favour of baneful individualism.
The sciences popularly perceived as irrelevant by students and laymen are retreating into their respective labs and philosophy departments, in favour of a kind of pop-cultural post-modern relativism. In the wake of this retreat we are left with all manner of popular worldviews that by and large freely evolve within the democratized slurry of our suburban malls, determined by our SUV driven, recreational shopping lifestyles, mostly devoid of any rationality, selected for consumption by a corporatist media intent and dependant upon perpetuating a myth.

The myth itself is one of the most fundamental views to transpire within modern consumerist society. Supported by the mantras of neo-classic and supply-side economic theory and in conjunction with our newfound technological hubris emerges the unquestionable assumptions of perpetual growth and “endless substitution”. Essentially the myth embodies the faith that the “market” will always provide. New products and resources are always superseded by something cheaper, more efficient and much better than the previous. To economists natural resources are no exception to the rule. The market of course dictates, as productivity increases, prices drop, production increases, more exchange occurs and living standards rise for all involved. And on and on and on it goes, forever.

Neo-classic economic theory is the supposed perpetual motion machine of the globalised mass consumer fantasy, predicated by endless economic growth compounding at 3% or so a year, creating wealth via fractional reserve banking and fiat currency. Tomorrow’s expansion is the put-up collateral for today’s debt. According to modern economics there are no limits to this growth. Forget the sciences, unquestionable faith in technological progress will allow us to use fewer and fewer resources for greater and greater returns. The reductio ad absurdum of this bizarre form of reasoning is that technology will eventually enable us to use zero resources for infinite returns.

Both science and reason inform us otherwise. We only need consult the laws of thermodynamics in order to inform ourselves that any kind of perpetual motion machine is impossible. Energy is the capacity to do work. No energy equals no work. Thus our entire global economy much to the chagrin of voodoo economists is 100% dependant upon energy. In order to grow economically we must also grow our energy consumption.

It may be offensive to futurists, technologists and economists but the laws of thermodynamics inculcate that neither capital, labour nor technology can create energy. We cannot convert our supposed intelligence, our ability to find novel technological solutions into energy. Instead available energy must be expended in order to transform matter (e.g., oil, natural gas etc.) or to divert an existing energy flow (e.g., water, wind etc.) into more available energy. Furthermore energy resources must produce more energy than they consume. It would never be economic to expend more than one barrel of oil to extract one barrel of oil.

No other energy source comes anywhere near the level of convenience or economic value of oil. For this reason alone oil has become the most important form of energy we use. About 40% of all energy use on the planet comes from oil, it has been estimated that 95% of all transportation is powered by oil. The substance oozes all over modern civilisation. Not only is it responsible for plastics and petrol, but oil (and its close cousin natural gas) is critical to our food supply in the form of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation. Mass agriculture is wholly dependant upon oil and natural gas. Take it away and we are faced an immediate return to small-scale organic gardening. Sounds like a romantic ideal but the infrastructure is not yet in place to implement in such a way that we could all feed ourselves. A change over will take time and while oil is cheap mass agriculture wins hands down on economies of scale.

All respected geologists and scientists agree that oil is a non-renewable resource the global demand for which is growing at a rate much faster than new supplies are being found. It is understood that the total world discovery of oil in 2004 was about 7Gb (billion barrels), approximately 2Gb of which were deepwater finds. However in 2004 we consumed about 30Gb thus we are burning between 4 and 5 barrels of oil for every one found. What is more interesting is that the cost of exploration in 2004 exceeded the net present value of the discoveries in absolute terms,[1] clear evidence for the claim that the cheap oil is already gone.

This trend is not new. Oil discovery across the globe peaked during 1965.
Since then discovery, on average has declined every year. Several groups of scientists, including oil exploration geologists and some brave financial analysts are now predicting a world-wide oil production peak between now and the end of the decade. “Peak Oil” as it is termed is used to describe the point at which half of all the oil in a particular region has been extracted after which a period of irrecoverable decline sets in until it is no longer possible to extract oil efficiently.

The term peak oil is derived from the graphed curve that can be observed when tracking all oil production. In 1956 Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert hypothesised that oil production roughly followed a bell shaped curve. He used this to successfully predict the peak in US oil in 1971.
Recent work by Dr Colin Campbell[2] suggests global peak oil this decade based on the Hubbert curve model (see fig1) the most probable year according to Campbell is expected to be 2007. These claims are not based upon any conspiracy theory, nor on popular belief, culture or economic dogma but on hard empirical evidence. Peak oil is a geological phenomenon immune to evolving relativistic views of politics and economics. The only point speculative in regard to peak oil is not if peak oil will occur but when. Regional peaks and subsequent decline in oil production particular in the non-OPEC states serve to support the peak oil model.
For example peak production modelling was used to accurately predict the US, North Sea, Norway and, Denmark amongst many others. It follows that the global peak can be predicted with some accuracy using the Hubbert/Campbell model.

Economic Growth / Supply and Demand
Western democracies have enjoyed unprecedented economic growth and the subsequent rise in living standards since the end of the Second World War. Suburban life, a 4WD in the driveway, mobile phones, holiday homes, web-surfing, LCD screen TV’s, DVDs, Playstations, iPods, and recreational shopping during the weekend are the reality if not the desire of many of us. As China, India and other transitioning economies race to industrialise their desire turns into economic demand. They want what we have. The growth rate for motor vehicle sales alone in China is around 50%. On the industrial front China needs to build in the vicinity of 60 power plants a year, each the equivalent of the Clutha dam to keep up with exploding electricity demand. If you want to grow a developing economy you need to grow your electricity sector.

According to International Energy Agency analysis the world currently consumes about 84 Million Barrels of oil per day (Mbd). Andrew McKillop[3] and Colin Campbell amongst others suggest absolute maximum oil production for the planet could not exceed around 90Mbd give or take a couple of million barrels. We have mentioned already that many of the non-OPEC nations are already in decline and as oil production follows a kind of bell shaped curve we are losing to depletion production from many of these wells.

Interestingly world demand in 2001 was around 76Mbd thus we have seen a growth rate of 8Mbd within 3 years. If we extrapolate the current growth trend factoring in some growth in demand we end up with a plausible consumption figure of around 94Mbd by 2008. It is exceedingly unlikely that this production capacity exists. Saudi Arabia the owner of the largest oil fields on the planet has admitted in numerous articles lately that they are pushing the limits of production. OPEC’s president Purnomo Yusgiantoro is on record as saying last year “there is no more supply.” OPEC is pumping at near capacity. It is entirely within the realms of reason that we will see structural supply deficits within a year or two.

If indeed the kind of oil required to meet exploding demand beyond a year or two is to materialise we first need to find oil in quantities larger than we are currently consuming, develop it and bring it into production. Even if we ignore current security concerns around the Middle East region this will be no mean feat, it can take several years to bring discovered oil into production. The amount of oil we are talking about, 8Mbd (required by 2008) is about the same as the entire production of Saudi Arabia. The vast bulk of Saudi oil was discovered during the 1940s and 50s. Before Iraq was liberated it produced about 2.2Mbd. Today a large oil field find is one that proves reserves of about 500 million barrels – about a weeks supply on the global market. Short of a miracle, a discovery of another Saudi Arabia, global oil supply will comfortably meet demand for a year or two at most. Beyond 2008 the picture grows even bleaker.

The Global Picture

Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations.
George Monbiot, “Bottom of the Barrel”, The Guardian, Dec 2, 2003

Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.
US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, June 1, 2003

The remainder of the world’s oil is coalescing around the OPEC nations of the Middle East. Previously the swing producer able to control the global price at levels around US$20bbl OPEC controls almost 40 percent of the world’s oil contrastingly the majority of the non-OPEC nations are now in decline. The United States is the largest consumer of oil on the planet but its reserves have been in decline since 1971. Increasingly the US is reliant upon imported oil, it imports over half of what it uses. Given that the entire global economy the US notwithstanding, is reliant upon oil to ensure future economic growth oil is an extremely strategic commodity.

The Bush-Cheney argument that the American way of life is not negotiable predicates the US’s presence in the Middle East. America’s willingness to use military force to control oil supplies goes back to the 1970’s when it threatened to seize Saudis and Kuwaiti oil fields during the Arab oil embargo. The Carter doctrine of the 1979 clearly indicated that the US would use the military to ensure access to Middle East oil[4].

Although it would be naive to argue that the Iraq invasion was solely about securing Iraqi oil there are certainly a variety of extant factors together, which make Iraq an obvious target of the US. The perceived or real threat (it doesn’t really matter, the American people were convinced) of terrorist activity within the area (although not previously in Iraq) is relevant in the sense that the war on terror at it’s heart is really a war about resources. The possibility of future resource induced conflicts and or destabilisation within the area as energy becomes scarcer made it desirable for the US to act first. These factors put the US in a relatively comfortable position having established a presence in this area.

Competition for resources will intensify as peak oil becomes self-evident. There is increased likelihood that conflict could appear within Venezuela, Iran, and African nations for example. Richard Heinberg argues that the 21st century has ushered in the final geopolitical struggle of the industrial age - the struggle for control of Eurasia and its energy sources[5]. If he is correct the Bush-Cheney claim that we won’t see the end of the war on “terrorism” in our lifetimes are sure to have secondary effects starting with economic hardship. Very recently George W. Bush announced massive domestic funding cuts from law enforcement to transit budgets, wastewater treatment, education, social programs, housing and medicare as national wealth is increasingly diverted into military budgets.

The Rickshaw Economy?
Whether the year of peak oil is 2007 or a few years later, or indeed if as some suggest that we are already past peak the point to be taken is that we are entering the second half of the oil age. This will be characterised by the gradual decline of oil and gas at around 3% per annum. Thus by 2020 production of all liquid hydro-carbons will have fallen to the levels of 1990[6]. Although this sounds rather benign it will have catastrophic consequences for our financial system that depends upon perpetual economic growth. Given that our present economy relies upon oil driven mobility provided by petrol and diesel combustion engines for which there appears no immediate alternative it would be foolish to rely upon the unscientific perpetual growth axiom for which there is no empirical evidence. As we continue depleting the supply of relatively cheap conventional oil at an astounding rate of 80 odd million barrels per day the world continues to economic and technological reliance upon oil. As long as the supply continues to meet the demand, for the next year or two, the world economy will continue to increase the dependence and no incentive to develop alternatives will emerge. Until the supply falters, at which point we will be technologically unprepared for the decline. Once the peak does occur the price for a commodity for which demand now supplants supply will result inevitably in lower or negative growth in demand. It follows by implication that lower or negative growth in the world economy will occur. Ironically the requirement for investment in alternatives will only occur at the time when economic recessions are already beginning to bite.

In 1976 M. King Hubbert (1903-1989) concluded his paper Exponential Growth
as a Transient Phenomenon in Human History with the following observations:

It appears therefore that one of the foremost problems confronting humanity today is how to make the transition from the precarious state that we are now in to this optimum future state by a least catastrophic progression. Our principal impediments at present are neither lack of energy or material resources nor of essential physical and biological knowledge. Our principal constraints are cultural. During the last two centuries we have known nothing but exponential growth and in parallel we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture, a culture so heavily dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that it is incapable of reckoning with problems of nongrowth. Since the problems confronting us are not intrinsically insoluble, it behooves us, while there is yet time, to begin a serious examination of the nature of our cultural constraints and of the cultural adjustments necessary to permit us to deal effectively with the problems rapidly arising. Provided this can be done before unmanageable crises arise, there is promise that we could be on the threshold of achieving one of the greatest intellectual and cultural advances in human history.

It is clear that our window of opportunity is being rapidly drawn closed. Peak oil detractors are often heard quoting the following, “the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones, likewise the oil age won’t end because we will run out of oil”. It might be timely to remind such critics that the transition from tools such as axes and arrowheads made of stone to more effective weapons made from iron and bronze occurred over several centuries. We are looking to transition a planet of 8 billion people, a global economy based on cheap abundant oil technologies, inherently committed to continued economic growth for stability to one that is dependant on some other yet to be developed (or even identified) technology. All this must occur within a few short decades.

To the vast majority of us conditioned by an extended period of prosperity this is not welcome news. Peak oil will vastly change our current political, social and cultural landscapes and there seems to be no path forward that doesn't involve immeasurable stress. Changes need to begin immediately, however before any change can take place widespread acknowledgement of the looming crisis is required, presently this is the problem we seem to be grappling with.

[1] ASPO Newsletter 50 Feb 2005.
[2] Colin Campbell is the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, http://www.peakoil.net/
[3] Andrew McKillop is an energy economist and consultant who recently edited a book for Pluto Books, ISBN 0745320929, title 'The Final Energy Crisis' including articles by Colin Campbell and Edward R D Goldsmith. He has held posts in national, international and supranational (Euro Commission) energy, and energy policy divisions and agencies.
[4] Heinberg. R., (2004), Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post Carbon World.
[5] http://www.museletter.com/archive/132.html
[6] Colin Campbell., ASPO Newsletter 50, Feb 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rod Donald, Co-leader, New Zealand Green Party.
Aged 48 yrs died Saturday 5th November, 2005

"He is an incalculable loss to the Green Party, to the country and to me personally."
Jeanette Fitzsimons

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ and Bird Flu
...or, don't believe the hype, it's a sequel

The great thing about a blog site is that you get to make predictions which if you are correct, give you the ability to point everyone to the archived blog saying "told you so".

Here's my prediction. The so called bird flu, the chicken disease that has killed a wopping 59 people in the world, the disease that cannot (and will not) be transmitted from human to human, but is going to sweep the world. The chances of the bird flu becoming an international pandemic killing seqdrillions of us, crippling world economies, causing the closure of international borders and generally creating fear, panic and loathing not seen since the last witch was burnt or since we routinely expelled lepers from our midst, are negligible. This is not to say some variety of "the flu" will emerge, but this is extremely unlikely to have any of the virulence of the bird flu, I'll explain why in a minute.

Given the mass hysteria over this issue one must reasonably infer that the globalised project of dumbing down society to the point where it collectively gobbles up any and all shite that the media thrusts down its throat is all but complete. Makes you wonder if they've put something in the water. We have become as compliant as ewes happily marching off to braindeath by stupidity to the beat of media and authoritarian hype.

I have previously argued that science, rationality and critical thought seem not merely out of fashion but actively discouraged by proxy. In an almost Orwellian sense we favour a pernicious, postmodern, democratic approach to normative bullshit generation, the festering ground is suburbia, the genesis the six o'clock news. P
repare for certain death.

If enough people believe it, or if we read it in the paper it must be true. Never mind the fact that this virus has to first mutate (um, that means "evolve" folks) into a form that can be passed from person to person. One can't help but wonder how many individuals enamoured by "Intelligent Design" as an alternative to Evolutionary Theory have their medicine cupboards chocka with Tamiflu. As if the almighty himself has placed this virus here, just to smote us all down.

The twisted ethics of response to current mass panic about bird flu is equally dubious. A small company in Wellington is now selling survival kits for 500 bucks, cashing in on the bovine stupidity of a percentage of the population with IQ's close to their School Certificate maths marks. How much can a few of cans of baked beans, a box of panadol and some bottles of water cost. Apparently you can get the deluxe kit, it contains gourmet meals and a bottle of Lindaur Special Reserve - at least you'll enjoy the end of the world.

You get a sense of dejavue, I've been dreaming of the US suddenly finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And I must admit, I myself profitted somewhat as a result of the Armageddon that was to follow the New Years Eve party of 1999 although I certainly didn't sell overpriced survival kits. I wonder if I'll be around for the second coming of Jesus Christ, and who I wonder will get the television rights. Flak jackets and fire extinguishers are bound to be hot commodities given the predicted amount of brimstone and flames.

Of course the whole scenario has replaced Iraq as the topic of choice for front page US newsprint. Interesting given Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence was a previous Chairman of Gilead Sciences, company that developed and owns the rights to Tamiflu, the only supposed "cure" for bird flu. Of course Roche who manufacture and market Tamiflu on behalf of Gilead can't supply enough to freaked out risk averse westerners around the globe - ripe for the plucking.

Currently the waiting list for the snake oil, (ah-hem Tamiflu) is about 3 months, of course the pandemic could have already swept through the globe killing trillions by then. If you'd rather be stacking bodies as opposed to being stacked yourself you could try eBay where
Tamiflu is selling for up to NZ$260 a course.

Getting in on the act is the night in shining armour, the Risk Management Society of New Zealand, seemingly obsessed with Bird Flu busily publishing press releases I suppose they've found their mission, yet they've never heard of Peak Oil a real and tangible threat to our society and economy. A bunch of concerned middle class men in suits, accountants, lawyers and project managers are now telling us how we ought to combat a nonexistent pandemic. (reminds me of the "corporate" board of directors of Seatoun School who intelligently banned a lunch time chrisitian kids club, to a wannabe academic like myself the worrying words ring in my ears "I work in the real world mate, I know better" )

I want to finish with some rational comments on the evolution of Bird Flu. We must keep in mind that currently there is no (or very little) evidence to suggest that Bird Flu can move between human hosts, furthermore the virulence of the virus amongst bird (chicken) hosts is extremely high, that is it quickly immobilises (hospitalises) then kills it's host. The correlation between transmittability and virulence is important. For bird flu to become a pandemic amongst humans it first must mutate to a form that is easily transmittable, the host needs to remain mobile so the virus can spread around for a pandemic to emerge. It should be noted that a highly virulent virus (such as the current bird flu which of course cannot be transmitted between humans) kills it's host faster thereby accelerating it's own demise and reducing the time available for transmission.

A successful virus is one that is highly infectious but allows it's host to live as long as possible. Viruses that are highly virulent often quickly burn themselves out when hosts die. Thus less virulent forms of the virus will be selected for after initial localised outbreaks. My guess is that the correlation between transmissability and virulence will be negative. That is, the bird flu if ever it mutates into a form that can be transmitted from human to human host and thus emerges with pandemic characteristics there will be a significant reduction in the virulence of the virus. Very sick people will become immobilised, hospitalised and isolated. Lesser forms of the virus, which don't immobilise and hospitalise patients will quickly move through the population, those catching it will survive and develop antibody immunity.

There are more important things to worry about than bird flu. Hopefully in a few weeks or months I'll point those that need pointing, to this archived blog entry and say, told you so.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Death, Tamiflu, Donald Rumsfeld, Bird Flu and other Nonsense!

After writing about my skepticism of "bird flu" I was pointed to the link between Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defence and a company called Gilead Sciences.

Interestingly, Gilead is the company that owns and markets the Tamiflu drug (well, not exactly but it makes good copy). Gilead owns the rights to Tamiflu, Roche however makes and markets it. Nevertheless Gilead collects a handsome royalty on Tamiflu sales and at around 100 bucks a dose, you can only guess that the cronies that look after the coffers are smiling with unbridled glee at the moment. What is really interesting is that Donald Rumsfeld used to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gilead Sciences. He owns considerable stocks in the company.

Tamiflu is a neuraminidase inhibitor for the treatment and prevention of all common strains of influenza. Widely touted as the supposed silver bullet for the "bird flu". In actual fact the drug only decreases the amount of days you might be sick, it might (MIGHT) prevent you expiring if you by some bizzare freak of nature catch avian flu.

Contributing to the madness, Christchurch microbiologist Ben Harris says the H5N1 bird flu that has infected 115 people world-wide (ah-hem, you mean hospitalised Ben, there is no way of knowing how many people have been infected - it could be millions, it's well known avian flu immunity is high amongst bird factory workers in Asia) , killing 59, has all the hallmarks of a classic pandemic-strain influenza. Yeah right, it can't transmit between humans, sure this must be a hallmark of a pandemic. In fact it has no more characteristics of a human pandemic strain than any other avian, pig or animal flu has. And, given there are 6 and a half billion people on the planet your chance of being one of those 59 killed was 0.00000001% (Scary thought)

So, your actual chances of contracting avian flu in New Zealand are zero. You are more likely to die in a plane crash on the way to Asia than you are of actually catching avian flu in Asia. The irrationality of current frenzied panic about the supposed imminent pandemic are ludicrous. There is no pandemic and there is absolutely NO sign whatsoever that there is going to be a pandemic. If there is a pandemic it won't be avian flu, that strain doesn't transmit from human to human. Furthermore the science tells us that any mutation to a form that is easily transmittable from human to human will have the effect of reducing the virility of the virus. It may just turn out to be another flu virus. The kind that people catch every year. What chance is there of a pandemic - no one knows. Take a guess, buy a lotto ticket.

59 people have died of avian flu. Yet over 1 million die every year worldwide from malaria. AIDS kills almost 3 million people a year. Almost 500 people a year die on New Zealand roads. You have to question the whys and whats of this frenzy.

Being a natural skeptic I shun conspiracy theories. And this isn't one. I'd call it a fortuitous coincidence. But, it was certainly in Rumsfelds interest to encourage the bulk purchasing of a billion dollars worth of Tamiflu for the US Government. It's certainly in Gilead Science's interest to ensure the production and distribution of Tamiflu to god fearing folk around the world spooked by the new black death.

You have to ask yourself is the current media hype about avian flu a clever marketing exercise by Gilead? You can be damn sure they are making a killing. Governments all over the world have ordered billions of dollars worth of Tamiflu.

Rumsfeld must be laughing all the way to the bank. And you can too, as you can see from the yahoo quote page Gilead stocks are on the rise. Might be time to sell your Kentucky Fried Chicken shares. I can see you looking at the family budgie sideways...

For another perspective see Wendy Orent's discussion in the Washington Post.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bird Flu and Peak Oil
and the not so rare condition of myopic red herringism

The Ministry of Dodgy Advice, a-hem I meant Economic Development are currently very busy stirring the entire country into a hysterical panic driven frenzy over a "possible" bird flu pandemic. (from Stuff.co.nz)

A bird flu pandemic could strike 1.6 million New Zealanders, killing 33,000 and decimating the country's workforce

and this scenario...

Food and petrol are in short supply, and New Zealanders overseas are stranded because international travel is at a standstill.

But wait, bird flu has killed a couple of dozen people worldwide. Certainly less than recent earthquakes or hurricanes. Furthermore, bird flu currently cannot (as far as we are aware) be transmitted from person to person. Is there any evidence that the bird flu virus will mutate into a form that can be transmitted from person to person. Um, well no one knows. Probably, maybe no one is prepared to put a percentage on it. We are dealing with possibles, maybe's perhaps...

Here we have what is verging on mass panic and hysteria (in a similar tone to Y2K) over something the may or may not happen.

One thing that is DEFINATELY going to happen, and be sure it's coming to a town near you very soon is Peak Oil. The carrying capacity of the planet has been greatly exaggerated by the abundance of cheap oil. With the dawn and consequent burgeoning of the industrial era we have become accustomed to rapid technological advancement. People live decades longer than they did a hundred or so years ago, medical science has advanced in parallel with our ability to extract oil and use it to power the global industrial and financial monster.

The population of the world has literally exploded six-fold as we learnt to use oil to turn hand tended gardens into a global agricultural industry. We have all but eliminated famine as globalisation and mass transportation feeds the world.

However as western financial systems teeter on the brink of insolvency (the Euro zone, UK, the US and New Zealand are all running frightening trade decificts - the western world is living well beyond it's means as we cash in the fiat capital in our over priced houses to buy everything from Hummers to Fijian holidays) we will be faced within a few short years with an overall global decline in oil, followed shortly by gas. Although seemingly benign the decline of about 3% per year of oil will effectively mean that the oil economy based up on endless economic growth will be in permanent decline.

Borrowing and lending will quickly dry up, a massive surplus consumer goods will result. Followed quickly by recession turning into depression. One that we will never emerge from, until their a balance is restored. That balance will eventually see the deaths of a few billion people world wide.

If we can't continue ploughing billions of barrels of oil into the globalised agricultural industry we can't feed the world anymore. The current population of the world is an artifact of cheap oil. In fact the life expectancy of the industrial civilisation according to Richard Duncan in geological terms is horridly short. Duncan argues in his Olduvai Theory, that the peak point was 1990. It seems we have been very lucky to have lived in the best of all possible times.

Industrial civilisation will not have a cycle. Once we move beyond the maximally harvestable amount of fossil fuel, the exponetial rise of this great age will have a corresponding equal and opposite exponetial decline. Simply unsustainable, a one shot affair as Duncan describes it.

For those seriously concerned about the bird flu. It's Friday, get yourself a bottle of wine tonight and relax. Then tomorrow read Dr Richard Duncan's Olduvai Theory - panic then.

Have a happy weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On regime change, ministers of energy and vespas...

Yes indeed we have a new Government, or should we say a menagerie. I guess I was hoping for some inspired leadership as we enter this new era, one which will be defined by energy (mark my words). Inspired leadership however is eroded within indecisive democracies as much as it is by multi party representation (Germany seems to be suffering the same palsy). And so, I suppose for the moment at least it's back to the future.

A backward step is clearly evident in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between United Future and Labour. Peter Dunne so rabidly dogmatic about building more roads (Transmission Gully) that he has to include it in the agreement. I suspect this road, which if built would be about as smart as building a nightclub on the Titanic, after it hit the iceberg, will actually never be built. By the time all the moaning, groaning, bitching and finger twiddling is over peak oil will be well upon us. We'll be entering an economic recession, the real estate bubble will have burst like a New Orleans levee.

Actually Jim Kunstler's line was sexier...

the mortgage industry is going to implode like the death star under the weight of these non-performing loans and drag every tradable instrument known to man into the quantum vacuum of finance that it creates.

Nice stuff Jim. I considered just cutting and pasting this line but I'll leave the plagiarism to the Maxim Institute.

And so, I decided to send the new Energy Minister, David Parker a warning (here's hoping aye).

Dear David,

I'd suggest given that Energy=Work, and clearly if we are unable to grow energy supply we will simply be unable to grow economically, you have arguably the most important job in the new Government as Energy Minister.

I notice Business Week Online today cites increased demand, low spare production capacity, lack of refining capacity and increasing worries about adequate long term supply of oil as critical factors in the increased price of oil. I'd add, these factors loom large as contributors to recent cost cutting news from Air New Zealand, as well as the reasons cited for failures of several large US airline companies. I amongst others have suggested that the Airline companies would be the canaries in the economic coal mine in regard to oil price and supply. We are in for one helluva shock in regard to oil supply, availability and the consequent price rises associated with increased scarcity over the next term of Govt.

I wonder if you have read the Hirsch report (attached) commissioned by the US Dept of Energy and delivered earlier this year. Dr Robert Hirsch suggests deal with peak oil production (both at a national and international level) requires a decade of expensive intensive attention.

David, I seriously recommend you clue up on Peak Oil. In fact I'd suggest the assembly of a task force or committee of some sort to address this issue and report back to yourself as soon as possible - mitigation being the primary focus. During this term of Government New Zealand will learn some extremely sobering lessons in regard to our dependance upon oil and it's by products. The social and economic repercussions will be the most severe of the modern era.

If you wish to have further discussions on this topic I would be more than happy to meet with you.

Kind Regards
Steve McKinlay

I'll let you know if I get a reply. In the meantime it's now costing me about 12 bucks a week scooting on the now like hens teeth Vespa PX200. I tried spitting on a black Hummer parked in a car yard on Customhouse Quay (but I forgot I was wearing a full face helmet), it didn't have a price tag on it. No doubt the clueless egotistical plonker that will eventually buy it leveraging himself to the hilt on his over valued house will have voted United Future or ACT in the hope that he has kilometres of fresh asphalt to burn up.

Talking about spitting, someone similar to the Hummers future owner (in a Ford Explorer - yes, black with tinted windows from memory) foaming at the mouth, ranting and swearing at me the other day because I'd split a couple of kilometres of traffic on the Vespa to sit, first in line at the traffic lights. I just turned and laughed at him. It's amusing how angry people get sitting in traffic. It's equally amazing just how much pleasure I get from spending a fraction on petrol and - no traffic jams. Hehe.

love, peace and cheap energy.

related ref's
Air New Zealand expect larger slide in earnings - citing energy costs
Air New Zealand aims to sack 600 workers (Sydney Morning Herald)
Labour to focus on the economy (NZ Herald)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I've been on holiday

So, haven't had a chance to write - however James Kunstler sums up the current situation quite well. I leiu of any words of wisdom from moi, check out Jim's latest offerings.

For the moment, it's back to business-as-usual for Easy-motoring Nation.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Clueless March Toward Oblivion

We, in all likelihood, are going to have significant shortages of
gasoline, Bush said. I would urge people to recognize this, not to

That's Jeb Bush, Texas Governer.

With analysts on cable news channels raising the possibility that Rita could push gas close to $5 a gallon, some Floridians on Thursday were filling up - just in case.

This is sure to have a flow on effect in New Zealand because the overall world wide surplus will diminish. Expect petrol to be out toward $1.60 within a week or two.

If you own one of those big fuck-off monster SUV's that guzzle gas - bad luck. If you've just purchased one, take a good look in the mirror, slap it with a cold spoon, acknowledge your own stupidity and get "chump" tatooed across your forehead.

I spend less than 12 bucks a week on petrol. An extra gold coin won't worry me much.

Oh sure, this is just a spike caused by a supply security. But, these spikes will become increasingly common as supply is unable to meet demand and minor supply constraints manifest on the international market.

The price of oil is only going in one direction. Furthermore, once that available supply is unable to meet demand (18 months) we'll see what we might call superspikes. That's when the ideological stupidity of the argument "the oil companies can't tell me what I can drive" will come face to face with realpolitik - will the market provide - oh sure, mind you the scarcity factor on Vespas will have significantly increased by then.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Long Emergency Begins

People obsessed with Britney Spears sprog and the lastest in the Paris Hilton hacker debacle obviously didn't notice that 2 major US airlines hit the wall this week. Two weeks after the US's all time biggest natural disaster the timing is ironic if not uncanny.

Hilariously TIME magazine reports "bankruptcy is not the end", ha, like death is not the end.

It seems like the only honest reports of these bankruptcies are coming from this side of the world. The US blinkered by NASCAR and the latest barbie doll drama are in total denial.

This is simply a correction based on the increasing scarcity of oil. More airlines will follow, and the next in line will be major megamarket stores.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why I'll be Voting Greens.

I've never voted for the Green Party before although being a surfer, windsurfer, tramper, living with a Scottish father that grew all our vegetables, I remember getting a telling if I threw a banana skin in the bin and not the compost bucket. Being these things and more I guess I've always had a point of view that took into consideration ecology, conservation as in "conserving".

It was pragmatic, rather than "trendy". And so, it became common sense.

People often ask me what I am doing when I discuss Peak Oil with them. I am doing a lot.

Did I say I ride a vespa. The savings in petrol are financing the scooter. In a couple of years I'll have a lot more money in my pocket (more than Brash's tax cut would have put in my pocket actually). You think petrol prices will drop - think again.

Our entire house is double-glazed and we use two methods of super-efficient heat generation in the winter (heat pump and wood burner). The summer doesn't need anything other than opening the big bi-fold doors to keep us cool.

We have a Solahart Kf series solar water system. It makes financial sense, no conventional hotwater system pays for itself - the Solahart does. That's the Scot in me.

We've made all these investments out of our own pocket, because yes it takes an upfront investment for a saving in the long term. We are lucky most people can't afford to make the investment.

The Green party (energy policy here) are the only party that understand this stuff. Care enough about it to offer workable systems that will get other New Zealanders making these kinds of choices.

And they are the only party that will get into power that understand peak oil. The rest are a pack of delusional dreamers. Labour have only just (this week and in code) admitted that production peak of oil is a serious issue. They need the Greens for advice and direction. They need the Greens to continue to remind them.

If you care about this stuff, if understand peak oil. There is no other choice. Sell yourself out on Saturday for a pitiful 30 bucks a week in your pocket and temporarily cheaper petrol (to the tune of 2 or 3 bucks a week), or vote with your mind, for the future. Vote Green.

Remember, wishing a problem will just go away never works.


Monday, September 12, 2005

"A Leader Must Have a Vision"
Don Brash, Leaders Debate (sometime last week)

Never mind if that vision is an apparition, you'd think the vision that Don Brash had was one of virgin Mary Mother of God indicating that oil will return to $35 a barrel.

I want everyone to think very carefully about this. The Brash/Key decision to cut petrol tax is nothing more, nothing less than a blatent cynical election bribe. Lets examine why.

1. The argument is that the cut is a temporary subsidy while petrol prices are high. Sure enough it's only been promised for 6 months. However current petrol prices are not temporarily high. In fact this is the beginning of a future where fossil fuel prices will only trend in one direction, up! The end of cheap oil is here, as all time global oil production maximises and demand continues to soar the scarcity factor in oil will only push the price higher. Unless significant (billion barrel +) oil fields are found, or demand significantly reduces no long term downward trend in oil prices will be seen. So, get used to it.

2. I have always argued that as the price of oil moves higher and as shortages begin to manifest lobby groups (such as motorist lobby groups, farmering groups, etc.) will complain vehemently for subsidies. Well, lo behold, the National party are the first pack of soft bellied politicians to cave into subsidy demands. Removing tax from petrol places the tax burden on all tax payers, including those like me (who rides a vespa to cut my petrol costs) and even more so, on those who use public transport, don't have a car, ride bikes, walk etc. Be fucking angry, you are now subsidising arseholes who drive Ford Explorers and Toyota Prado's - that really pisses me off.

3. The GST argument. John Key like the pot-licking economist he is argues that the extra GST collected by Government in higher fuel costs justifies the tax cut. This is a nonsense. Imagine you have a fixed 200 dollars of disposable income every week (hopefully you have more, but lets keep the figure simple) You have to share this cash round, so if you save a bit there, you might have a bit more to spend down Courtenay place on a Friday night. So, if you spend all this money the GST component is about $23. You will only NOT pay GST if you don't spend the money. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that higher fuel costs result in higher GST collected by Government. You simply have less (GST generating) money to spend on other stuff.

4. Higher fuel costs at this time are a clear signal to the market (and the individual) that alternatives are worth investigating. By reducing tax on fuel you are signalling back to Wanktank V8 drivers that it's ok to continue buring petrol with utter disregard for the situation we will shortly find ourselves in. There is no incentive for people to get rid of their global warmers in exchange for something more sensible (and fun) (like a Vespa), or indeed public transport. Thus we are exacerbating the problem, we are developing a false sense of security in the clueless herd. When really high petrol prices come ($3 a litre) what do you do then?

5. We need this tax to begin to build infrastructure that does not depend directly upon fossil fuels. National (United no Future and ACT, but they are now irrelevant) are sadly totally delusional about the future of energy. Outer suburban lifestyles and happy motoring freeway lifestyles are reflections of a century of prosperity predicated upon cheap accessible oil. That time is over. Instead of trying to recapture the glory days we need to get realistic and begin building a future that is not oil dependant. We need to begin doing this now.

If you are clever, if you have any wetware between the ears you'll see National's ploy for what it is. You will realise that reducing the petrol tax is not only pointless but counter-productive to dealing with the end of cheap oil.

Steve McKinlay
for PowerLess NZ.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two Very Good Peak Oil Articles

Having a break from writing, here are two excellent articles worth reading.

Peak Oil and the Working Class By Dale Allen Pfeiffer

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Storms of August By Tom Whipple


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Institutionalized Plonkerism
and if bullshit was bitumen...

Unbelievably following the virtual destruction of New Orleans and surrounding towns people still don't get it. Whining like a fucked diff, the combustion engine lobby are all collectively screaming for fiscal relief at the petrol pump, the lastest joke is the email going round asking drivers to boycott service stations today. As if that is going to make a jot of difference. If you don't buy your petrol today, you're just gonna buy it tomorrow. I guess the project of dumbing down of the general populus is still on track.

Don Brash, should he seize power in 11 days time, intends giving back New Zealander's billions of dollars in tax cuts (so they can all go out and buy new Ford Explorers and plasma TVs) meanwhile borrowing billions more to build a ridiculous and (by the time it's complete) largely pointless maze of roads in Auckland. Ironically arguing by creating wider more complex set of traffic problems - this will increase ecnomic growth.

What Brash is utterly and contemptously ignorant of is the fact that the days of the daily drive from your cosy suburb 40 kilometres from Queen Street is all but over for people on less than 80k a year.

Cheap oil is finished, and in the face of blindingly obvious warnings (Katrina, Gulf of Mexico - taking out 20 odd offshore oil rigs, petrol $1.55 a litre, oil - increase in price 500% since 1998, peak oil predicted by 2007) people STILL DON'T GET IT.

The rapid (within 48 hrs) descent into a contemporary state of nature in New Orleans would no doubt have Hobbes turning in his grave. It serves as a sober reminder that we are at any point in time 2 to 3 days away from utter distruction and despair.

You can bet the next argument for a rise in the oil price per barrel will be the shortage now emerging in the US strategic reserve as it taps into that stockpile (reckoned to be close to 800 million barrels) to bail out whinging motorists having to pay 3 bucks a gallon.

Even Mallard is on the bandwagon, arguing we here in NZ should conserve gas to help our good friends in the States. Anyone that seriously believes this will make a difference is delusional.

New Zealand uses much less than 1% of the entire petroleum usage world wide, any saving we make will be counted as a miniscule fraction - a real number preceded by several zeros. You wanna feel good. Take the bus to work one day this week, call up the Red Cross and donate 10 bucks. Then thank your arse you live in New Zealand.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

NFI Award Winner of the Week

Delusional thought continues unhindered as petrol and oil prices continue the endless march skyward.

The NFI award this week must go to...
Christchurch Holden Enthusiasts' Club President John Miller.

"Miller, who drives a 5.7-litre Holden SS, acknowledged that he owned a petrol-thirsty car, but said he should not have to give up his passion for petrol company 'greed'. "

Petrol price rises prompt backlash

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New Zealand Ponders Peak Oil

The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who have not got it.

George Bernard Shaw.

As we all race to convert the fictitious new capital in our properties into Toyota Prados, LCD screen TVs, and package holidays to the Gold Coast cluelessness in regard to the global energy/economic situation continues unabated.

The single most important ingredient for economic growth is increased energy consumption yet most New Zealanders including a sizable gaggle of dense politicians are yet to make this connection. Energy is the capacity to do work, no energy, no work. Yet energy is taken for granted. At least it has been until about now.

As the price of a barrel of oil continues to march skyward those with a modicum of wetware between the ears have begun asking “why?” There are various ways to answer this question for now I’m sticking to a simple explanation and it can be expressed in a single word - scarcity.

Rampant demand growth for oil across the developed and transitioning economies can simply be translated as desire. Our collective desire for all manner of techno-gadget consumer products, McMansions, V8 SUVs, speedboats, individually wrapped plastic packaged food, weekend recreational shopping and tropical holidays, that is, our greed driven desire for material success grossly exceeds our ability to be happy with what we have got. We are alcoholics to utility maximisation, drunk on instant gratification and heavily in debt because of it. If consumer products were drugs we’d all be lining up at the door of the Salvation Army.

The reason the price of oil is so high is a direct result of out of control desire effectively increasing the scarcity of the resource. The fall of the iron curtain and consequent proselytization of western style individualism and democracy throughout the world has created unprecedented levels of desire for more and more “stuff”. And the only way to ensure we get to
have this stuff is through continued economic growth. The demand to burn increasing amounts of oil necessarily follows.

Thus, as a consequence some might argue of the exploding global capitalistic society within which we live, it is ourselves that have driven the price of oil to its current level. Don’t blame the oil companies blame yourself. And if enlightenment philosopher David Hume was correct in that “all conflict springs from scarcity” the roller door to the double garage of self-destruction has already been opened. Iraq and Iran both swim on a sea of oil and everybody wants it. We want it so bad we are prepared to die for it.

If the current price of petrol, indeed oil were not enough to irritate you, dampen your economic confidence, the looming spectre of “Peak Oil” is certain to rain heavily on the current consumption parade.

We are almost at the point at which half the entire global endowment of oil has been consumed, discovery of oil peaked in the 1960s and despite all technology and the scouring of the earth for more, discovery has steadily declined since. Today we burn almost 84 Million barrels per day. Andrew McKillop an energy economist, argues we will be lucky to increase this figure to a maximum 90 Million barrels, at this point increasing depletion and continued demand will offset new discovery – we’ll be going backwards. With demand growth running at about 3 million barrels per year the current economic world party is likely to last at most another few years – maybe another term of Government.

Already many of the world’s large iconic oil regions are in decline, the North Sea, Norway, arguably or very soon Saudi Arabia. By the end of this decade the western industrial world will descend into a surreal hyper-scarcity miasma. If you think petrol is expensive now, just wait another year or two. Supply of the black oozy lifeblood of the economy will begin shrinking by about 3% per year. Economic growth throughout the western world will end abruptly as hyper-inflated oil prices become structural shortages! Hume’s conflict will manifest itself at the service station as well as the streets of Baghdad.

Some New Zealand politicians (Greens, Labour although it’s not admitting it yet) have already realised this scenario is just around the corner. Some with all the hubris of schoolyard bullies continue to laugh about it (ACT, National, United Future). With an election looming PowerLess NZ invites New Zealanders to make the distinction. Simply email your politician and ask them how they are planning today for peak oil – building more roads obviously is not the correct answer (nor for that matter is dropping out of Kyoto). Don’t accept feel good newspeak answers.

The remainder of this decade will be increasingly defined by energy or a lack thereof. Voters ought to consider this issue seriously; our collective continued well being depends on action now. Well prepared, New Zealand could be well placed to weather such a storm but preparation will require intensive national effort in order to dramatically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This election make the right decisions so that the effort can begin.

Steve McKinlay for
Powerless NZ
18 August 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

David Lange 1942 - 2005
The Giant Totara Has Fallen.

Photo - Photopress, Dean Purcell

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Inspired Leadership (fuckwittery) By the New Zealand Government

Projection of short-term Brent oil prices in the December Update are based on futures prices at the time of finalising the forecasts. This sees a gradual decline in prices to US$43 per barrel in March 2005, and to US$40.50 per barrel by March 2006. By the end of the forecast period, the oil price is projected to reach US$35 per barrel...
Source - New Zealand Treasury, Economic Outlook

September 2005, Light Crude Delivery, NYMX (US$65 today)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Oil, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism
Transmission Gully Axed!

Maurice Williamson, contendor for the NFI Award of the week, Champion of the Order of the White Elephant either has the same problem as the alcoholic; denial. Otherwise he has some form of mental retardation.

Heather Roy, (ACT) a clueless bimbo with as much understanding of energy as a rodent running on a treadmill might have to share the award with Maurie.

And, Peter Dunne (United no Future), must win the sheer stupidity award for hilariously calling the axing of the Transmission Gully idea as "sheer arrogance", for that's what it would be to go ahead with the nonsense.

Somewhat ironically I often see the United Future big fuck off 4WD global warmer driving round Wellington burning barrels of oil plastered with "United Future Loves the Environment" stickers. It reminds me of quasi-greeny, hairy armpitted soccer mums, their V8 Toyota Prado's parked in the Organics Shop Carpark loading up with organic chooks, GE Free NZ stickers proudly displayed on the rear windows.

As oil prices hit record highs of US$64 a barrel overnight and Goldman Sachs and other investment bankers predict prices out towards $100 a barrel within the next year or so, spending billions building more roads (such as Transmission Gully) is as clueless as opening an Ice Supply store at Scott Base.

In the face of stark facts and admissions of Peak Oil now portrayed by both Chevron (Will You Join Us.com) and ExxonMobil (In The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, the Irving, Texas-based company forecasts that oil production outside the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the cartel that controls three-quarters of the world's oil reserves, will reach its peak in just five years) ACT, United No Future and National are completely out of touch with what is occuring within the oil industry, and what the implications are for the McCrapola consumption driven disposable world we live in.

These cognitively dense, mostly unfit, overweight gits all assume either some cheaper more efficient alternative will be provided by the market, or that oil will drop back to US$20 a barrel and the good times will continue rolling. A vote for either of these parties is essentially the nod to waste billions of tax payer dollars on white asphalt elephants.

Oil at US$20 a barrel - Unfortunately it ain't never gonna happen again. There are alternatives to oil. You can peddle your bike to work, you can run your car on greasy chip oil, but none of the alternatives come at a cheaper price, nor are they more efficient than oil.

Oil is the pinnacle of the flawed supply side market ideology of endless substitution. There are no more efficient, cheaper alternatives. We've hit the top of the curve.

If as Colin Campbell suggests peak oil will occur around 2007, beyond then we will begin to experience structural supply deficits. NZ being at the end of the supply chain and no longer best buddies with the US and Australia can expect to experience shortages quickly.

Violence, no not in Iraq but at the petrol pump will be the first manifestations of serious problems. Dickhead politicians the vast majority of which have ignored the problem will begin jumping around like slaters in a frying pan appealing for calm and that they have the situation under control.

I applaud the Government and Transit NZ for pulling the plug on an exercise in complete stupidity (Transmission Gully). Not only would the NZ tax payer be still paying off this concrete ornament 15 years after no one can afford to drive on it but a billion dollars would have been spent in an attempt to increase suburban sprawl when it could have been put to far more productive future proof use (such as increasing intelligent sustainable transit options).

ACT (a historical and political curiosity after September), National and United (one term wonder) Future are men (and women) of a bygone era. An era of abundance. We need a new way of thinking about our world. A way of thinking that understands the relationship between energy, our economy and the way we live.

Voting for ACT, NZ Future or National at this years election is like shutting your eyes at a busy intersection as you pull out, hoping no one will hit you. These parties are still drunk on the excesses of the 90s. In denial about the present and totally clueless about creating a sustainable future for New Zealand.

Steve McKinlay
PowerLess NZ

Monday, August 01, 2005

January 06 Delivery Sweet Crude hits US$64

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Hirsch Report - Missing in Action

Global Public Media report that the controversial "Hirsch Report" into Peak Oil has disappeared from the internet

In Brief: Half a year after its release, the Hirsch report is nowhere to be found. For several months it was archived, in PDF format, on a high school web site (www.hilltoplancers.org, Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, Calif.). On July 7 the report disappeared from that site. The Atlantic Council (www.acus.org) is considering publishing the Hirsch report; however there is no projected date of release. When contacted, Dr. Hirsch replied that the document is "a public report, paid for and released by DOE NETL, and that it therefore could be reposted at will."-By Richard Heinberg

Good news. I have an original copy of the Hirsch Report, (PDF format, 1.2mb). If you want it leave me comments and I'll send it out to you.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Fucktard Studies in Globalisation

Trolling the pages of a little text on "Strategy" trying to find interesting snippets for my students I stumble upon this clueless example of complete ignorance by Eric Hobsbawm, The New Century .

We are certainly a single global economy compared with thirty years ago, but we can say with equal certainty that we'll be even more globalised in 2050, and very much more in 2100.

Interestingly Hobsbawm blindly stumbles vacantly passed the actual issues that make his claim a nonsense, in the very next sentence he argues,

Globalisation is not the product of a single action, like switching on a light or starting a car engine.

The coffee I was slurping at the time involuntarily regurgitated itself as if of a mind of its own. By 2050 much of the industrialised petroleum dependant McBullshit that we are all familiar and comfortable with will be decimated. The seemingly endless march of container loaded shipping moving raw resources to China, turning it into the shit we buy at the Whorehouse (Warehouse in NZ, Walmart in the US) and shipping it back here, will have slowed to a trickle if not completely disappeared.

Severe and brutal energy shortages the result of demand for oil surpassing the available supply are possible within a few short years, certainly within a decade. The price of oil will be so high airline companies will collapse, construction of Olympic villages will halt and projects for new roads will finally be seen for what they really are - a complete and utter waste of resources, investment in a possible world which will not exist. Rampant inflation and recession will infect the western economies like a virus.

We live in times of energy abundance, there is more of virtually everything you can imagine. The general public, Hobsbwam and millions like him ignorantly assume that the economic good ole times will roll on forever. Such fantastical notions make a raft of errors all related to fossil fuel availability and demand.

In 45 years time contrary to Hobsbwam's seemingly utopian "global village" we will be living in a time where there will be almost half the fossil fuel supply currently available. With a decline in the commodity that literally drives the western world so too will come the gradual reversal of all that depends upon the resource. Globalisation, along with populations will decline.

The price of fossil fuel continues to increase. Yet no one seems to blink an eye. The warning signs are lost on politicians and the general public. Consumptive society, it's inherent dependancy upon 3% economic growth per annum, fueled by oil, is in for one fuck of a shock. The end of corporate globalism, financial and property markets, and the beginning of political mayhem, extended austerity and hardship is just around the corner.

Better to buy a scooter now.

Steve McKinlay

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street

Where the streets are pave with blood,
With cataclysmic overtones,
Fear and hate linger in the air,
A strictly no-go deadly zone,
I don't know what I'm doing here,
Cause it's not my scene at all,
There's an 'A' bomb in Wardour Street,
They've called in the Army, they've called in the police.
Paul Weller, 1978

I think there are two thoughts we ought to seriously consider in respect of the terrorist bombings in London last week.

Firstly, much media commentary has, in my opinion, vaulted to the naive conclusion that the bombings are Islamic fundamentalist (Al Qaeda) retribution for the UK's involvement in the war in Iraq. A seemingly obvious corollary to this position being that because New Zealand was not involved in the invasion of Iraq we would not be considered a target by Al Qaeda, JI or other terrorist cells operating in our vicinity.

Two issues aside immediately, firstly that New Zealand actually has troops based in both Iraq and Afghanistan, in this sense we are involved whether we like to think we are or not, and secondly multinational Islamic terrorist groups had been executing terrorist attacks for at least a decade prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Nevertheless it is a tempting position to hold, a kind of simplistic justification that somehow makes sense of the carnage and at the same time immunises ourselves from having to face the possibility that it could ever be possible in this country. Yet those holding this belief, I argue, are missing the point. Furthermore, the complacent belief that we could be immune to such threat ought to immediately raise questions about the nature of such a belief and what it might be based upon.

Rohan Gurnaratna, author of Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, points out that since 9/11 Al Qaeda's network within the Asia-Pacific has remained virtually intact. Cells had been particularly active in the Philippines and Malaysia and it is now common knowledge (since Bali) that Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI) was inflitrated in the early 90s and is the face of Al Qaeda in our part of the world. The current spiritual leader of JI, Abu Bakar Bashiyar lives in Indonesia. JI was formed by Abdullah Sungkar and after his death in 1999, Bashiyar his closest friend took over. It was a meeting between Sungkar and Osama in Afghanistan that spawned JI (Gurnaratna, 2002, p189).

Australia and New Zealand's isolation offer some natural level of protection however the very nature of our liberal democracies offer up vulnerabilities not currently exploitable in nations with now much tightened level's of security. Just as the terrorist threat moved beyond the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s, and with rapidly developing technological global communications terrorist cells could operate with relative ease in both New Zealand and Australia. Our inherent ideological weakness (a free liberal society) combined with a growing terrorist threat in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore make our part of the world according to Gurnaratna, Al Qaeda's new theatre.

And the point is this, it is not the invasion of Iraq that is the direct cause of any, least not recent terrorist activities, it is our way of life, it is the excesses, degradation, arrogance and freedom of western styled democracy that is the target of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. The absense of Islamic shari'ah law and the substitution of man-made civil law looms large in the mind of an islamic extremist. Those burying their heads in the sand about possible terrorist attacks in New Zealand ought to rethink their position. Terrorists are opportunists. And New Zealand is rapidly rising up the list of liberal democracies that present clear and tangible opportunities.

One blunt response I heard last week as news broke of the terrorist attack in London was this - "who cares?". Thus the second consideration I ask readers to think about begins with these headlines today;

Suicide Bombers Kill 34 or 21 Killed, Scores Wounded in Baghdad Bombing

You might find a small article buried away in the recesses of your local newspaper, a search on Google News turned up plenty of links, most weren't running this as a cover story. You could run the argument that Iraqi deaths aren't as important as British deaths, or perhaps more acutely, that the information isn't as interesting or relevant.

But then, who really cares right?