Farmers Weekly: By Invitation: 01 Dec ’06
Its All Downhill From Here
Social activist Lara Johnstone is a woman on a mission — to alert all and sundry, and particularly goverment ministers and other people of influence, that the era of abundant fossil fuel is coming to an end. With the growing interest in biofuels, and the acute implications of the energy crunch for agriculture, her message may have special relevance to farmers.
“In 1956, M KING HUBBERT, a Shell geologist, invented the peak oil concept, and correctly predicted the US production peak of the early 1970s.
‘Peak oil’ refers to the peak in global oil production. An oil field’s production inevitably and irreversibly declines once about half the oil in the field has been extracted. Peak oil refers to the global phenomenon.
Worldwide, 54 of the 65 largest oil producting countries in the world have passed their peak and are now in decline. According to Matthew Simmons, CEO of the world’s largest energy investment bank, a large amount of data indicates that crude oil production peaked in December 2005, with subsequent decline, and notes ‘if that trend continues for another 12 months, it will be fairly easy for people that want to be realists to say we actually peaked at the end of 2005.’
After the peak, every barrel is more difficult and expensive to produce, but because of increased population and economic growth, demand continues to increase, which creates a growing gap between supply and demand, further spiking the price.
Declining oil production will have massive repercussions on the way we live. In early 2005, the US Department of Energy comissioned a risk mitigation study on peak oil: Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management, commonly referred to as the Hirsch Report.
It warned of dramatic price volatility, saying that ‘without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented’, and that ‘viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking’. Recently, it priced such mitigation at a minimum of $20 trillion of investment — prior to peak.
Studies on net energy (also referred to as the energy returned on invested ratio) are crucial, and help us to evaluate whether, all factors considered, a particular energy source provides more energy than it takes to produce it. Current net energy study results report that no combination of alternative energies can sustain current consumption in the absence of massive investment, as aforementioned.
Tom Whipple, a respected peak oil journalist, informed the economic growth fanatics — who ignore the question as to how we are going to feed ourselves in an energy-scarce world, let alone industrially produce biofuels — that ‘there are acceptable alternatives to putting produced corn in your petrol tank. There are no substitutes for eating.’
The failure of our goverment and corporate officials to recognise that the magnitude of the crisis on transportation, food production, medicine, water distribution and our economic paradigm, all hugely dependent on cheap oil for their survival, requires immediate implementation of massive energy-descent mitigation strategies, informs us that the only remaining option is preparation on the personal, family, and community level.
Consequently I propose two possible small-scale mitigation strategies:
- Some precious beliefs are fatally threatened: our fantasy of eternal economic growth and its financial paradigm; our throwaway lifestyle; our ideas that our societal rules are more important than are the rules of nature; our definition of ourselves as a ‘successful industrial society’ of consumers, owners, and so on; our indistural form of agriculture. We need to create a new world in our minds, based on the ideas of solar energy, permaculture and total re-use of everything, where landfills become extinct, where every discarded material is an input to another productive process — the way the planet does it.
- Implementation of our power-down, energy-descent, relocalised world could look something like this: the creation of local cooperatives, for example biodiesel, building, housing, solar and wind energy utilities and urban permaculture gardens; new local renewable energy initiatives; new financial paradigms (local community currencies); and population reduction.
Bluntly: prepare your community for a world with no food distribution, no electricity, an economic depression and financial meltdown — and lots of hungry people.
Lara Johnstone is a former employee of Dr. Brad Blanton, the founder of the Center for Radical Honesty, a graduate of the Center for Radical Honesty’s Course on Honesty, and Course on Forgiveness & Co-Creation, and a member of the Radical Honesty Community.
Re: Cultural Membership:
As noted at Lara Johnson v Brad Blanton [lj-v-bb.tygae.org.za]: As of 17 October 2013, Lara Johnstone is a member of the Ecology of Peace: Radical Honoursty culture.