Monday, August 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Doomsayers

AGW/CC and Peak Oil are both tales of doom. Accordingly, most of us are inclined to bin them in the same batch, often the circular file. This would, IMO, be a mistake, because these two tales of doom couldn't be more different, despite the fact that the two have a significant overlap in adherents. This overlap is somewhat curious I suppose, given that if the fossil fuels available at reasonable effort and cost decline, so too would the purported driver for AGW/CC. But let's summarize:

1. AGW/CC generally goes out of its way to avoid making predictions that are falsifiable in the short term and when it does, they've generally been wrong. Peak Oil on the other hand expounded the prediction that global oil production would peak sometime in the 2000 timeframe. Most observers note that we've been on a fairly flat plateau of production since around 2005. If the peak oil crowd is right, we'll start to slope downward, probably before 2015. US oil imports have already sloped significantly downward. If they're wrong, then we'll see us rise from this present plateau.
2. AGW/CC has significant power to punish its enemies, especially if they're scientists looking for grant money or favorable peer review, and it uses it. Peak oil has no such power, in fact you can argue with a fair bit of success that it has negative power in that arena.
3. There's a lot of money in AGW/CC for the rent seeker, at least if you're a warmist. Peak oil can barely support a few cheap websites on the internet and a motley assortment of hangers-on.
4. Mainstream AGW/CC believers say we should sacrifice more power to the governments, which will buy indulgences and save us, and governments push AGW/CC very heavily themselves. Peak oil believers tend to just believe we're screwed, and if anything, governments tend to seriously downplay Peak oil.
5. AGW/CC types VERY rarely advance a program of solution that would actually solve the problem that they've identified. Peak oil believers generally believe that without a major technological rabbit from a hat (e.g., cold fusion, major battery technology and power transmission improvements, or the like) that there is no real solution.

Either proposition, AGW/CC or Peak Oil might be correct or might be false. AGW/CC however has 5 big glaring red flags that Peak Oil does not have---the sort of flags that historically scream scam. Therefore I recommend some investigation into it to reactionaries who are doing contingency planning for their future and that of their children.


red said...

I've really understood the point of peak oil warnings. Oil prices going up will lead to more conservation and extraction from sources we previously couldn't get oil from. Ultimately with a high enough prices we will switch to coal->oil production and we have tons of coal.

So given that peak oil is real why would we do anything?

red said...

Never really*

Jehu said...

Red, I'm inclined to think the consequences on the downslope after peak oil are rather more severe than that, and should figure into your family's contingency plans---e.g., where you decide to live given significantly higher commute costs, what sectors you invest in, and the like.
As to what 'we' (by this I take it you mean political or social collective action) can do about it, the answer is not much honestly. The best thing we could do right now would be to add a bit of resilience to our systems, things like, say, rebuilding the strategic grain reserve that we had back in the days of the Cold War or actually purchasing and cacheing some spares for our very high voltage transformers. We probably also ought to recognize that peak oil represents pretty strong economic headwinds as well, although our current administration is already plenty good at generating such unfavorable winds.
Ironically, diversity also makes adjustment to a world without cheap liquid fuel a lot harder---after all, it motivated white flight in the first place.

Red said...

I've got a better idea. Lets just kick trash people out of our cities so people can live closer to their jobs and build a bunch of thorium power plants to produce low cost power.

But we should be doing this things no mater the truth of peak oil. Cheep power will lead to more manufacturing in America. Lack of diversity in our cities will lead to low cost education and less wasted money on security.

Red said...

Keep this in mind: Adversity breeds invitation like nothing else. Something like peal oil could push a lot of very useful tech to be developed which would lead to innovation and progress in many fields. We have lots of cheap sources of power that can be built if the government ever gets out of the way and nothing says get your act together like a crisis.