Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Peak Oil Comment

Peak Oil is a real, immanent, and very serious problem. It is nothing like Global Warming at all. Here's why.

While there may have been a point in time when the Global Warming hypothesis merited some attention (back when the issue was first mooted, perhaps), subsequent years of sober and rational reflection have shown us that those concerns can be safely dismissed. Mankind simply cannot produce enough carbon dioxide to affect the climate. The scale is too vast, the feedbacks are too complicated, and the other forcing and/or buffering mechanisms we have identified completely swamp whatever paltry effect our miniscule contribution to global greenhouse gas levels may be causing (if there even is such an effect, which we cannot definitively conclude).

On the other hand, the lexicon of alarmist terms with which we have become familiar through the Global Warming debate -- terms like 'tipping point' and 'runaway feedback' -- really do apply in the case of Peak Oil. Just one Iranian nuclear weapon, whether or not it is even detonated, could set off a chain of events which will disturb the world's oil-producing region for the foreseeable future.

There is a human dimension to this problem which most commentators seem oblivious to. Oil in the ground does nobody any good. If it cannot be extracted, bought, sold, transported, and refined into useful products, it might as well not exist. It is human societies which produce and consume oil, and our ability to exploit a resource is conditioned by numerous factors besides the level of stated reserves. You cannot simply assume that we will have the resources and finance capital to utilize unconventional oil sources. You cannot simply assume that "technology" is a silver bullet which will overcome all production hurdles. And only someone blissfully ignorant of all world history could believe that governments will ever "get out of the way" and allow private oil producers to pump the wells dry in a Libertarian fantasy-land. The world is the theater of bloody politics: it always has been and it always will be. People will fight for power, wealth, and security, and many delicate fruits of our exigent civil society -- fruits like easy access to finance capital and loads of money for R&D -- will get trampled in the process. The system of intellectual and financial tensions stretched across the global economy is now so tight that any minor supply disruption could cause the threads to begin to snap. And with the world's advanced economies getting older and deeper in debt, they will not be able to consume oil as efficiently as before. This is just the beginning of a process that will result in a slowdown of the global economy and the outbreak of hostilities. We will have to get used to living in a world where war is more frequent and wealth less taken for granted; a world, in short, of less civilization.

Ultimately, it is man's ability to produce and consume energy efficiently which has peaked. This is the critical measure, the only one that counts in the last analysis. It has a complicated relationship with resource reserve levels, but is not linearly dependent on them. It is more dependent on culture, on the societal discipline which develops the talent necessary to rule the world with the force and intelligence that such requires. The West began depleting that resource quite some time ago.


  1. Peak Oil is not an immanent, and probably not a transcendent problem. I agree that it is a real, imminent, and very serious problem.

  2. Seen this peak oil animation ~30 minutes?

  3. Matt,
    Don't be hard on the folks in Belmont Club. Even at home - i.e. places like Rorate Coeli - most people come across less than pleasant on the comments... I have always enjoyed your input there - and your style as well - so relax, we are in this world but not of this world. Also, pearl and swine comes occasionally to mind...
    Benedicamus Domino!


  4. Matt,

    Regarding your comment on BC, "...what can I do?"

    You do what you can. Here are a few thoughts:

    1. For people like us without big money or a big following, our role is trench warfare. We will educate voters one at a time. Not the committed Statists; there's a reason they are often referred to as "brain-dead Liberals" and we shouldn't waste too much effort on them. But there are plenty of open minded folks out there who have been swimming in MSM/Hollywood/Academia propaganda without realizing it. Many of them are susceptible to the truth. That is our target audience. We need to fight this educational battle like Marine Devil Dogs at Belleau Wood and 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles at Bastogne.

    2. Check out Freedom Connector (
    It's not for everyone, but it can give you an idea of what is going on with fellow patriots in your locale. We are not alone.

    3. Let me know if you want to be added to my email list. Don't worry, it's not a big spam machine - only 1 or 2 short peices per week when I have the time and inspiration. I am proud to have made connections with Storm-Rider and Papa Ray from BC and we maintain contact via email. Also take a look at my website, "Fundamentals of Liberty" ( It's an attempt to explain the core fundamentals with a few short essays - shorter than a typical op-ed. Like your blog, it may not change the world, but there are tens of thousands like us and we are making a difference.

    4. A positive thought to keep in mind; when you educate a single individual, there is no telling how great the total impact may be. Like throwing a stone into a pond and watching the ripples spread. Or if you prefer, we are shaping the battlefield, creating an electorate that will be more immune to MSM propaganda as we move closer to November.