Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Ministry of Economic Development and Peak Oil

Back in the late 1970s while attending the Institute Of Criminology at Victoria University I was fortunate enough to meet the then CEO of the Commission For The Future, Commander Dick Ryan. He had been invited to give a lecture on Future Senarios. I remember thinking it was like listening to a Bible prophecy from someone like Hal Lindsey in his book "The Late Great Planet Earth". There would be a third world war over oil. Dick Ryan said that would escalate into a nuclear war, then there would be a conventional war over the remaining resources. The world was over-populated and we were headed for disaster. It was fantastic and far removed from every day existence here in God's own. All we really knew was a welfare state from the womb tomb and life seemed pretty good.

As I look back it all seems so unreal how so much that was taken for granted was swept away in just a few short years. Twenty six years later Dick Ryan's senario for the future has proved to be uncannily accurate, save for a few details. I think of him often as he seemed so incongruous to me. He was a tall good looking man and articulate enough to hold my attention and impress on my memory. Back in those days I first heard the expression "monolithic fuel based culture".

What I hadn't realized was that successive presidents in USA had been exposed to the same Armageddon script but in a more literal way. It is this influence that has shaped US foreign policy and continues to drive it towards a final hour.

This week a group of Peak Oil representatives met with the men from the Ministry For Economic Development. I had been asked by Robert Atack to join him, Ihaia Puketapu, Derek Wilson and Roz Brown in a round table discussion about peak oil with Ralph D Samuelson and Roger Fairclough. It was a most agreeable meeting between people with a high commitment to reasoned discussion about the serious issue of oil depletion. What transpired in that discussion was that the men from the ministry had been thinking about energy for transport and industry but had some how overlooked the bi products from oil. I talked about the miracle product plastic and how it had given birth to modernity. For the sake of Roger and Ralph ( who comes from the USA) here is a reminder of some of the products that are bi products of oil that is peaking. PeakOil is the technical term of demand outstripping supply.

The following is a list of just some products that may disappear with oil depletion.
Air conditioners, ammonia, anti-histamines, antiseptics, artificial turf, asphalt, aspirin, balloons, bandages, boats, bottles, bras, bubble gum, butane, cameras, candles, car batteries, car bodies, carpet, cassette tapes, caulking, CDs, chewing gum, cold, combs/brushes, computers, contacts, cortisone, crayons, cream, denture adhesives, deodorant, detergents, dice, dishwashing liquid, dresses, dryers, electric blankets, electrician’s tape, fertilisers, fishing lures, fishing rods, floor wax, footballs, glues, glycerin, golf balls, guitar strings, hair, hair colouring, hair curlers, hearing aids, heart valves, heating oil, house paint, ice chests, ink, insect repellent, insulation, jet fuel, life jackets, linoleum, lip balm, lipstick, loudspeakers, medicines, mops, motor oil, motorcycle helmets, movie film, nail polish, oil filters, paddles, paint brushes, paints, parachutes, paraffin, pens, perfumes, petroleum jelly, plastic chairs, plastic cups, plastic forks, plastic wrap, plastics, plywood adhesives, refrigerators, roller-skate wheels, roofing paper, rubber bands, rubber boots, rubber cement, rubbish bags, running shoes, saccharine, seals, shirts (non-cotton), shoe polish, shoes, shower curtains, solvents, solvents, spectacles, stereos, sweaters, table tennis balls, tape recorders, telephones, tennis rackets, thermos, tights, toilet seats, toners, toothpaste, transparencies, transparent tape, TV cabinets, typewriter/computer ribbons, tyres, umbrellas, upholstery, vaporisers, vitamin capsules, volleyballs, water pipes, water skis, wax, wax paper.

By now you might be beginning to get some idea that things are serious with our dependency on oil. It's half used up according to one major oil company. Can you trust them?


Blogger pepptalk said...

Rrom Kevin Moore
Hi Derek and Bryan,

Some of us have been highlighting the two phenomena you mentioned for a long time. But, actually oil is not produced at all, so I prefer these definitions. Peak Oil: the point at which the worldwide extraction of oil from the earth reaches a maximum and then declines. Supply-demand crisis: failure of supply to meet demand for an extended period (say, more than 6 months). But even these definitions fail to highlight the real and immediate problem, which is availability of good quality oil on a continuous basis. We all know that we need fuels and lubricants, much more than we need material for covering road surfaces. So even the idea of peak in total extraction is actually misleading when much of what is being offered to the market is high in sulphur etc. and of high viscosity.

It must be 18 months ago that I did a radio interview with bFM along those lines (and alerted the listrerners to the imminent arrival). It must be getting on for 2 1/2 since the National Radio interviews.

Have no fear Derek. None of what we say will make any difference whatsoever as far as the mainstream media go (and the sheep that follow its lead). Their whole existence is predicated on their recipients of the drivel they churn out remaining totally, or at least semi ignorant about the emergency we now find ourselves in, and therfore complacent as they are led over the cliff. The more cynical anaysts would say what better way to harvest human resources than to keep them in the dark till the last possible moment and even when they are falling into the abyss suggest that there is a safety net at the bottom (when we know darned well there is not).

Now that is where it gets really interesting, because 4 months down the track, people are starting to realise that New Orleans is unlikely to be rebuilt and no new refineries are likely to be built in the US, so the plan seems to be for the US to buy ever larger quantities of refined products from elsewhere.

Actually there is some good news. Were we to stop burning such masive quantities of oil and recycle plastics sensibly, our ganrdchildren need not do without any of the items on the list. But of cpurse neihter of those things is likely to happen. More likely 'we' will use vast quantities of oil fighting wars, in order to secure access to the last remaining reserves.

Remember too that car worship is a religion that has been established for several generations and now has majority following in most western countries. It is also accompnanied by overseas-holidays-twice-a-year worship. Religions take at least a generation to fall and be replaced (think of Tudor England and the replacement of the Catholic faith by Protestantism. And that was officially promoted, even imposed!) What chance of replacing car worhip when it is promoted by the government and the media [incessantly].

So in the absence of factors to prevent it, oil will be sacrificed to the car and aeroplane gods for as long as possible, whatever the cost to the environment or the next generation's future. You are askng for a culture change and if it is coming, it's going to be too late arriving.

Of course ecomnomic factors may well do what education cannot. We've been educatiing yougsters not to smoke for a generation and it has made little difference, particualrly amongst girls. No cigarettes in the shops would soon fix the problem, though.

All that said, we must continue to do the right thing, even when so many of those around do not. The hope may be false, but we can have clear consciences.


From: "Derek J Wilson"
To: Bryan Pepperell

Great list of plastic-based things we will in due course be without. Tell it to the media and others who can influence public opinion, or will the media continue to 'assist' the capitalist growth system which will inevitably kill us.
I would prefer a clearer definition of peak oil than that it is a "technical term of demand outstripping supply". After all, supply could then continue to increase while demand simply continued to also increase but at a faster rate. Something like the point at which oil production reaches its peak and then inevitably and inexorably declines in quantity and quality while demand continues to increase.
While our discussion at MED was very amicable, it will be interesting to see whether there is feedback to any of us.
Cheers, Derek.

5:17 PM  
Blogger pepptalk said...

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