The Energy Revolution 4: Hot Planet?
Over a series of recent posts, I’ve been looking at the energy revolution that is changing the look of the 21st centuries. Some countries are losers, but the US in particular stands to make big gains at home and in its foreign policy.
On the whole, this news is about as good as it gets: trillions of dollars of valuable resources are now available to power the US economy, cut our trade deficit and reduce our vulnerability to Middle East instability. Hundreds of thousands of well paid blue collar jobs are going to reduce income inequality and help rebuild a stable middle class. Many of the resources are exactly where we would want them: in hard hit Rust Belt states.
World peace is also looking more possible: the great powers aren’t going to be elbowing each other as they fight to control the last few dribs and drabs of oil. Nasty dictatorships and backward-facing petro-states aren’t going to be able blackmail the world as easily.
But there is one group (other than the Russians and the Gulf Arabs and the Iranians) that isn’t sharing in the general joy: the greens. For them, the spectacle of a looming world energy crisis was good news. It justified huge subsidies for solar and wind power (and thereby guaranteed huge fortunes for clever green-oriented investors).
Greens outdid themselves year after year with gloom and doom forecasts about the coming oil crunch. They hoped that public dislike of the Middle East and the costs of our involvement there could be converted into public support for expensive green energy policies here at home: “energy independence” was one of the few arguments they had that resonated widely among average voters.
Back in those salad days of green arrogance, there was plenty of scoffing at the ‘peak oil deniers’ and shortage skeptics who disagreed with what greens told us all was settled, Malthusian science. “Reality based” green thinkers sighed and rolled their eyes at the illusions of those benighted techno-enthusiasts who said that unconventional sources like shale oil and gas and the oil sands of Canada would one day become available.
Environmentalists, you see, are science based, unlike those clueless, Gaia-defying technophiles with their infantile faith in the power of human creativity. Greens, with their awesome powers of Gaia-assisted intuition, know what the future holds.
But those glory days are over now, and the smarter environmentalists are bowing to the inevitable.
George Monbiot, whose cries of woe and pain in the Guardian newspaper have served as the Greek chorus at each stage of the precipitous decline of the global green movement, gave voice to green grief at the prospect of a wealthy and prosperous century to come: “We were wrong,” he wrote on July 2,”about peak oil. There’s enough to fry us all.” Monbiot now gets the politics as well:
There is enough oil in the ground to deep-fry the lot of us, and no obvious means to prevail upon governments and industry to leave it in the ground. Twenty years of efforts to prevent climate breakdown through moral persuasion have failed, with the collapse of the multilateral process at Rio de Janeiro last month. The world’s most powerful nation is again becoming an oil state, and if the political transformation of its northern neighbour [a reference to Canada] is anything to go by, the results will not be pretty.
In other words, a newly oil rich United States is going to fight even harder against global green carbon policies, and the new discoveries will tilt the American political system even farther in the direction of capitalist oil companies.
Capitalism is not, Monbiot is forced to admit, a fragile system that will easily be replaced. Bolstered by huge supplies of oil, it is here to stay. Industrial civilization is, as far as he can now see, unstoppable.
Gaia, that treacherous slut, has made so much oil and gas that her faithful acolytes today cannot protect her from the consequences of her own folly.Go read the whole thing.