One Hundred and Fifteen and still counting

Oil is now $115 per barrel. We ‘re all going to hell in a handbasket. By the time STFC’s problems are sorted, Western Civilisation will have collapsed anyway. Sorry, got to go now, teaching my kids how to use a bow and arrow.

11 Responses to One Hundred and Fifteen and still counting

  1. onlooker says:

    Oh no it wont.

    Keep a sense of proportion. In my lifetime I have seen the Suez debacle, the Cuban missile crisis, the Cold War, the 73 and 79 oil price shocks, flared trousers, the Club of Rome, the winter of discontent, the miners’ strike, the poll tax riots, Black Wednesday, and three different boom-and-busts in house prices and share values. And here we are, much more healthy and wealthy than when we started. And with ten times as many astronomers.

    The future doesnt look too bad either. Global warming now seems to be manageable. It turns out that we are not near a tipping point – the Gulf Stream wont switch off, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet wont melt. If we let things rip and do nothing, present projections say that by 2100 we will be spending 5-10% of (a very much larger) GDP on dealing with the consequences. If we do absolutely nothing. Doesnt sound like the end of the world. And presumably we will do something.

    The same goes for the immediate subject of your post. This is in part due to the general scramble for resources by China and India, but in the case of oil there are other sources of energy such as nuclear and solar which market forces will bring these into play. And in any case, energy costs are a declining fraction of GDP. The main result of this resource scramble will be that hundreds of millions of people in the developing world will continue to be lifted out of poverty.

    Much of this hand-wringing is like saying “Well, I’ll never get in a motor car. I’ve seen people driving them and they hold the steering wheel central. Mark my words, when they come to a corner it will all end in tears”. Linear extrapolations in complex systems are usually wrong.

  2. andyxl says:

    Dear Onlooker : I hope you are right. My instinct is that you are right about everything except the oil problem; you are right in principle but the trouble is we have left it too late. Changing the global infrastructure and solving the necessary technical problems will take several decades, whereas oil demand is overtaking supply right now. Yes, the current oil price is actually because of a scramble for resources, but thats exactly the point. The problem is not oil poverty (that won’t hit us for decades) but oil instability. Things will get nasty ages before we run out. But perhaps invading Iraq was all about democracy; perhaps the Americans hate Chavez purely he’s a bit whacko.

    Suez ? Jeez. You am older than me.

  3. Tony says:

    Nice to know my ten years as an archer will come in handy – as long as all the animals have multicoloured concentric rings painted on them and they stand still while I get my range.

    I reckon food problems are more pressing than oil at the moment – who thought we’d see rice rationed in the US! Let them eat McDonalds!

  4. Dan says:

    Storm the museums. My friend had an idea for a science fiction novel, which he never wrote of course, that when civilisation collapsed museums were the only repositories of the practical knowledge of how to live. A few years ago a I read in a little museum pamphlet that no-one really knows how pre-historic people lit fires. That was before Ray Mears.

  5. Dan says:

    Oh, and energy security. A lucrative and altruistic reason for doing physics?

  6. andyxl says:

    My nuclear physics chums think they might be in the money now. But only if they start doing nuclear engineering rather than messing about with that nuclear astrophysics stuff.

  7. MartinE says:

    Rice rationing in the US? I must have blinked and missed it. Luckily the Daily Show team did in depth reporting on this shocking new marketing development. Check out:
    You can rely on those guys.

  8. andyxl says:

    Golly Gosh. Is that sort of scurrilous humour still legal in the US ?

  9. MartinE says:

    I try to let all my non-American friends know about the Daily Show (and, for the advanced only, the Colbert Report: really, it’s a satire, honest!). There are those of us who don’t actually like the crap we’re fed.
    ps i think Andy and on-looker are both right: a big part of the non-linear mechanism is people like Andy getting upset enought to do something about impending doom. that’s how feedback works.

  10. andyxl says:

    Crikey. You mean my life is not a sad waste after all ?

  11. Tony says:

    ((Rice rationing in the US? I must have blinked and missed it.))


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