Nature in subjection

Where does it all end?

Habitat loss, pollution, desertification, over-population, vanishing topsoil, the resource crunch—it’s not just about climate change…Jonaton Schell

Jonathan Schell is an insightful writer and scholar. A man of many accomplishments. He has elegantly summed up my generation’s legacy to our children’s children in this quote:

“Taken in its entirety, the increase in mankind’s strength has brought about a decisive, many-sided shift in the balance of strength between man and the earth.”
“Nature, once a harsh and feared master, now lies in subjection and needs protection against man’s powers.”
“Yet because man, no matter what intellectual and technical heights he may scale, remains embedded in nature, the balance has shifted against him too, and the threat that he poses to the Earth is a threat to him as well.”

Believe it. Those cupfuls of oil add up. Whether you’re a climate change evangelist, a climate change sceptic or just in denial you can’t escape the fact that we’re fouling our grandchildren’s nest and squandering their heritage. Whether or not you believe that our output of greenhouse gas is contributing to climate change, it’s undeniable that the measures which need to be addressed in order to limit pollution and to husband non-renewable energy sources are the same measures as those which the proponents of anthropogenic climate change promote.

One world, one people, one chance

If nothing else disturbs you, contemplate the source of funding for Al Qaeda, Hamas, Abu Nidal, Islamic Jihad and dozens of other groups. Every time we buy petroleum based fuels we’re contributing to their cause. Those groups obtain most of their funding from oil money: mainly, but not exclusively, from Iran and from the USA’s bosom buddies in Saudi Arabia. We’re funding an openly declared war upon ourselves. A quote from the Middle East Forum in 2003:

“The Saudi government has admitted to spending more than $87 billion over the last decade in an effort to spread Wahhabism. This money has been spent on the creation of Mosques, schools, and other institutions that have constituted the breeding grounds for the foot soldiers of the global Islamic terrorist movement.”

“Political considerations, and oil, have prevented Washington from holding the Saudis accountable for their role in promoting terrorism.
A briefing by Rachel Ehrenfeld September 19, 2003

Eventually, the rising cost of oil is likely to be seen to have been a very good thing in every conceivable way. We only get one bite of the cherry.

Also on mistywindow

See David Roberts from Grist with a convincing climate change update and the resource crunch video:
There’s no tomorrow“,
a half-hour animated documentary about resource depletion, energy and the collision of infinite growth with the brick wall of a finite planet.

Prices are on the move—permanently


Basic food commodities are following oil’s exponential rise

It hasn’t made much impact on the news lately, but oil has been on a steady upward trend. That would’ve been big news if it hadn’t been for the even higher peak 3 or 4 years ago. It took a massive recession to deal to that.

The current glitch in the recovery has mitigated against the rise but chaos throughout the Middle East and speculation are nudging it up. Notwithstanding the outcome of political strife, growth in Brazil, China and India and the eventual US recovery are bound to force the price up.

OPEC could try pushing it down for their own ends but unless they can find some new substantial oil resources they won’t have much joy. Failing an unlikely agreement on meaningful and rapid action on tackling climate change sky-high oil is inevitable.

Unless the world economy collapses again, expect US$200 a barrel by 2015.

Good job too

Partly because of the cost of oil and partly because of increasing demand, other commodities are following suit. Brenda Cutress, New Zealand’s Food and Grocery Council executive director, estimated that between 25 and 30 percent of New Zealanders make their grocery choices on price alone.

“They are very, very price-driven, so that while you often hear about demands from some sectors for food labeling, or saying ‘do this’ or ‘do that’, there are some people who do not have the luxury of looking at labels. They buy on price, and it’s going to be really tough for them because they’ve cut their costs to the bone already.”

In other fortunate nations where people are affluent enough to buy groceries on a regular basis, I don’t imagine the situation is much different. Continue reading “Prices are on the move—permanently”

Cricket and cheap oil

Don’t get your hopes up either way

Unless you’re an American or you’ve been hiding under a very big rock you won’t have missed the unseemly glee with which various cricketing nations have greeted the demise of Australia’s perennial world champions at the hands of South Africa. The Proteas have beaten the Aussies for their first time ever in a test series in Australia. If they win the final test they’ll knock the Aussies off the world #1 pedestal where they’ve been since the old king died.

All this on top of the stunned Australian nation watching the victorious Kiwis thump the Kangaroos in the Rugby League World Cup final. It’s enough to make a dinkum Aussie swear off Fosters and take up chamomile tea. If you’re not an Aussie, enjoy the feeling while you can. The sporting world is littered with the festering corpses of sports folk who underestimated the Australian will to win.

The legendary Australian Book of Etiquette may be somewhat short but so too is the list of Aussie chokers. I predict with some confidence that their run of defeats won’t last long.

Just like oil at $40 a barrel

When oil was pushing $150 a barrel a few months ago I recall reading that the pundits’ predictions for the medium term ranged from $80 to $200 a barrel. Nobody predicted that the economic downturn would lead to it going below $50.

Not even your trusted blogger. I got it right about the economic meltdown, I even expected Helen Clarke’s relinqushment of the NZ Labour leadership. I did not expect to see oil south of $80 again.

Interesting to speculate upon why OPEC have allowed it to happen.

  • A big chunk of the peak was a result of speculation. That bubble has well and truly burst. Some investing biters have been bitten. Historically speaking, $40 a barrel is still not cheap, nevertheless if I had a million or two to spare I’d be partial to oil futures about now.
  • We can safely assume that OPEC don’t want to send the planetary economy into even more of a tailspin right now, so they’d be wise to keep their powder dry until the battle lines are clearer.
  • It’s also a fair bet that they don’t want to push oil prices up to the point that the USA, the European Union and Japan start getting serious about alternative energy. The Persian Gulf is hardly a hotbed of conservationism – they desperately need us to keep on burning that black stuff.
  • Nevertheless, the oil czars are not in the charity business. Don’t be surprised if those outlet valves are eased closed a smidgeon in the very near future.

I’m rather partial to prediction myself, so let’s look at some facts

  • Two billion people in China and India are still on a growth curve, albeit having slowed a little. Their oil consumption will probably increase steadily. Another couple of billion people in the emerging world are also aiming at living the high life. The pressure on the price of oil will increase.
  • Although oil pumping capacity exceeds demand right now, that happy situation for consumers will last months rather than years.
  • The OPEC folk really do want your dollars. How else would we in the West continue to fund Al Qaeda, Hamas, fundamentalist Islam and all the other hate groups whom we pay to hasten our own downfall?
  • Russia has climbed out of an economic mire on the back of high oil prices. They’ll be partial to staying out of it.
  • The Gulf states are heavily committed to some big spending to keep the peasants from revolting. Some are even running out of oil — are they happy right now?
  • Struggling Nigeria, Indonesia and Venezuela are hardly likely to be impressed with the status quo.

Just like the Aussie battlers, they’ll be back.

I’m punting for a stable oil price of at least US$100 a barrel within two years. Possibly within one year. If we had any common sense we’d be putting a tariff on it to bring it up there right now. Fat chance.

More about that soon.

Hmmm… anyone detect a bit of a trend here?