Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drill, Baby, Drill

Severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity.

That has been one of the core predictions we've been getting, and largely ignoring, from the climate science community for the past several years.

They keep telling us.   We keep ignoring them.   Must mine bitumen, must mine bitumen.

Now, thanks to fracking, America has discovered a bountiful reserve of conventional oil.   The U.S. is poised to blow past Saudi Arabia to become the biggest oil producer on the planet.   And, let's not forget about all that natural gas, supposedly enough to meet America's entire energy needs for more than a century.   With hydrocarbons like these, who needs alternative, clean energy?   Windmills, schwindmills!

The Americans are now even talking about exporting oil.   That seems a bit farfetched given that, even with its newfound production, Americans will still be reliant on some petroleum imports presumably including Canadian.  But who knows?

And, with that pesky ice rapidly vanishing from the Arctic, there may be vast oil resources there to exploit too.   Just imagine.

Imagine, yeah.   Imagine what's been going on the past few years.  Once in a century floods.   Once in a century droughts.   Once in a century megastorms.  Or at least we like to think they're "once in a century" if only because that carries some assurance we won't be seeing them again in our lifetimes.

But maybe they're not "once in a century" at all.   Maybe they're the new normal.   Maybe we'll be sent reeling from these catastrophic events once a decade or once every few years or once every other year.

So, how does all this new energy wealth fit in with that?   This energy, oil or gas, is nothing more than safely buried hydrocarbons brought to the surface to be burned and introduced to the atmosphere.   And if, as the climate types have finally convinced almost all of us, this sort of activity results in the severe storm events we've been experiencing of late, then presumably burning up all that new found carbon energy isn't going to make anything any better for life here on the surface - that means you.

Have you ever thought of what life, your life, is going to be like if we have megadroughts, like the one that's still going on in the mid-west and may linger through into next year's growing season, on a regular basis.   Forget about the economic loss, what happens to our foodstocks?

People don't like to hear this but anthropologists like Jared Diamond who have explored the collapse of past civilizations find that it's rarely a gradual process of decline.  That's why they describe it as "collapse."

Civilizations are, by their very nature, complex, intricate and, for all their prowess, remarkably vulnerable.  In part that results from assumptions that what obtained in the past will prevail into the future.  Past experience becomes the reality we project into our planning.   But if past experience is displaced by new conditions of sufficiently great impact the assumptions on which the ongoing civilization has been founded and continues to be built can fail us.

Which raises the question of why, since we have seen these impacts, the arrival of these severe storm and weather events of increasing frequency and severity; if we see the results of our already broken global hydrological cycle; why would we possibly think it's a great thing to exploit massive new sources of safely buried hydrocarbons and burn them to fuel the existing threat to our very civilization?

How did we become so childlike, so accepting of the most obvious contradictions and inconsistency, so unwilling to connect the dots?  I used to think we were succumbing to Andean fatalism but I was wrong.   The Andean mountain people don't delude themselves about the chance of being taken out in massive slides, they just reconcile themselves to their fate.   We're entirely different from them.   We know that it's not the mountain that's going to kill us, it's ourselves and our ways.   And the Andeans are honest about what could likely befall them and their iffy mortality.   We can't handle that either.   We can't and we don't.

If you want to see the future, you might get a glimpse in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.   Years ago American insurers stopped writing hurricane coverage, not just in Florida or the Gulf States, but all along the Eastern Seaboard and well inland right up to the Canadian border.   In other words, a lot of the damage and losses you'll be watching on your TV screens will be uninsured, uninsurable.   That will change a lot of lives.   There are people who can bear that hit "once in a century" maybe.   But there's only so much anybody can take.

Drill, baby, drill.

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