less available for the distant (or not so distant) future. This dynamic of consuming today what we couldn’t really affor d without credit applies to oil fields – but also to individuals, and entire countries.
TaaL: So how does “debt” affect energy and your future?
Well, here’s a metaphor: think of your society’s money system as a huge, half-assed load-following algorithm evolved to match energy consumption with need through feedbacks. Sort of like a really badly-designed thermostat, which mostly sort of works using money as a proxy for energy, but in a really Rube Goldberg way which should mandate smoke detectors. Still with me? OK, now imagine that the only people who can touch this thermostat are members of an entitled shaman tribe, and for reasons of their own, they believe it should always be set higher than it already is. Rinse and repeat. So in this metaphor, what they ’re turning up is the debt level, which “sucks forward” consumption of actual fossil energy with false signals of abundance and affordability, and your world heats up and your thermostat no longer functions anything like a thermostat; any natural feedbacks overridden by a set of flawed beliefs, as depletion approaches more rapidly and with a faster dropoff. There’s something Earth’s animals understand that human society has forgotten: the game of life is about stored, usable net energy…full stop. From the lucky innovation of mitochondria and ATP (animal life) to the discovery of fire (a life- nonlife symbiosis), life’s winners have almost always been those who could deploy energy when and where it was most useful. From the skirmishes of creatures on a coral r eef to World War II, it’s about chemical potential energy possession and the wherewithal to use it. Which, for humans, mostly means oil. This access accounts well, in my view, for the attributes of American exceptionalism. There may well be some vital spirit, some manifest destiny, some invisible hand, some inner majesty to the US of A…sure, why not?...but frankly the ascendance of the USA can be quite adequately explained in energy terms; the first to the oil, the least-damaged by world wars, and the powe r to significantly control other peoples’ energy. The USA has for quite a long time used roughly a quarter of the world’s oil energy for 5% of the world’s population.
The problem on the horizon is that you’re rapidly approaching a time in which the last in dustrialized nations with significant oil…”win”, where
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