Reality Blind - Vol. 1

human eyes have seen their last sunset, even if that happens in 10 million years. In 3345C.E. humans might still be “using oil” when someone dips a stick into a natural oil seep to make a to rch. What we’re concerned about now is our current way of life, which is based to a huge degree on the burning of oil in enormous quantities. And not JUST the burning of oil in enormous quantities, but in enormous quantities which increase in enormity every decade. And not JUST burning oil in enormously increasing quantities but being able to do so while becoming richer at the same time in monetary claims, year-after-year. We’re not just “addicted to oil” in the phraseology of many past US presidents. We’r e addicted to cheap oil that increases in volume every year. Clearly, if oil were $400/bbl, some people could still afford it. The contrails of Middle East royalty would still cross the skies, as would military planes of many nations. But who else would? The farmers? The truckers who bring food to you? You? And just how would that happen? Certainly, the economic models of many contemporary things from airlines to Walmart to Amazon are extremely sensitive to oil price fluctuations and hiatus.

What would a society based on $400 bbl oil look like?

This turns out to be a set of questions with a lot of variables. For instance, could a society based on $400 oil afford for the middle class to all own cars? What about maintaining the roads? Clearly, the flow rate of oil into the human economy must at some point peak and decline, since on human time scales it’s a finite resource which is getting progressively more energy remote. When will that be? From a human point of view, it will be a big deal whenever it happens , because we are now primarily an oil-powered system, and that inflection point will mark a transition from “more wealth and options every year” to “less wealth and options every year.” So, when does that happen? 2050? 2150? 2300? Next year? That would be good to know, because a LOT of the underpinnings of our economies have “baked in” the assumption of copious oil energy, based on demand. An alternate question might be: at what point might the real cost of oil begin to affect what we can and can’t do, as individuals and societies? In a way it has already been sneaking up on us. There are some things which were possible for societies to do back when oil was $5/bbl: fly a supersonic airliner. Land men on the moon. Fly in a regular airliner with 70% of the seats empty. Raise a family in the middle class with a car, a house, and only one average income. Drop a V8 engine into any car and fill it with 25-cent gasoline. Build huge dams and bridges, and a national highway system.


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