By Norman Pagett: The oilparty is over (and so is our food party)

oilparty is over

With denial of reality, we excavate the foundation of the cliff that we continue to climb.

With acceptance of reality (and wisdom), we would climb down while building a softer landing zone.


Our oil age will not end through lack of it, but by fighting over what’s left.

The critical nature of oil made WWII inevitable. To sustain their empires, the Germans and Japanese slaughtered their way across Europe and Asia in a grab for resources, primarily oil. They promised infinite prosperity and their peoples cheered them on while deaths elsewhere were being counted in millions. With most of the world’s known oil supplies in the hands of his enemies, Adolf Hitler knew he had to have the oilfields of southern Russia and the Middle East to sustain his war machine.

He failed, and his dream of a ‘Greater Germany’ collapsed not because of inferior soldiers but because there was insufficient energy input to sustain his plan for world domination.

We now have maybe 20 years worth of usable oil left. There are certainly no more than 30, perhaps as little as 10. If one of the crazy sects running loose in the Middle East managed to get hold of a nuclear device, setting it off on the Gharwar oilfield of Saudi Arabia would end our industrialised infrastructure overnight. That is perhaps too bleak a prospect, but we should not discount that notion entirely.

No one dares to stand up and make the rather obvious point that we are not going to reach 9 billion. Something has to give, and that giving is going to be very unpleasant.

For the moment, nature keeps us supplied with oil, and we’ve pulled off the neat trick of converting it directly into food. Not knowing when our oil is finished and our food supply will run out is the little teaser for the early 21st century. Right now, most people think that food comes from supermarket shelves and freezers, which is just as well. The food trucks moving around the country are basically mobile warehouses, delivering food just in time for it to be consumed. When the realization dawns that the food trucks have stopped, the food held in stock by retailers will be stripped bare in hours. The oil age for everyone will have come to an end.

The link between oil and the ability to eat is clear. The UK has to import 40% of its food, and much of the rest depends on oil to produce it, which also has to be imported. It is the end of the UK’s oil age, but few admit to it being the end of a food age as well.

As the UK detaches itself from Europe, under the delusion that the ‘great’ will be put back into Britain, the reality will hit home that without oil surplus, the UK will be reduced to a third world country at starvation level. British farms cannot feed 65 million people.

The same problem is being revealed in the current fiasco of the rest of the European union, Oil-fueled prosperity is falling dramatically in the poorer southern countries. Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal and a swathe of smaller nations have to import all their oil which only worked when oil was cheap. Now it’s expensive, and they are facing bankruptcy. 50 years of ‘unity’ is dissolving like a mirage in the face of the difficulties that smaller states are suffering. Without cheap oil, their economies cannot function, and so are disintegrating.

h/t Derek Peter Carne

7 thoughts on “By Norman Pagett: The oilparty is over (and so is our food party)”

  1. “steve from virginia Post author
    June 13, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Here is an article about Ajit Varki’s investigation of the mental organization or structure of denial (from Danny Brower’s original insight).

    Because we are able to push aside the reality of our own death on a day-to-day basis we have evolved a kind of cognitive adaptation, what Varki call the ‘Mind Over Reality Theory’.

    Rob Mielcarski sez:

    ” … a more powerful brain with an extended theory of mind becomes aware of mortality by observing common dangerous activities like hunting and childbirth, and this awareness of death causes depression and reduced risk taking, thus preventing the trait from being passed on to the next generation.”

    Because we are able to deny our own mortality we can get out of bed in the morning and go about our business stealing from others.

    Here is Varki, you’ve probably seen this before:

    Soddy is relevant because another primary drive is our counting of ‘wealth’ we don’t actually possess except in the form of abstract claims on imaginary (personal) ledgers, accounts that are usually but not always divorced from actual facts. These abstract accounts can exist outside of markets and are socialized, obligations condensed into ‘what we owe’ to other individuals, to organizations, institutions, governments, traditions, clans, tribes, gods, etc., behavioral claims we seem compelled to lodge against ourselves.

    There is more to Varki than I have space for and for the most part I don’t disagree too much. I rather think we are the creatures of our narrative myths, that these myths caused our brains to evolve certain ways which in turn led to more evolutionary steps. It isn’t so much death that drives us but rather the ability to operate outside of fairly constrictive biological evolutionary channels while we are alive that causes the problem.

    I’ll take those hundred negative pigs, thank you!


  2. You don’t need to read the book (“The End of More”). This article sums up the authors view well enough. The book is an exercise in…how many ways can you say the same thing, rinse and repeat.
    While I agree with much of what is said, there are some glaring errors in the authors view. He states “ input means oil. Nothing else carries the same energy density.” Wrong. There are a number of known forms of primary energy including another well-used (although lately unpopular) fossil fuel he barely talks about, namely Coal. But if you want to talk energy density, then Uranium has an energy density only about 1.7 million times higher than that of oil distillates (Diesel, Gasoline, Kerosene etc). Whether we like it or not, our future will have to be mostly nuclear powered.
    The author also doesn’t mention that we’ve had about 50 years of oil left for about the past 50 years. But let’s not let any facts get in the way of a good story.


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