Peak Oil is the greatest story never told. Even though Peak Oil
is the central fact driving the wars and economic crises of our
time, it is seldom mentioned in the mainstream corporate news.
Peak Oil (also known as the Big Rollover or the Long Emergency)
is when demand for oil outstrips supply because the halfway point
of the planets oil deposits has been passed. Halfway
is a misleading word in this context. Most of the oil thats
still left in the ground will be staying there, because it takes
more oil energy to get it out of the ground than it yields. The
oil and natural gas is no longer worth the drilling or pumping.
Petroleum geologists reckon that the world oil peak will be sometime
between 2005 -2010. The majority of non-OPEC producers such as the
United States, Britain, Norway, and Mexico, who satisfy 60 percent
of world oil demand, are already in a production plateau or decline.
A leading guru, Colin Campbell (ex of Shell and Total Fina Elf)
reckons 2007. Are we preparing for it? Are we readying ourselves
to radically change our lifestyles and energy consumption? Of course
The bottom line is this: humankind is entering a whole new era.
One in which every year from, say, 2007, there will be less and
less net energy available to us no matter what we do (Alternative
energy sources are nowhere near developed enough, or invested in,
to compensate). The last time anything like this happened was the
collapse of the ancient civilizations. The Maya, the Romans, the
Greeks; these civilisations ended when their strategies for energy
capture - be it slaves, coal or topsoil - became subject to the
law of diminishing returns.
Industrial society is the name given to the world that built itself
first on coal and then on oil. When oil becomes scarce and then
runs out it will be the collapse of industrial society. Massive
social change is coming.
In The Partys Over - Oil, War and the Fate Of Industrial
Societies, Richard Heinberg refers to the present epoch as
the Petroleum Interval or the Petrol Bubble. The Stone Age lasted
for millennia, the Bronze Age nearly a couple of thousand years,
but the epoch in which humans discover oil then totally re-shape
society around oil, and then run out of the stuff will be about
The implications in terms of food are pretty terrifying. Since
the 1960s it has been true to say that food equals oil. In 1944
the average US farm produced 2.3 thousand calories of food for every
calorie of fossil fuel inputs. In 1974 the ratio became 1:1, in
our own time there are no reliable statistics but it may be as much
as 1000 calories of oil-energy to produce as each calorie of food
energy, given that nitrogen fertilizers are made from natural gas,
(itself a by-product of oil); pesticides and insecticides are synthesised
from oil, tractors and combines run on diesel, and then theres
plastic packaging, refrigeration and four-figure food miles. As
Heinberg says, in terms of energy return on energy invested,
industrial agriculture is the least efficient food distribution
system the world has ever known. Hoe and scythe classes anyone?
So the days of the out-of-town Tescos and Wal-Marts are numbered.
But the bad news is that survival on planet earth could get a lot
more difficult for about two-thirds of its inhabitants. The population
boom at the beginning of the 20th century, boosting humans from
1.7 billion to 6 billion was the result of cheap abundant energy
supplies helping to underpin massive expansion of agricultural production.
With oil about to become a rare as arctic carp, the earths
carrying capacity ie the total population it can support
- will plunge back down to pre-industrial levels... or maybe lower
still since we no longer know how to farm, and have thoughtfully
covered most of the Grade 1 arable land with UGC multiplex cinemas.
So why arent we hearing more about this story then? On the
quiet, Governments and Energy corporations admit the basic truths
of the situation - Exxon Mobils recent report, The Outlook
for Energy: A 2030 View, forecasts a peak in just five years
- but nobodys shouting about it. Simply put, its because
its in all the major players interests to lie about
it. The oil companies (publicly at least) downplay the problem because
oil-producing countries will hike the price if they know they have
BP and Exxon over a barrel. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) lie about their reserves, claiming they are larger
than they really are, because OPEC members agree to produce only
a certain percentage of their reserves per year, and each money-hungry
member wants to cheat by producing more - thus leading to the over
generous estimates. Governments of oil-producing countries
also want inflated reserves so as to boost investment and help each
oligarchy to shore up its power base, not too mention getting US/UK
arms and military training for free. Other governments lie about
Peak Oil because they dont want to appear powerless, or provoke
There is also the psychology of denial. Protecting the status quo
is so much easier for politicians looking ahead all of three or
four years. Not wanting to face social change, governments instead
want to believe in the techno-fix. Hydrogen, nuclear
and zinc are all hailed as the saviours of industrial capitalism.
But there are no hydrogen reservoirs. Hydrogen fuel-cells are made
using fossil-fuels. You use as much fossil fuel energy to create
each hydrogen fuel cell as you get from it. Hydrogen can be used
to store wind and wave energy, but it is a carrier of energy (like
electricity) not a source of energy. The nuclear energy cycle not
only produces too much carbon in its mining, milling, processing,
storage and decommissioning, but needs vast fossil fuel inputs as
only 0.7% of natural uranium mined is the fissile U-253 needed.
Zinc-air fuel cells have yet to attract enough attention or big-time
But theres one other reason for the big Peak Oil omerta*,
which unites all of the above liars and the news networks. The potential
collapse of the banking system. In the windfall energy years of
the Petrol Bubble, more and more energy has been available each
and every year. This has led to an economic system built on the
assumption of growth. Large scale energy shortages would soon put
a stop to that.
Societies will have to junk the preset debt-and-interest monetary
system for a matter-and-energy accounting system, or some other
kind of ecological system which acknowledges the finite nature of
resources. This may not be a bad thing of course, but you can tell
those with power are going to find the most painful route to arrive
at that conclusion.
Any road up, the present financial system cannot survive net-energy
decline. Less and less available energy means less economic activity.
In the present banking system most money is created by making loans.
But if there is less and less economic activity then there are less
and less loans and so theres no tidy wedge to pay interest
on the old loans, nor anyone to pay the loan sharks to come round
yer house, nor oil to make the resin to stop the baseball bat from
cracking on yer skull. And without these two mainstays its
* SchNEWS VocabWatch: OMERTA - A rule or code that prohibits speaking
or divulging information about certain activities, especially the
activities of a criminal organization.
Crap Arrest of the Week
For nicking a policeman!!!
One daring SchNEWS reader was nicked for stealing a life-size carboard
cut - out of a cop! The theft took place in a branch of Morrisons,
Newcastle-under-Lyme. SchNEWS wonders what the accused had planned
for the Cardboard Cop when he stole it...answers on a postcard to
the usual address.
Another botched water privatisation hit the headlines this week
when the Tanzanian government booted City Water (The Worlds
Choice in Water Treatment) out of their country. The consortium
of UK and German firms was supposed to be running a World Bank and
UK funded programme to increase access to drinking water in the
capital, Dar es Salaam. As a result of being shown the door, company
bosses are now threatening to sue the Tanzanian government for breach
of contract, even though theyve failed to install any water
Over the past seven years the UK Department for International Development
has bunged Margaret Thatchers fave think tank the Adam
Smith Institute - £36m to come up with market
solutions to global poverty. £1/2m went their way for the
Tanzania water privatisation plan. How did they spend £277,000
of this money? On a pro-privatisation pop video which sang Our
old industries are dry like crops and privatisation brings the rain!
Not that the song will be making the top 40 in a country where only
one in a hundred people have got a video player
As the Worlds 15th poorest country Tanzania has been forced
to adopt the usual IMF/World Bank package of reformscutting
government expenditure, food subsidies and privatising everything
in sight. The countrys debt is £4bn, but the government
only has £750m to spend each year, including a mean £3m
on education. So if the Tanzanians arent winning who is? Not
City Water. Weve only declared a 10% profit says
UK Chief Executive Cliff Stone, we cant make super-profits
here. Whether 10% profit is super or not, SchNEWS
wonders whether theyll be declaring the whereabouts
of the missing £2.5m they should have invested in Tanzania
over the first two years of the project. 020 7737 6215 www.wdm.org.uk
Repression continues in Orissa, India where the tribal people are
fighting corporations and government who want to develop
the region. After a demonstration last week against a proposed steel
refinery 25 people are in prison and 300 people have arrest warrants.
This has forced 13 villages to flee to the hills and forests in
terrible heat, leading to the death of two young children and two
men who were injured in the police charge.
The threat of forced displacement without any alternative livelihoods
and loss of ancestral lands have led to a strong resistance - as
far back as in 1996, the local people successfully stopped the establishment
of a plant by Steel Plant at the same site. Amidst police repression
and growing tension in the region, tribal lands sit on some of the
most valuable mineral deposits including iron ore, bauxite and coal.
For the last six months, Kashipur has been turned into an armed
camp of police working on the behalf of the Utkal Alumina Ltd (see
SchNEWS 487). As one protestor put it
State repression is being unleashed upon them on behalf of
the corporate sector which needs the land traditionally occupied
by the tribals. www.saanet.org
* Guerrero, Mexico: An environmental campaigners family
was ambushed by troops working for local political bosses killing
two of his teenage last week. Albertano Penalosa belongs to the
anti-logging group The Peasant Ecologists of the Petatlan
Sierra who are fighting for their land against the
local leaders - caciques - who run the stitch ups between
the local military, police, courts and big business. www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0524-05.htm
Rachid Ramda is Britains longest serving remand prisoner.
The young Algerian has been held for eight years without charge
or trial in Britains Guantanamo style gulag
HMP Belmarsh. He spent the first six of these in in solitary confinement
for 23 hours a day in what Gareth Peirce, his solicitor, called
a concrete coffin. Now in his tenth year of captivity
hes facing extradition to France on an accusation of financing
the Paris Metro Bombings in 1995.
* Monday 30th May Justice For Rachid Downing Street
Demonstration 2-3.30pm www.stoppoliticalterror.com/ramda.php
NO GO ROAD SHOW
Building new roads offers at best temporary relief from
traffic congestion. It is now accepted by almost everyone apart
from the DoT that new roads generate new traffic
existing roads will have much the same effect.
Who do you think said this? Was it a wide-eyed environmentalist
being bundled from the site of a 90s road protest? Or was it the
Labour Party, in its 1994 environment policy document In Trust
Well done anybody who was able to remember this is what the Labour
Party once had to say about road building - although 11 years, one
fuel protest, a concerted backlash, and several thousand miles of
tarmac later, you could be forgiven for forgetting.
Despite the incredible victory of trashing the 90s roads programme,
a huge building programme is being quietly resurrected, fuelled
largely by business lobbies and local councils, whose transport
policy often amounts to little more than a wish list of new road
More than 90 road schemes have been approved as part of the Local
Transport Plan (LTP) system since 2000 alone, and over 90 more trunk
road and motorway widening projects. There are also loads of new
roads being considered right now as part of the next 5 year LTPs.
Many schemes may also be built through PFI in dodgy developer deals.
The government has almost abandoned any pretence at curbing traffic
growth and is now predicting a 40 per cent increase in road transport
by 2025 more than ten million vehicles.
Does anybody in government, regional assemblies, quangos or local
authorities worry about all this? At least one does, and, believe
this, its the Highways Agency. It recently disagreed with
the draft East of England Plan, saying that even with the 60 road
schemes planned for the region there would be gridlock in a few
While bus and rail fares both rose by over 30% in real terms since
1980, the actual cost of motoring is still below the 1980 level
Rebecca Lush, of anti-roads alliance Road Block, told SchNEWS After
the protests of the 1990s, people power won. The Conservatives slashed
their roads programme, while Labour distanced itself, talking about
sustainable transport instead.
However, there has been significant back sliding from the
We won the arguments, it is universally accepted by all transport
planners, academics, the government itself, that road building is
costly and futile. A lot of the roads are still in the planning
stage, where they can be defeated more easily through radical, joined-up
campaigning. Already there has been direct action at a Public Inquiry
into a massive London motorway bridge, which led to the Inspector
Road Block was set up to recreate the unity which existed
in the 1990s, to supply groups with easy to use ammunition to fight
road schemes, ideas on campaign tactics and to publicise this enormous
U-turn by Labour and, crucially, to help to tackle carbon emissions.
Road Block is organising a national conference for those opposing
roads, in Birmingham, on June 4. An ideal opportunity to meet people
opposing road schemes all over the country, share ideas and compare
Roadblock - 01803 847649 www.roadblock.org.uk
SchNEWS in brief
- Get clued up about the G8 with a Day School at Brighton
Cowley Club this Saturday 11am onwards www.cowleyclub.org.uk
- Anti capitalist comedian Rob Newman will be performing at the
East Oxford Community Centre as a benefit for anti G8 mobilisations.
Saturday (28th) 7.30pm
- The anti G-8 clown army Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination
are in London this weekend with training Saturday and Sunday
at Boiler Room - back of Peoples Palace, Queen Mary University
London, Mile End Road E1 4NS. To book a place email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For all the tour dates www.labofii.net/tour05
- The Colombia Solidarity Campaign will be protesting outside
the West Ham - Preston Championship play offs at the Cardiff Millennium
Stadium this Monday (30th). Not because they think the teams are
shit but because of the sponsorship of the Championship by Coca-Cola
and their complicity in the assasination of Colombian trade unionists.
Meet 1.30 pm by the Nye Bevan Statue, Queen Street email@example.com
- Vampire Lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden was treated
to a Samba Band demo outside his offices in Greys Inn Square,
London. Cruttenden specialises in using anti-stalker legislation
against pressure groups and protesters, including SHAC and Smash
EDO (see SchNEWS 492)
- Theres a Smash the Injunction public meeting next
Tuesday (31) 7pm Friends Meeting House, Brighton - speakers include
Dave Morris from the McLibel Two www.smashedo.org.uk
- The Scum Fest punk chaos five day festival
starts next Wednesday 1st June with bands, workshops and of course
a scumbag Olympic games (Special Brew drinking championship?)
raising cash for worthy causes www.eroding.org.uk/brixtonscum.htm
- Theres a month long Radical Mapping Festival at
56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St, London, SE17 Check out the programme
- New SchMOVIE on the site Auchtapalavar
SchNEWS took a trip to Auchterarder, the scottish village two
miles from the Gleneagles Hotel where the G8 Summit is being held,
to chat with the locals about what its like to have the
Glastonbury of global capitalism park itself on your doorstep.Download
and screen as widely as possible.
A cheeky campaigner posing as a journalist, managed to smear carrot
and orange cake all over Alistair Darlings face on Tuesday
in the latest pie-ing incident. The Transport Minister was at a
launch meeting of the Future Heathrow group, a powerful
alliance who seek to convince people that it is possible to
develop Heathrow in a way that allows it to retain its premier position
and in a manner that is sensitive to environmental issues and the
needs of the local population. How do they do this? Well by
building more runways, destroying local villages, increasing traffic,
and helping to cause climate change by encouraging more air travel
The mainly elderly residents demonstrating outside the conference
were delighted by the action. John Stewart, chair of HACAN ClearSkies,
one of the groups organising the demonstration outside, said This
was one in the eye for Alistair Darling. It is quite inappropriate
that any Secretary of State should so publicly align himself with
any pressure group. It really calls into question his impartiality
and his judgement. SchNEWS reckons the Darling of the climate
change industries got his just desserts.
Check out www.hacan.org.uk
for more info.
SchNEWS warns all readers although we may be crude and not too
refined all our gas is natural... Honest!
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