28 April 2010

Peak Oil? Peak Water? Peak Lithium? Peak Everything?

"Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions....By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine" _EarthDayThenandNow
If you are a political activist whose income depends upon real people (people with real jobs who actually work for a living) believing that the world is falling apart, then peak oil doom, climate catastrophe, and peak everything are custom-made for your needs. Just keep repeating the doom-messages -- in ever louder and more strident tones -- for as long as necessary in order to maintain the proper level of panic in the herd. The news and entertainment media will happily play along, because nothing is better for advertising sales than a crisis -- real or manufactured, it doesn't matter as long as people believe it.

The "Peak Oil Idiocy" is clearly not enough to move real people into stampeding, so perhaps a bit of "Peak Everything Idiocy" will do the job?
Peak Lithium

Lithium is the element at the heart of the electric car revolution that many green energy enthusiasts are trying to foment....

Peak Neodymium

Neodymium is a rare earth metal used extensively to produce permanent magnets found in everything from computer magnetic disks and cell phones to wind turbines and automobiles....

Peak Phosphorus

In the 1840s, scientists discovered that plants need the element phosphorus to grow. The phosphorus fertilizer industry grew rapidly, initially by exploiting vast deposits of seabird guano left on oceanic islands. Today phosphate rocks are mined to produce the fertilizer....

And so on. There really is no end to the possible "peaks" of resource scarcity. And yet . . . haven't we heard all of this before, many times? It is understandable if the activists and the media never get tired of repeating the same old alarm cries, but why do "responsible" politicians and academics get pulled into the maelstrom?

The famous 20th century debate and wager between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon should have taught us something.  Julian Simon spelled things out fairly clearly in his free online e-book The Ultimate Resource.

The ultimate resource is, of course, human ingenuity.  Human ingenuity explains how humans can reduce the amount of platinum in a catalytic device by 90% -- and still achieve superior catalysis!  Human ingenuity tells how humans can resurrect depleted oil fields, discover new oil fields where least expected, and turn non-oil resources into oil -- as well as substitute other forms of energy such as nuclear electricity where oil was once used.  Human ingenuity explains why any meaningful peak oil is more likely to be " peak demand" than peak supply.

Thomas Malthus was much smarter and more honest than the neo-Malthusians of today.  Today's resource doomers are in the doom business as much for the pornographic pleasure of envisioning widescale human suffering, as they are for the profit and power mongering.  Harold Hotelling understood something about the economics of substitution,  and the smarter humans of today will take the trouble to learn to pay attention to ongoing ingenious substitutions that are taking place.

One cannot take the greens' and neo-Malthusians' predictions of doom seriously -- not when they have been chanting the same rant over and over for more than 40 years.  Rather than handing over our hard-earned resources to cynical politicians, activists, and their criminal partners, it is time to start investing in human ingenuity first of all.  That is indeed the ultimate resource.

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Blogger kurt9 said...

I was a kid in the 1970's and heard all of these doomsday shit. Some of it was taught to us in school. I remember Jimmy Carter talking about the world of 2000 being poorer than the world of "today" (1977).

That's why I don't believe any of this shit today. The 1970's predictions turned out to be completely wrong. I see no reason to believe the current predictions will turn out any different.

There was one, exactly one environmental disaster that peaked in the 1970's and was solved by the 1980's. That was environmental Lead. Leaded gasoline was banned for all of the new cars that had catalytic converters installed on them. Lead paint and other Lead-containing products were banned a few years later.

Lead poisoning is well-known to be associated with reduced cognitive ability and violent behavior. Criminality is significantly reduced in today's America compared to that of Jimmy Carter.

The eviro-weenies never, ever talked about Lead poisoning. Lead was removed from gasoline for other reasons. It was later that Lead poisoning was discovered to be an issue and the enviro-weenies were not the ones to find it.

Wednesday, 28 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Most of the leg-breaking, bottle throwing shock troops of the dieoff lefty greens were not around to observe the failed predictions of their 1970s forerunners.

Lack of historical perspective is a cardinal feature of most dieoff lefty greens -- even the older ones.

Spooky how much the dieoff left resembles the world of Orwell's 1984 in its malleable approach to historical reality -- among other things.

Thursday, 29 April, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

Do you think the current crop of "die-off" academics are the grown students of the 1970's "limits to growth" academics? It would be interesting to trace this out.

Thursday, 29 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

The entire K-12 US government school curruculum is constructed by grown students of the 1970s limits to growth academics -- plus a few former lefty-domestic terrorists.

The self-deception of the limits to growth crowd became the "common wisdom" of every generation thereafter, thanks to widespread dissemination of their ideas via academic and popular culture.

Thursday, 29 April, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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