You wouldn’t expect that a detailed and reasoned analysis of the current energy and (US) economic crisis by an actuary [a statistician who computes insurance risks and premiums] would lead you to the conclusion that we may be much closer than we think to a situation where “Eighty or ninety percent of us will again need to work in manual food production without fossil fuels”.
Well, Gail Tverberg is an actuary with an interest in finite-world issues – oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply. She writes one of the most sensible and compelling blogs (Our Finite World) on the state of the world and its implications for the future.
Yesterday she took a look at the reasons behind the current US government shutdown and the negotiations on extending their debt limits, and came to the conclusion that:
“We can think that the growth of human systems, including the economy, will go on forever, but we are almost certainly kidding ourselves. At some point, when Nature decides, new species will dominate–perhaps plants that can use more CO2. The transition will be the transition Nature dictates.
We are kidding ourselves if we think that we can decide to slowly reduce oil and fossil fuel usage over the next 40 or more years. If oil prices drop to, say, $30 barrel because of debt defaults, oil production will drop very quickly–not based on some slow decline curve. Natural gas and coal prices will drop dramatically too, essentially putting an end to their production. Jobs will disappear with the lack of fossil fuels. Eighty or ninety percent of us will again need to work in manual food production without fossil fuels. Education, government, and services of all kinds will shrink rapidly.
Nature is deciding for us right now what is ahead. We likely will have little choice in the matter. If we do have a choice at all, it is likely to be in the direction of serious back-pedaling, in terms of population, and in terms of learning to live essentially without fossil fuels. The future is likely to be very different from the past.”
Everyone should read the detailed analysis of the current situation and the ways in which it is likely to play out that brings her to the above conclusion. Some parts of it are complex, and all of it is information rich, but it is well written and well worth the effort to read it right through to the end. This isn’t any raving fringe prepper pushing doomsday theories – this is a sensible, well informed, professionally competent specialist in analysing risk taking a long hard look at where the current global problems are almost inexorably going to take us.