Daily Podcast: Hairshirt Today, What Tomorrow?

daily podcast hairshirt today what tomorrow

I really do wonder about the clash of ideologies inherent in the green movement. I'm just about old enough to remember America's transition from seemingly boundless self-confidence and optimism (retro-actively captured by Donald Fagen's masterpiece The Nightfly) to cynicism, doubt, fear and self-loathing (typified by Buffalo Springfield's "Stop, hey what's that sound"). Automotively speaking, what greater contrast could you have than the bold, brash, befinned Cadillacs of the '50's vs. today's Kremlin-style DTS? But the wider point perplexes. Are we really supposed to be the generation that turns it back on conspicuous consumption in favor of social responsibility? While I am, at heart, a minimalist, I find the idea of peak oil and global warming and don't drive an SUV or a Ferrari 'cause you're killing my child, your child, everyone's children to be somehow antithetical to the American way. I know that the 50's weren't a lot of laughs for a lot of people, and that "the American way" as described revolts many people, but is it really so wrong to celebrate conspicuous consumption? While some– and I'm thinking Tesla here– capture the public imagination with a "cake and eat it too" solution, I'm not so sure we can have it both ways. Nor am I sure I can give up the things I love for the greater good. Just sayin'.

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  • Malcolmmacaulay Malcolmmacaulay on Aug 31, 2007

    NoneMoreBlack: "The dispute is the prediction about when that finiteness will become evident. The great economic historian Julian Simon’s work The Ultimate Resource describes the strongest argument against peak-anything theory. In short, no resource is ever truly exhausted, because human ingenuity always has and always will increase the efficiency of its production and find substitutes. The ultimate resource, therefore, is labor." I hope my posting didn't suggest that I think oil will just "run out" and innovation will cease. That's obviously not going to happen, as you say. Also I agree that historically there haven't been serious/significant peaks of any resource, which wasn't taken care of by new ideals, new ways and new resources. However, history may not be a good guide to the future. And if we are going to see a nasty peak, then oil/gas is an excellent candidate. It runs much of the world economy (transport, heating, agriculture, fertilisers etc) and demand is going to increase sharply (India, China et al). Innovation and constraints (CO2 etc) may save the day, but we certainly have the pedal-to-the-metal, so if there's a wall around the next corner, there could be nasty smash. cheers Malcolm

  • Donal Donal on Aug 31, 2007

    Unless we manage controlled fusion, the only naturally available substances with the energy density to replace fossil fuels are the radioactive ores that power nuclear fission reactors. Once the peaks of NG and oil become clear, I think our fearless leaders will override the obvious safety concerns and sink a lot of tax revenue into nuclear plants. Whether or not nukes are a real solution there is much money to be made both building and decommissioning them. Same goes for ethanol, wind, solar, waves. In short, we'll try anything before conservation.

  • Guyincognito Guyincognito on Aug 31, 2007

    Even without serious economic motivation people are developing alternatives to oil. I believe this is because there still does exist that drive in people to do something no one else ever has or better than anyone has regardless of the risks. I think this is an important driving force in the development of geen technologies and yet also in our desire to have huge SUV's/big Macs/McMansions.

  • NoneMoreBlack NoneMoreBlack on Aug 31, 2007

    malcolmmacaulay: I think I misread your tone slightly; I didn't mean to put any arguments in your mouth. Sticking to this one, however, I don't see any empirical reason to believe that oil is going to pan out any differently from any other resource. Even today, vast reserves are being explored and groomed for extraction that were considered impossible even 10 years ago, due to a combination of new technology and high energy prices raising the incentive for discovery. As much as 2/3rds of the world's reserves of oil, for instance, are held in tar sands and shale. Even if there is some kind of instantaneous, permanent worldwide increase in demand for petroleum, prices will simply rise to ration it until such a time as we can tap new reserves which previously were inviable.

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