Oil Age Wasteland


RE: Why Cheap Shale Gas Will End Soon | OilPrice.com

While the grim, subsistence level material conditions in which post-apocalypse humanity survives throughout the Mad Max films are truly dystopian, humanity’s ideological conditions in these films are considerably worse.

In these movies, civilization is set back a thousand years by the very technological advances and social developments that had pushed it so far into a limitless future of perpetual growth. However, the characters in these movies are animated and propelled by ideologies that shape and are then reshaped by a dead world—as if humanity could resuscitate some semblance of the old days—instead of using the conditions of limited fossil fuels as an opportunity to build a different kind of world.

Precisely because oil is the blood of capitalism, the ideology of cheap fossil fuels forever has to be so thick that we could spread it on bread and eat it like peanut butter.

Truly nutty, in every sense.

The truth is that the decline of fossil-fuel based (post)industrial economy is a much more likely threat to complex society than the nuclear war that rapidly simplifies Mad Max’s world.

And yet, it’s actually easier to think of our future in terms of nuclear war than in terms of the end of the age of oil.

Just consider the extent to which we’ve romanticized nuclear Armageddon in ways that make “going out with a bang” tragically sexy. By contrast, the world as we know it petering out simply by virtue of running its course as fossil fuels become too expense or difficult to produce is impossible to conceive. More to the point in terms of how we try to concieve the inconceivable—we have no touchstone narratives that make that kind of “end of the world” sexy at all.

Shale oil and gas abundance is magical thinking. (That “Energy Voters” commercial making the rounds on television is some of the purest, most effective propaganda going, because the number of people even considering that there may not be such a thing as an energy voter at all is too miniscule to consider.) And unless it’s so cheap that it’s practically free, “renewable energy” will not make up the difference so that we can continue driving cars (electric or otherwise), eating meat, and playing Candy Crush on smartphones. Or flying in planes for that matter. Or the luxury of throwing stuff away. Or the very idea of “stuff.”

The fact is that once fossil fuels are done, we’re done. Walmart, Disneyland, the Interstate Highway System … it’s all done. Meaning …

Industrial Man is done.

A future in which solar, wind, and other non-fossil fuels will be our only sources of energy is necessarily a substantially simplied future. This means that however much is left in the ground (which actually is more than we can imagine), ours is already an oil age wasteland.

So at some point, we will have to make other arrangements. The different sort of world for us all and different sort of life for each of us that comes from different sorts of values.

The inevitable alternative is Thunderdome. Tina Turner barking at Max as he slugs it out with some poor retard for a few drops of gasoline.

Thing is, in that fight, we’re the retard. And that helmet he wears? It blocks out all the alternatives he might otherwise see.

Given that, guess who the small, small man on the retard’s back is.


IMAGE SOURCE: By Vincent van Zeijst (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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