Ignoring the Writing on the Wall?

The current US president, George Bush, is trying to kickstart a slowing economy, amid fears of a US recession -- which could quickly translate into a global recession. In our globalised world, nations are highly interdependent, which translates to vulnerability, especially for those on the bottom rungs of the ladder.

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns that the 'life blood' of our economies -- the oil production that pumps energy out of the depths and onto our roads, our shelves and our plates -- is waning. In many respects (think global warming) this should be cause for an emphatic "thank goodness", but filling the gap between a drop in oil supply and the exponentially rising growth curve of energy demands is a challenge most wholly underestimate. Have a look around your own home, and try to locate something that hasn't required fossil fuels to bring it to you.

The most optimistic expect a peak in oil supplies in around 2037, which on its own, in order to prepare, would necessitate a social restructuring the likes of which the world has never seen. Others believe the peak has already passed us by, which, if correct, translates to an impending global catastrophe -- particularly now as nations like China are just coming 'online'. What is the best politics has to offer in this preparation so far? Are political leaders urging conservation, and incentivising a move to a low-carbon economy? Are they looking carefully at the folly of mass transit food swaps and our destructive and energy intensive agricultural systems? Here's the latest from the world's leading economy -- more pressure on environmental resources, and downwards pressure on the poor in both the US and beyond:

Click for full cartoon Courtesy: Throbgoblins
Almost a third of the U.S. grain crop next year may be diverted from the family dinner table to the family car as fuel, putting upward pressure on food prices, a leading expert warned on Tuesday.

Grain prices are near record levels as the United States produces more ethanol, now made mostly from corn, to blend with gasoline and stretch available motor fuel supplies.

Farmers, hoping to cash in, are expected to grow 30 percent of next year's grain crop for ethanol use as more refineries that process corn into fuel come online, according to Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and long-time critic of using food grains for fuel.

... The pressure on food prices from ethanol will only get worse as the new energy law passed last month requires U.S. ethanol production to soar from about 9 billion gallons this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

"What we see are cars beginning to compete with people for world grain supplies," Brown said. "We could see a consumer revolt in this country."

Brown said that an SUV with a 25-gallon tank filling up with ethanol would use enough grain, about 560 pounds (254 kg), to feed the average person for one year. -- Reuters

How much of the US grain harvest will be used for fuel in 2010? 2011?

Watch the clips below, an interview with one of the world's leading Peak Oil experts, Richard Heinberg, to gain some insights on the implications of this continuing trend to drive, come hell or high water.



What I'd really like to know is where are the forward-thinking planners in all this? Rather than the 'grow the economy' mantra, where are those seeking to 'stabilise the economy', to shore up against vulnerabilities and work to protect our futures? Everyone knows industry influence, from corporations like ExxonMobil (the richest corporation ever to have existed) and Monsanto are deeply embedded in the decision-making process of the Oval Office. Those that have lined their pockets by destroying the planet are still pushing their agenda into policy decisions. Without a dramatic shift in how political parties function, the revolving door of industry members heading into politics, and politicians retiring into industry, will see this continue.

Centuries ago the dominant 'political system' was feudalism -- power rested with the wealthy, as did the fate of peasants and serfs beneath. Not a lot has changed in real terms since those days, they've just taken on a new white collar economic form -- it's called corporate feudalism (PDF). Democracy is for sale, it seems, and with it the security you hope for yourself and your family. We either have to change the system, or personally prepare as best we can. Either way, we need to start paying attention to the writing on the wall.

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  • Posted on Jan. 19, 2008. Listed in:

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