[KyotoMotors Blog Post #11]
We hear a lot of promises in our lifetimes. It’s the nature of marketing, and the nature of politics, and – if you want to get down to it – it’s the nature of our faith in Progress that we believe a good many of them, even when we should know better.
When I was young, the year 2000 loomed large, and everything was going to be about space travel and robots. If you’re older than me, maybe you expected heli-ports and rocket packs in this future that has since passed. Of course, what we got was nothing of the sort – not even a good old fashioned apocalypse branded as “Y2K”.
To be fair, we do have the internet, and hand-held devices that would shame the best technicians aboard the original Starship Enterprise. So we’re pretty good at telecommunications and data storage that run on an infrastructure of satellites and rare earth elements.
What we also have is a host of unforeseen consequences converging to form the mother of all predicaments for the current incarnation of civilisation. Atop the list is probably climate change caused by industrial activity and several resultant positive feed-back loops that accelerate the phenomenon, such as shrinking polar ice mass, and methane-released by melting permafrost.
Another global problem surrounds energy, and the challenge of accessing enough of it to maintain normal operations for the global economy (including the operation of the internet and those hand-held devices, not to mention our beloved automobiles). That we face increasingly dire challenges to maintain the levels of energy that we have grown accustomed to, is not commonly spoken about in polite society. Instead, at all costs, we tend to look to the art of promise, and the faith in technological progress in order to convince ourselves that this challenge simply isn’t – simply must not be – true. Why, just recently I’ve been reading about a new era of energy independence dawning in America. Fracking, it seems, has come to answer our energy prayers, so that we can all continue to enjoy 20th century levels of extravagance and specialisation that defines our civilisation.
Well, don’t shoot the messenger, but have I got news for you: Some serious questions have arisen surrounding the validity of the hype. Fracking, it would seem, may not be all it’s cracked up to be. It may rather be yet another in the string of dubious promises we conjure up for mass consumption while avoiding the hard questions pertaining to the hard limits to growth set by Nature herself. Worse still, the whole shale oil bonanza may well prove to be the latest in a string of economic bubbles that characterise our troubled economy.
I’m not making this stuff up, so don’t credit me with the foresight… There are a number of commentators who seem to have connected the dots, and now there’s a concise book written on the subject: Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future by Richard Heinberg. [http://www.resilience.org/resource-detail/1789950-snake-oil-how-fracking-s-false-promise ]
It appears the fracking industry is following the familiar pattern of a classic economic bubble, which like a pyramid scheme, leaves most investors in the lurch with a sense of having been duped out of however much money they were hyped into investing. Like the recent housing bubble, a bubble in fracking would be closely tied to our troubling insistence on furthering the consumptive patterns of car-oriented living arrangements and expectations (entitlement). Like the housing bubble, the fracking instalment of this tragi-farce will be shrouded in layers of denial and hand-waving-insistence that such a thing is impossible -- It is somehow always “different this time”-- until, of course, the whole thing has burst.
For me, what is different this time, is that I am comfortably in the camp that sees it coming, and will do the only thing I can do about it, and that’s to call it as I see it. There’s nothing that can be done to stop it from happening – this sucker will go down – but there is at least the possibility of keeping your money safely away from unsound fracking investments.
After it does go down (within a year or two) think back to this blog and remember that checking in to Kyotomotors wasn’t such a bad idea! You may also want to get to know the issues a little more closely by visiting sites like the Post Carbon Institute’s www.resilience.org , which serves as a hub for lots of great info on alternatives worth pursuing…
Meanwhile, as the summer fades, and autumn sneaks in a little closer every morning, I will make every effort to resume regular posts here at kyotomotors. I will start by asking , what is a "kyoto motor" and offer a number of ways of answering the question next week.
Please stay tuned.