A series of tweets today suddenly reminded me of the scenes towards the end of Apollo 13. The critically damaged spacecraft hurtles towards home; inside, the three astronauts huddle, shivering, watching the world getting awfully big in Odyssey’s window.
In the simulator in Houston, Ken Mattingley desperately tries to figure out the sequencing for powering up the command module prior to re-entry, only to fail time and time again as the craft’s systems demand more power than the depleted batteries can supply.
Ken, you’re telling me what you
need. I’m telling you what we
have to work with at this point.
I’m not making this stuff up.
They’re gonna need all these
We do not have the power, Ken!
We just don’t have it.
Over the last century or so we have, collectively, burnt our way through half the planet’s oil reserves (while those who dared to mention ‘peak oil’ were lambasted and derided).
In November 2010, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finally acknowledged that production of conventional crude oil peaked — in 2006.
Most of the easiest oil to get at, the proverbial ‘low-hanging fruit’, is gone.
Which is why the oil industry is having to drill ever deeper under the sea — incidentally risking immense oil spills, such as the one that the Gulf of Mexico has yet to recover from; it’s why vast tracts of forest wilderness are now being devastated and entire mountains are being systematically destroyed; it’s why we’re now hearing this word ‘fracking’ (the first time I heard about fracking I thought it was a reference to Battlestar Galactica).
I strongly suspect there are some people who are actually happy that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than previously thought — because there’s oil underneath it, and, without ice cover, ships and oil rigs can more easily “drill, baby, drill”.
Yes, there’s still oil — but it’s no longer cheap to get it.
Fuel protestors are meeting today to stage a go-slow on major routes towards Cheshire’s Stanlow oil refinery, where they plan to impose a blockade. They’re gathering (and burning up fuel to do it) to protest against the high cost of fuel — but what do they expect to achieve? The BBC reports that “organiser Ian Charlesworth said their aim was to get the government to reduce fuel tax duty by 24p a litre“.
Even if their action succeeds, and the UK government agrees to this demand, the reduction in the cost at the pumps will only be temporary. When demand is rising, supply is falling, and extraction costs are increasing, there is only one direction in which fuel prices can go.
If there’s fault, it can’t all be laid at the government’s feet; in the ‘civilised West’ we are all responsible for choosing those who lead us (well, in theory, at least). The culprits are: all of us, collectively. We’re beginning to pay the price for our lack of foresight, our lack of planning.
I think we’re going to be seeing the first four of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining and depression) all wrapped up together in the coming months and years. To quote Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas: “some seriously unfunny stuff is going to happen.”
The sooner we get to the fifth stage (acceptance) the better it will be, for all of us.
The era of cheap fuel is over.
Okay, I’m gonna go back and
reorganize the sequencing again
and find more power.
Let’s start from scratch.
Clear the board.
I don’t know where the
hell we’re gonna find it.