I have taken a long break from blogging about the books I have read "recently" so I am basically one year behind at this point. I have continued to read books during the past 12 months and I read the books below in March and April last year (2015). The previous blog post about "books I have read recently" can be found here. All three books below treat the topic of energy and especially oil/peak oil. The number of asterisks (*) signify the number of quotes from the book that can be found further below.
****** Jeff Rubin (Wikipedia) was the chief economist at a Canadian bank but kind of made himself impossible in that role when he started to write about peak oil and resources and the challenges these trends will pose to economic growth and Business As Usual. I read his first book, "Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller: Oil and the end of globalisation" (2011) some years ago and "The end of growth" (2012) is his second book. Jeff is a great author and because of (or despite of) him being an economist, he manages to explain difficult concepts in the intersection of on the one hand oil, energy and resources and on the other hand economics and the financial system. Despite this, I would primarily recommend his previous book (written just one year before this book).
************ Kjell Aleklett is the first academic to dig into peak oil and he also became the first president of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) in 2002. He has been a professor of physics and he led the Global Energy Systems research group at Uppsala University between 2000 and 2012. His book, "Peaking at peak oil" (2012) can be seen as his testament as it was published at just about the same time he retired.
I have read my fair share of books about (peak) oil and about energy but most have been written by journalists who in a best case scenario have interviewed people like Kjell Aleklett. It is good to finally get the word from the source. Kjell might not as good an author as some of the journalists are, but he knows his stuff and it is great to read a 300 pages long book that is written by a knowledgable researcher and that is crammed with facts from the first to the last page. I can recommend Kjell's blog (Aleklett's Energy Mix) as a starting point for those not willing to run out and buy his book right this second.
****************** I bought Timothy Mitchell's book "Carbon democracy: Political power in the age of oil" (2011) after I heard an interview with him in an Extraenvironmentalist podcast (#69, November 2013). Mitchell (Wikipedia) does something extraordinary - something I have never heard anyone else to before when he compellingly connects the emergence of a fossil fuel (coal) economy with the emergence of democracy in the Western world. His convincingly makes a case for how the characteristics of the energy source in question and the structure and the topology of the new energy system created the conditions for the working class to force elites to make a number of political concessions. Mitchell's book is exceedingly interesting and stimulating and is food for thought about thinking about the connection between tomorrow's decarbonised, renewable energy systems in relation to issues of power, justice and governance.
My one problem with Mitchell's book is that the really interesting parts - the same parts that were covered in the podcast - primarily are treated (only) in the first and the last chapter of the book (e.g. about only 20% of the book). The seven chapters in-between presents a more "traditional" story about the the shift from coal to oil and the emergence of the modern economic system. That is a story I have read several times before and while Mitchell of course has his own angle and his own interests, it to a large extent overlaps with many other books I have read. It's still a great book but half the greatness is encapsulated in the very first and the very last chapter of the book. I recommend any reader who has read this far to also read the quotes below and those from Mitchell's book in particular (but the quotes from the other two books are actually also pretty great).
----- On economics-as-usual vs the end of economic growth -----
"Whether you're a free-market type or you believe in government intervention, your common ground with most economists is an unswerving belief in growth as the panacea of all economic ills. From the first page of your Economics 101 textbook to the last page of your Ph.D. dissertation, the discipline teaches you that an economy's trajectory is always upward. The postwar era has given economists few reasons to doubt their faith in limitless economic expansion. ... But what happens if this new economic downturn isn't just one of those cyclical events? What if the global economy is entering an era where static growth is the new normal? In short, what will happen if our economies stop growing? Well, we're going to find out, because that scenario is about to unfold."
Rubin, J. (2012). "The end of growth", p.33-34.
----- On oil being the most important and versatile energy soucre -----
"Why exactly is oil so special? For starters, it provides more than a third of the energy we use on the planet every day. That's more than any other energy source. But even that statistic doesn't come close to capturing oil's importance to the world. Where oil is truly indispensable to the global economy is as a transit fuel. More than two-thirds of every barrel of oil produced goes towards transportation, whether it's in the form of gasoline, diesel, jet or bunker fuel. Planes, trains, cars, trucks, ships and even motorbikes run on oil. ... Just how unique is oil? Oil can be stored. It doesn't spoil. It can be easily moved through pipelines, trucks or tankers. It's found all over the world. It's used to make pop bottles and to power fighter jets. Most critically, it packs an unparalleled amount of energy into a tiny package. Given the same volume, oil contains more energy than natural gas and roughly twice as much as coal. We're making strides at developing alternative energy sources, but we still don't have anything close to a viable substitute that captures all of oil's magical properties.
Rubin, J. (2012). "The end of growth", p.36.
----- On the downside of living in a networked, interconnected world -----
"Exposure to Greece's economic problems cut the market value of French banks in half. Two of the country's banking giants, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, own Greek bank subsidiaries. By comparison, German banks have less direct exposure to Greece. That would seem to make the situation less serious for Germany than for France. But it doesn't. What matters to Germany is the fate of French banks. Germany's financial sector is inextricably bound to France's, and as a result, bankers in both countries are terrified of a Greek default. So while it appears that Berlin is trying to prop up a failing Greek economy to help save the eurozone, what's really at stake is the solvency of Europe's biggest banks. A sovereign debt default would send shock waves throughout Europe's banking system. Massive write-downs at banks would be followed by even bigger bailout checks to help save those same financial institutions. And the fallout won't be limited to Europe. That was the great lesson of the US subprime crisis: no one is safe. A Greek default might start in Athens, but it would quickly spread to Paris, Berlin, New York and Tokyo. Today's interconnected financial market gives everyone exposure to everyone else."
Rubin, J. (2012). "The end of growth", p. 63-64.
----- US coal production peaked in 1998 despite vast (low-quality) reserves -----
"Because of the huge differences in energy content between coal grades, physical tonnage can offer a misleading picture of energy supply. For example, coal production in the United States, which boasts the world's largest reserves, has never been greater. But from the standpoint of how much energy is produced, coal peaked in 1998. While physical production has grown since then, the substitution of lower-grade coal for higher grades has resulted in a reduction in actual energy content. In fact, America's production of high-grade anthracite has been steadily declining for more than sixty years. Annual production is now less than a quarter of its 1950 level. Production of the next-highest grade of coal, bituminous, peaked in 1990 and has since been declining as well. But despite a drop-off in high-quality production, the total coal output from US mines has increased. ... Less energy for more tons mined - just another example of the concept of diminishing returns that's now common in our energy landscape.
Rubin, J. (2012). "The end of growth", p. 63-64.
----- On the correlation between food prices and riots (and the Arab spring) -----
"Energy has never been in higher demand than it is in today's world of commercial farming. The quantum leaps made in agricultural productivity in the postwar era were achieved by channeling greater amounts of energy into food production. Farming is now extremely energy intensive ... higher energy prices flow directly into higher food prices. In fact, world food prices are rising even faster than energy costs. The UN's food price tracking index reached a new record in January 2011, eclipsing the previous high set in 2008. Back then, soaring food prices sparked riots in the developing world. Turn the clock forward to 2011 and it should come as no surprise that countries in the Middle East and North Africa were again convulsing with social and political unrest. ... Rulers in the Middle East and elsewhere in the developing world are learning there's a direct correlation between keeping people fed and staying in power."
Rubin, J. (2012). "The end of growth", p. 214-215.
----- Supply curves are not applicable on a tight global food market -----
"The challenge of feeding a growing global population doesn't get any easier when major food-exporting countries decide to curtail shipments. That's not how markets are supposed to work. [But] Governments don't necessarily respond to price signals in the same way as corporations that are motivated by maximizing profits. ... during the food crisis of 2008 ... Food didn't go to the highest bidder, but to the citizens of the countries in which it was produced. ... when the price of basic foodstuffs soars ... you can toss out everything the textbooks say about supply curves. ... The experience of the last food crisis shows that relying on the market mechanism of higher prices can leave a country full of hungry people. If pushed, food-exporting countries won't hesitate to sacrifice foreign markets in favor of holding down domestic prices. That tendency is hardly reassuring to nations who import large amounts of food. Even countries in the Middle East that boast vast petro-wealth can't buy food when foreign governments cut off supply. That's part of the reason oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia are talking matters into their own hands and snapping up agricultural land in other places."
Rubin, J. (2012). "The end of growth", p. 217-219.
----- The opening salvo of the book I just started to read -----
"We live in a world that can no longer function without oil. Our dependence on oil has become so great that we can justifiably state we are addicted to it. We know that oil was formed under highly unusual and uncommon circumstances during the past 500 million years. Most of the world's extractable oil was discovered between 1945 and 1970. We know where on our Earth it is still possible to find new oilfields, however, the amount those new oilfields will yield will be limited compared to those oilfields already discovered."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.xi.
----- On peak oil being an irreversible trend in the here-and-now -----
"Today we know that the world's oil companies made their largest discoveries of oil during the 1960s. The average size of oilfields discovered has decreased in every decade since then. This trend is now sufficiently clear (and irreversible) that we can estimate how much oil will be discovered in the future. We know also that there are limits to how much oil can be produced in any year. All this knowledge and the fact that the world's largest oilfields are showing declining production mean, as we show throughout the book, that that hopes of oil companies and other national and international agencies for increased oil production must be regarded as wishful thinking."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.2.
----- On the official energy predictions gone haywire -----
"The future of oil production is decisive for the future of oil companies, and it is to their advantage if the public has limited knowledge of this issue. National bodies, such as the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the United States, and international bodies, such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) based in Paris, have, for many years, made prognoses of future production. However, only limited information is available on how these prognoses are produced. None of them satisfies the requirements of a scientific publication, and for many there are indications that a political agenda might be influencing the prognoses. The fact that governments around the world use these prognoses to plan our common future ... means that everyone should possess knowledge of this subject."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.10.
----- On the energy content of 1 liter of oil -----
"1 L of of crude oil can release 10 kWh of energy. To begin to comprehend our dependence on oil we must first understand how much work 1 L of oil can do. Imagine that you park a small car weighing 1,200 kg at the base of the Eiffel Tower. ... Then, by hand (with the help of a pulley) you raise the car to the top of the tower. You have now done work equivalent to 1 kWh. The human capacity to do work varies between individuals but to perform a task equivalent to 1 kWh one would need to be strong and fit, and to work for at least 2 days. That means that the energy stored in 1 L of crude oil is equivalent to raising ten cars to the top of the Eiffel Tower or to the work that 20 people can perform during 1 day."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.19.
----- On the global warming in the age of dinosaurs -----
"over 50% of the world's oil was formed during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods approximately 150 and 100 million years ago, respectively. During these periods the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere was three to six times higher than today's 380 parts per million (ppm). These are levels far higher than those that have been discussed at various international climate change negotiations. Therefore, it is not surprising that the average temperature during these periods may have been around 22°C, which is much higher than today's 15°C.
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.25.
----- On shifting energy and economic paradigms -----
"During the 1960s when actual oil discoveries averaged 56 billion barrels per annum (Gb/a) and oil consumption was only 10 Gb/a, our reserves of oil were so great that economic models were generated that did not consider oil availability to be a limiting factor. The expectation was that, if more oil were needed, it could easily be produced from these huge reserves. Today the reality is different, and it is time for contemporary economists to put assumptions of unlimited oil behind them. They must familiarize themselves with the concept that future oil flows will be determined, in large part, by [the laws of natural science]. They must reformulate their economic prognoses according to this."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.70-71.
----- There is no "better" energy source in line to replace oil -----
"If we compare the energy content per unit volume of oil to that of renewable sources of energy then nothing can replace oil. ... The technological progress that we have experienced from the beginning of the nineteenth century until today was founded on our development of methods to exploit cheap, abundant energy sources. The dramatic technological progress that we have seen since the Second World War has been based principally on oil. The Oil Age will end because oil is running out, not because oil is replaced with some other energy source."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.146.
----- On the United States vs Russia in terms of oil production and consumption -----
"Today, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, independent Russia produces approximately 12% of the world's oil and the United States contributes 9% of world production. Nevertheless, the United States leads the world in oil consumption by using 22% of the oil produced every day whereas Russia only uses 3%.
originally, the United States and Russia had fairly similar volumes of reserves with each possessing approximately 10% of global resevers of crude oil. The difference is that the United States developed a lifestyle requiring six times as much oil as Russia. Today, the United States is the world's largest importer of oil whereas Russia and Saudi Arabia are are the world's largest exporters of oil."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p. 191-192, 197.
----- On Europe's deep dependence on Russian oil -----
"Since 2005 Russia has exported 7 Mb/d and so is the world's second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. The largest parts of the exports go to Europe and Europe's future oil supply is dependent or Russia's future ability to export oil.
Russia consumes approximately 30% of the oil it produces and we estimate its consumption will increase. Clearly, Russia is unlikely ever to be an oil importer because, when their production falls below their domestic requirements, there will probably be no other land from which to import oil. We can expect that Russia has a strategy to guarantee domestic needs in the future. ... During the next 10 years we can expect them to export more than 6 Mb/d if no serious disruptions occur. After that, Russia's exports will decline. This is a signal to Russia that it needs to develop an economy that is less dependent on oil revenues. Likewise, the world, and especially Europe, should demand that Russia declare its strategy for future oil exports to, at least, 2035.".
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.200-203.
----- The six countries that will be responsible for 65% of all future CO2 emissions -----
"If we study where the world's coal resources are located we find that 90% of these lie in six nations: the United States, China, Russia, India, Australia, and South Africa. These nations also consume 80% of the world's coal production. According to our research, the 90% of future coal-derived CO2 emissions that these six nations are responsible for will amount to 65% of all future CO2 emissions. Therefore, we can conclude that, although CO2 emissions are a problem for all the nations of the world, it is the six nations above that will be responsible for the bulk of those emissions."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.248.
----- Who has the right to the oil that remains? -----
"An important question for our future is who has the right to extract oil. Fifty years ago the international oil companies had this right whereas today the national oil companies are dominant. Another important question is who has the right to buy the oil that is produced. After Peak Oil we may be faced with a market where an oil-producing nation or company chooses to sell its oil only to a few select customers. We cannot be certain that the future world market for oil will be free, fair, or open."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.274.
----- On the future price of oil -----
"When questioned about the future price of oil my standard answer then [in 2008] was that the price would be what people are willing to pay. In May 2008 at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig the CEO of Airbus made a comment about future oil prices that "an oil price of $200 per barrel would close down the aviation industry." This comment has influenced me greatly so that my standard answer to the question of the future price of oil is now that it cannot exceed $200. This is because an end to the commercial aviation industry would have severe impacts on globalization and, consequently, the world economy."
Aleklett, K. (2012). "Peeking at peak oil", p.297.
----- On oil and democracy -----
"what if democracies are ... carbon-based? ... The leading industrialised countries are also oil states. Without the energy they derive from oil their current forms of political and economic life would not exist. Their citizens have developed ways of eating, travelling, housing themselves and consuming other goods and services that require very large amounts of energy from oil and other fossil fuels. ... A larger limit that oil represents for democracy is that the political machinery that emerged to govern the age of fossil fuels, partly as a product of those forms of energy, may be incapable of addressing the events that will end it."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.5-7.
----- On exponential growth of energy use and of the economy -----
"Human societies have known previous episodes of exponential growth, where each year's increase is greater than the previous one, fuelled by a sudden technical advance or the rapid colonisation of new territories. However, the nineteenth-century increase was different. Technical breakthroughs and, as we will see, the control of large additional areas of the earth's surface were combined with the opening up of a third dimension: the subterranean stores of carbon. Whereas previous bursts of accelerating growth might have lasted a generation or two, the new ability to access and rapidly deplete the world's stores of fossil fuel allowed such exponential growth to continue for over 200 years, into the early twenty-first century. ... Britain's coal reserves [allowed] the motive power used in British industry to expand by about 50 per cent every decade, from an estimated 170,000 horsepower in 1800, almost all water-driven, to about 2.2.milllion horsepower in 1870 and 10.5 million in 1907."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.14.
----- On fossil fuels as the driver for urbanisation -----
"Since the solar radiation that powered pre-industrail life was a much weaker form of energy, converting it for human use required a sizeable terrain. The need for energy encouraged relatively dispersed forms of human settlement - along rivers, close to pastureland, and within reach of large reserves of land set aside as woods to provide fuel. The timescale of energy production was dependent on the rate of photosynthesis in crops, the lifespan of animals, and the time taken to replenish grazing lands and stands of timber. In contrast ... Coal and oil made available stores of energy ... in compact, transportable solids and liquids. This transformation released populations from dependence on the large areas of land previously required for primary energy production. ... In Great Britain, substitution of woods by coal created a quantity of energy that would have required forests many times the size of existing wooded areas if energy had still depended on solar radiation. ... Thanks to this new social-energetic metabolism, a majority of the population could now be concentrated together without immediate access to agricultural land, in towns whose size was no longer limited by energy supply."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 14-15.
----- On fossil fuels, concentrated power, sabotage and political power -----
"Foot-dragging and other forms of worker protest were nothing new. But the term 'sabotage' reflected the discovery that a relatively minor malfunction, mistiming or interruption, introduced at the right place and moment, could now have widespread effects. ... In 1895 ... A coal-fired steam locomotive could deliver ... thirty times the motive power of the first reciprocating steam engines of a century or so earlier. The new effectiveness of sabotage derived from this vast concentration of kinetic energy in a mechanism that a single operatior could disable. By the turn of the twentieth century, the vulnerability of these mechanism and the concentrated flows of energy on which they depended had given workers a greatly increased political power."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 22-23.
----- On fossil fuels and general strikes -----
"The coordination of strikes, slow-downs and other forms of sabotage enabled the construction ... of a new political instrument: the general strike. ... From the West Virginia coal strikes of 1919 to the German general strike of 1920 and the British general strike of 1926, the coordination of industrial action by mine workers, dockers and railwaymen reaffirmed their new power to shut down energy nodes. The dispersed energy systems of solar radiation had never allowed groups of workers to assemble a political capability of this sort. The power of the general strike put large industrial employers on the defensive."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 23-25.
----- On democracy rising out of fossil fuels -----
"Between the 1880s and the interwar decades, workers in the industrialised countries of Europe and North America ... acquired a power that would have seemed impossible before the late nineteenth century. The rise of large industry had exposed populations to extraordinary forms of social insecurity, physical risk, overwork and destitution. But the concentration and movement of coal required to drive those industrial processes had created a vulnerability. Workers were gradually connected together not so much by the weak ties of a class culture, collective ideology or political organisation, but by the increasing and highly concentrated quantities of carbon energy they mined, loaded, carried, stoked and put to work. The coordinated acts of interrupting, slowing down or diverting its movement created a decisive political machinery, a new form of collective capability built out of coalmines, railways, power stations, and their operators. More than a mere social movement, this socio-technical agency was put to work for a series of democratic claims whose gradual implementation radically reduced the precariousness of life in industrial societies."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 26-27.
----- On the hidden agenda of the Marshall Plan -----
"An important goal of the conversion to oil was to permanently weaken the coal miners, whose ability to interrupt the flow of energy had given organised labour the power to demand the improvements to collective life that had democratised Europe. ... Spurred by ... American subsidies [representing over 10% of the Marshall plan funds], oil increased its share of Western Europe's energy consumption from 10 per cent in 1948 to almost one-third by 1960. The diversion of steel to build pipelines and of Marshall Plan funds for this purpose was justified in part by the need to undermine the political power of Europe's coal miners."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 29-31.
----- On oil production depending less and on fewer workers than coal production -----
"Oil production often grew rapidly, in regions remote from large populations, to serve distant users in places already industrialised with coal. ... [oil] production require a smaller workforce than coal in relation to the quantity of energy produced. Workers remained above ground, closer to the supervision of managers. As the carbon occurs in liquid form, the work of transporting energy could be done with less human labour. Pumping stations and pipelines could replace railways as a means of transporting energy from the site of production to the places where it was used or shipped abroad. ... oil pipelines were invented as a means of reducing the ability of humans to interrupt the flow of energy. They were introduced in Pennsylvania in the 1860s to circumvent the wage demands of the teamsters who transporter barrels of oil to the rail depot in horse-drawn wagons.
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.36.
----- On oil liberating itself from the power of workers to interrupt its flows -----
"Unlike railways, ocean shipping was not constrained by the need to run on a network of purpose-build tracks of a certain capacity, layout and gauge. Oil tankers frequently left port without knowing their final destination. ... the flexibility further wakened the powers of local forces that tried to control sites of energy production. ... whereas the movement of coal tended to [create] potential choke points at several junctures, oil flowed along networks that often had ... more than one possible path and the flow of energy can switch to avoid blockages or overcome breakdowns. These changes in the ways forms of fossil energy were extracted, transported and used made energy networks less vulnerable to the political claims of those whose labour kept them running."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 38-39.
----- On the connection between modern warfare and fossil fuels -----
"The First World War was the first great carbon-fuelled conflict. Coal-fired factories produced munitions, armaments and motor-driven vehicles that multiplied the capacity of humans to kill. ... By connecting human combat to much greater stores of energy ... Armies became war machines that continuously deployed their mechanical and human elements in ever-greater quantities over large areas and prolonged campaigns. ... The expanding apparatus of war required coal and oil, steel and nitrate-based explosives, but also food, fodder and clothing. The more the conflict extended, therefore, the more dependent it became on those whose labour in coal mines, munitions factories, wheat fields and cotton plantations made it possible. ... An industrialised state like Britain could now fight a war of extraordinary violence, extent and duration, bringing much of the Middle East under its control. ... Industrialised warfare confirmed the importance of petroleum as a fuel for transportation rather than illumination.
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.66.
----- On the connection between industrialism and colonialism -----
"The industrialised world brought into being with the energy from coal was also a colonising world. While the coal enabled an extraordinary concentration of production and population at the sites, close to the coal mines, where industrialisation had first occurred, the need for materials unavailable in the industrial regions, such as cotton, sugar, rubber and gold, encouraged the expansion of mining, plantations and colonial settlement across wide areas of the non-European world, along with railways, banking firms, investment capital and imperial armies."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.84.
----- On the state of oil production at the end of the second world war -----
"In 1945 the United States produced two-thirds of the world's oil, and more than half of the remaining third was produced in Latin America and the Caribbean. ... In 1945 the Middle East produced only 7.5 per cent of the world's oil ... In building oil industries in Venezuela, Mexico and other parts of Latin America, the oil companies had been obliged to deal with sovereign states, independent for more than a century and increasingly able to negotiate more equitable oil agreements. In the Middle East, sovereign states were still forming out of older local and imperial forms of rule. The oil companies could portray their role there as the 'development' of remote and backward peoples, and impose less equitable arrangements."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 111-114.
----- On the post-WWII Marshall Aid vs the Point IV program -----
"President Truman would refuse to extend a programme of Marshall Aid to the Middle East, offering instead the Point IV programme. America would not be able to share capital or material wealth with the world's 'underdeveloped areas', Truman explained, for those resources 'are limited'. As a consolation, Washington would offer them ideas. US businesses would be encouraged to share their 'imponderable resources in technical knowledge', which 'are constantly growing and', in contrast to material wealth, 'are inexhaustible'. Technical knowhow would enable countries to use their existing material resources to produce more food, clothing and mechanical power. The idea of development would play a ... role ... to manage the differences between extraordinary levels of affluence for some and most levels of living for the vast majority of the world, rather than to offer effective means of addressing those differences.
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 120-121.
----- On the connection between exporting oil and importing weapons -----
"oil and weapons ... fit together in a particular way: one was enormously useful, the other importantly useless. As the producer states gradually forced the major oil companies to share with them more of the profits from oil, increasing quantitates of sterling and dollars flowed to the Middle East. To maintain the balance of payments and the viability of the international financial system, Britain and the United States needed a mechanism for these currency flows to be returned. ... Arms were particularly suited to this task of financial recycling, for their acquisition was not limited by their usefulness. ... Weapons ... could be purchased to be stored up rather then used, and came with their own forms of justification. Under the appropriate doctrines of security, ever-larger acquisitions could be rationalised on the grounds that they would make the need to use them less likely. Certain weapons, such as US fighter aircraft, were becoming so technically complex by the 1960s that a single item might cost over $10 million, offering a particularly compact vehicle for recycling dollars. Arms, therefore, could be purchased in quantitates unlimited by any practical need or capacity to consume."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 155-156.
----- There are no limits! On (supposedly) smart people being exceedingly stupid -----
"Leading oil economists [45 years ago] argued that the supply of petroleum, for the practical purposes of economic calculation, was inexhaustible. Although reserves were depleted by extraction, they were replenished by exploration, discovery and new technology. Their exhaustion was so far into the future, they argued, that it could have no impact on the oil price. Oil reserves were less a natural resource being used up, more an inventory being run down and then replenished. 'Minerals are inexhaustible and will never be depleted', argued Morris Adelman in 1972. 'A stream of investments creates additions to proved reserves from a very large in-ground inventory. The reserves are constantly being renewed as they are extracted. How much was in the ground at the start and how much will be left at the end are unknown and irrelevant.'
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.188.
----- On prioritising today's profits instead of planning for the future (it's a conspiracy of kinds!) -----
"A long struggle unfolded through the 1970s and beyond, to today, in which oil companies continually used their political connections to defeat legislation aimed at restricting their influence or at managing natural resources. ... In the 1980s, neoliberal think tanks began promoting another set of tools: carbon trading. To limit government regulation of the increased burning of fossil fuels, and reduce the costs of such regulation to corporate profits, a variety of schemes were devised whereby reductions in pollution in the West could be traded against much cheaper putative reduction in the global south. The rapid increase in the price of oil assisted this process in a more direct way [as] a handful of families in the United States turned their fortunes from oil into windfall funds for the neoliberal movement [and] neoliberal free-market political organisations [such] as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Manhattan Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies [and] the Cato Institute. These think tanks and policy organisations oversaw the neoliberal movement, with a programme ... to remove from the state its role in regulating the economy and replace this public regulation of collective life with its private regulation by the market.
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p. 197-198.
----- On the peculiar episode in time in which we live -----
"We are entering the declining decades of the fossil-fuel era, that brief episode of human time when coal miners and oil workers moved an extraordinary quantity of energy, buried underground in coal seams and hydrocarbon traps, up to the earth's surface, where engines, boilers, blast furnaces and turbines burned it at an ever-increasing rate, providing the mechanical force that made possible modern industrial life, the megalopolis and the suburb, industrial agriculture, the chemically transformed world of synthetic material, electrical power and communication, global trade, military-run empires, and the opportunity for more democratic forms of politics. Yet, even as the passing of this strange episode comes into view, we seem unable to abandon the unusual practice to which it gave rise: ways of living and thinking that treat nature as an infinite resource."
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.231.
----- On oil and the birth of a limitless economy -----
"[Before the 1970s] oil could be counted on ... Its ready availability, in ever-increasing quantitates, and mostly at relatively low and stable prices, meant that oil could be counted on *not to count*. It could be consumed as if there were no need to take account of the fact that its supply was not replenishable. In turn, not having to count the cost of humankind using up (largely within the space of two or three centuries) most of the earth's limited stores of fossil fuel made another kind of counting possible - new kinds of economic calculation. ... Before the mid-twentieth century, [the] assumption that political life could be organised on the principel of limitless growth would have been an unlikely idea. In the earlier part of the century the limits of nature were everywhere".
the birth of the economy - a dematerialised conception of economic flows - was enabled by the arrival of oil, an energy source so cheap and so plentiful, from the 1930s, that a system of general economic calculation could be devised that made no reference to questions of the exhaustion of non-renewable resources or the cost of energy. This made possible the idea of growth without limits".
Mitchell, T. (2011). "Carbon democracy", p.234, 247..
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