Sunday, October 24, 2021

Taking a short break - no post this week

I'm taking a short break this week and expect to post again on Sunday, October 31.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Chokepoint democracy: Workers capitalize on global system weak spots

In his book Carbon Democracy Timothy Mitchell attempts to explain the rising and falling political power of the working class in terms of the evolution of the world's energy system. The first fossil fuel, coal, required hoards of men (and it was almost exclusively men) to bring it to the surface, get it to market, and bring it to its final users.

Since coal was the largest fossil fuel energy source for human societies from the early days of the Industrial Revolution until the 1950s and its extraction employed a large number of workers who over time unionized, strikes among coal workers severely impacted energy supplies. Those strikes riveted the attention of the authorities and the public as the health and economic well-being of society was at stake.

The rise of oil as the world's dominate energy source changed all that. Oil required many fewer workers to bring it out of the ground and distribute it. Oil production utilizes pumps and pipelines instead of people to move fuel. The decline of the power of coal miners followed in the wake of oil's rise. Oil did not similarly empower workers because so much of the system to extract and refine it runs automatically and can often be overseen temporarily by a few management personnel in the event of a strike or work stoppage.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Taking a short break - no post this week

I'm taking a short break this week and expect to post again on Sunday, October 17.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Things do not have to run out for their scarcity to become destabilizing

Economic cornucopians who believe "innovation" and "substitution" will solve every constraint on the resources needed for modern civilization use a clever piece of misdirection to deflect the arguments of those concerned about limits. These cornucopians say that the claim by the limits crowd that we will "run out" of resources we need to maintain the smooth functioning of our complex industrial society is nonsense.

But that statement is a straw man designed to avoid the real issue, an issue which we see in abundance all around us today, namely: Things do not have to run out for their scarcity to become destabilizing. This is a key argument among those concerned about limits and the effects of those limits on the stable functioning of modern society.

We have not run out of fossil fuels but shortages are creating widespread problems in China and Europe. We are not running out of water in the world, but there is not enough of it in the right place to supply all the needs of those living in the American Southwest. That lack of water is leading to a reduction in geothermal power generation as well. And, drought in California is reducing the amount hydroelectric generation by a third so far this year.