Lazy guide to net culture: Feeling peaky
If you want to appear like you’re at the cutting edge of net culture but can’t be bothered to spend hours online, then never fear. Scotsman.com’s pathetic team of geeks, freaks and gimps will do the hard work for you. While you sip wine, read a book or engage in normal social interaction, they will burn out their retinas staring at badly designed web pages and dodge creeps in chatrooms to prepare for you: Scotsman.com’s lazy guide to net culture.
What will happen when the oil runs out?
It's a question that you don't hear asked very often but the more you think about it the more you realise it's a rather pressing issue.
Oil and gas drive our transport systems; heat our homes; help generate our electricity; are used in the manufacture of many important chemicals and medicines; they even help in food production.
How will we fare when the nice, cheap oil on which our society is built runs out? And when will this happen?
An adviser to the Bush administration on energy matters, Matthew Simmons, has described the problem of cheap oil running out (known as "peak oil") as "the world's biggest serious question". He also fears that the moment of crisis is "at hand". (You can read a transcript of his comments at fromthewilderness.com.)
There's been very little coverage of this issue in the mainstream media, though pieces have appeared over the past couple of years in the Guardian, the Economist and the Christian Science Monitor.
This is one of those instances that shows the divide between traditional media and the internet. While it has hardly registered with the papers and broadcasters (yet) peak oil is a very hot online topic.
I have a Google news alert set up so that whenever an online news source publishes a story containing the words "peak oil" I get notified. There have been three in the past 30 hours - that's a lot for an issue that's not being picked up by the big boys.
There are also more than 10,000 websites that discuss "peak oil".
Hubbertpeak.com provides a handy guide to what the fuss is about. Named in honour of the geophysicist who identified the phenomenon in the 1950s, the site describes peak oil as the moment of maximum production. That doesn't sound too harmful, does it? We're just being very efficient at getting our fuel.
The problem is that once the peak has passed oil rapidly becomes more and more expensive to produce. The crux of the matter is that the oil won’t run out soon, but the cheap easy-to-get oil will. US oil production peaked in 1970 and is blamed by many for that decade's economic woes. Production in the then USSR peaked in 1987. (You can read a CIA report on this buy going to foia.cia.gov/search.asp and searching for document er 77-10147.)
More expensive oil will have a dramtic impact, according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (peakoil.net) - a network of scientists, universities, and government departments. Its president, Kjell Aleklett, professor of physics in the Department of Radiation Sciences at Sweden's Uppsala University, believes there is an urgent need to "make the world aware that the party is over".
A colleague of M King Hubbert (as in Hubbert peak) at Shell, Kenneth Deffeyes told an ASPO meeting last year: "After the peak, the world's production of crude oil will fall, never to rise again. The world will not run out of energy, but developing alternative energy sources on a large scale will take at least ten years. In the meantime, there will be chaos in the oil industry, in governments, and national economies."
The ASPO believes conventional oil production will peak by 2010. Mr Deffeyes thinks that will happen in 2004.
Are you scared yet?
If you aren't you will be after visiting lifeaftertheoilcrash.net. It paints a picture of a world plunged into dark chaos, with the four horesemen of the apocalypse taking up residence in your living room.
Hearwarmingly, it also takes peak oil theory and mixes it with analysis of what happens to species who overuse the resources of their environment. Their populations collpase by 90 per cent. The site backs this up with research from dieoff.org that shows that could happen to us, reducing humanity to just 500 million souls.
While I accept that oil prices will go up when production slows, and that this will have serious ramifications, I find the "end of the world as we know it" theory hard to swallow.
However, I am worried by a Pentagon planning document prepared by US Defence Department guru Andrew Marshall which suggests that by 2020 global warming will cause worldwide famines, wars over water, food and energy; the flooding of low-lying countries; and a Siberian climate for the UK.
I like to take these things with a pinch of salt, but just in case I'm going to buy a well-insulated windfarm up a hill in Wester Ross and hope that civilisation collapses before I've paid off the mortgage.
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