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The following paper was written back in 2007.  Since that time the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) struck and oil prices have not risen as projected.  But we are now hearing about peak oil again and there have been two programmes on radio and TV in the last fortnight floating the prospect of peak oil again. 

At the end of 2006 the documentary film A Crude Awakening warned that peak oil, ‘the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum production is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline’, is at hand. 

Perhaps the most important argument in A Crude Awakening is that energy, including oil, replaces human labour and does so very efficiently.  It is the harnessing of energy that has allowed human civilisation to free people from slavery and serfdom and it is the harnessing of energy that has fuelled technological progress. 

It has also fuelled an increase in human population from less than a billion in 1800 to over six and a half billion today.

The most obvious defect in the documentary is that it represents oil as the only source of energy available to mankind.  This is not the case.  Until quite recently coal was the dominant energy source.  Coal fuelled the industrial revolution.  In some parts of the world hydroelectric power was also an important driver of industrialisation before oil and, where available, is still the most environmentally friendly and least expensive energy source we have. 

It is true that petroleum (oil and gas) has recently taken over the leading position as principle energy source; and contributor to carbon dioxide production.  Petroleum is more convenient and has higher energy density than most other options (see below) and produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal. It dominated transport and chemical production for the last two thirds of the 20th century and will continue to do so for at least the first half of the 21st.

The following diagram shows the sources of energy (for all purposes) in Australia in 2007/8[1].

 

 

image002 

 

 

It was oil that made the Second World War possible, oil that provided a car to every family soon after and oil that opened the world to inexpensive air travel. 

A Crude Awakening makes the point that we have already half used this amazing resource, in a shockingly spendthrift way, over an extraordinarily short period of time.

 

 

 

A personal view 

This chapter can now be read at:  'Getting About'

 

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Travel

Cambodia and Vietnam

 

 

 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Royal Wedding

 

 

 


It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis

This paper was first written in 1990 - nearly 30 years ago - yet little has changed.

Except of course, that a lot of politicians and bureaucrats have put in a lot of air miles and stayed in some excellent hotels in interesting places around the world like Kyoto, Amsterdam and Cancun. 

In the interim technology has come to our aid.  Wind turbines, dismissed here, have become larger and much more economic as have PV solar panels.  Renewable energy options are discussed in more detail elsewhere on this website.

 


 

Climate Change

Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis

 

Climate change has wide ranging implications for the World, ranging from its impacts on agriculture (through drought, floods, water availability, land degradation and carbon credits) mining (by limiting markets for coal and minerals processing) manufacturing and transport (through energy costs) to property damage resulting from storms.  The issues are complex, ranging from disputes about the impact of human activities on global warming, to arguments about what should be done and the consequences of the various actions proposed.  The following paper explores some of the issues and their potential impact.

 

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