As I sit here at my desk bathed in candlelight, it never ceases to amaze me what chaos occurs when we have a power blackout.
Firstly everyone checks their fuse box to see if it is just them. Then they look out of the front door to see if the street lights are out, and if the neighbours have also lost power.
Once that is confirmed to be true, then it starts. The mad scramble for the dynamo torch (if you are fortunate to have one handy) or ferret around looking for candles and a lighter to get some illumination.
Then it really happens. You realise that just about everything you were planning to do that evening required the use of electricity to help perform the task.
For Kim it was housework now that is is a little cooler. For Ben it was homework on his computer, and for me it was recording an episode of Little Green Cheese Podcast.
Hissy fits and boredom, quickly followed by simple solutions to make the best use of our time until the power came back on. Kim started to play a game on her iPad, relaxing instead of working. Ben is running around outside, playing and having fun destroying some cardboard boxes, and I have taken up pencil and paper to write this tale without the use of a computer.
It does make you think long and hard about how our lives are ruled by the energy we consume. It does the vast majority of our work for us. Energy slaves if you will. Now there is an interesting concept!
So what happens if the energy slaves leave us permanently?
No, not all at once, but over a period of years. A slow energy descent.
It is well within the realms of possibility, and closer to reality than one may think.
As the world’s fossil fuel reserves peak in production and begin to decline (conventional crude oil has already peaked in 2005 according to the International Energy Agency), our energy slaves will slowly begin to vanish.
Infinite growth on a finite planet is just not possible.
Even the tight shale oil and gas fracking is only a stop-gap measure. This additional production is propping up the plateau of peak oil demand. It has been observed that these tight oil and gas wells decline by up to 80% after a few years of production, sometimes in the second year, forcing more wells to be drilled. Costs to producers are much higher than extracting conventional crude oil fields which drives up production costs and ultimately flow through to just about everything we consume.
What has this got to do with electricity blackouts?
Well, you need oil to dig up coal and gas to burn at the power station. You need oil to fuel the trucks to maintain the grid. You need oil for just about everything. Without it our civilization ceases to exist.
But hey, what do I know. I am no geologist.
However, I do know this. By looking at the evidence before me I see a shit-storm on the horizon. A great big oil bubble inflated by hype and greed, contributing to our climate woes, ready to burst or slowly deflate over many years. The way it pans out is yet to be determined, like most things in our future.
Climate change will add additional fuel to the proverbial fire, because without abundant energy, we may not be able to mitigate the affects. See what I mean by a shit-storm? Without a doubt, it will be very different to how we live right now.
Nothing to see here, just keep moving along. We can keep growing our economies forever!
Sounds just like all the media hype about peak oil being dead and buried. It’s all smoke and mirrors with no real solution at hand.
Oh look. The power just came back on. Time to type up the post.
How do you think the next decade will pan out regarding energy? Do you think we have plenty, or is it a bubble ready to burst?
I think the bubble will burst. Not sure when but we can’t keep going the way we are. I watched a show recently on super ships. One was being built to drill for oil in the ocean at amazing depths. It was noted in the program that despite the millions of dollars being spent on the building of the ship there was only enough oil in that area they were drilling to fuel America for a very short time – a few months at most. Stupid stuff.
Gavin Webber says
And the sad thing is that geologists now know where the vast majority of the oil is throughout the world. There are no more super oil fields like Ghawar in Saudi Arabia. Even that one is in decline. All the rest are chicken feed compared to the mega fields.
I think the next 10 years are going to be very interesting. i reckon more and more the power will go down in a rolling blackouts fashion. There simpy won’t be enough power to go around. With all the coal Australia is planning to extract in the next few years, Australia might fare better than other countries if we don’t sell it all off to China but even so. The scramble for solar will begin soon and eventually solar prices will again rise when the cost of the power to manfacture them rises and also demand. Demand will then outstrip production. Peak solar perhaps?
Eventually though it will be a dark city at night. No streetlights unless they reinstall the old candle powered streetlights and streetlighters to light them and change out the candles. IF they can indeed produce enough candles.
With a wood stove we always have matches on hand and a Christmas gift from a dear friend means I have a candle handy. 🙂
We lost power last week when all the commuters reached home and whacked on their air conditioners (5:30pm) so we had to deal with the heat without even a ceiling fan. Cooking was no issue even with currently electric appliances only (we barbecued) but it always makes me stop and thnk about an electric free world. What would we do should we lose the power long term? I like power outages if only for the thoughts they provoke. 🙂
Gavin Webber says
I agree that they are a good provocation for conversation. More people need to ask the question “What if….”
Joy Hopes says
Reminds me of the TV show Revolution. Whilst it was more about the people involved it was interesting to see how the writers made them cope without electricity.
With little to no oil unwanted horses would no longer being to abattoirs – they would be highly desired animals. I imagine the human population would rapidly decline too. Only those like yourself Gav would be able to survive.
Gavin Webber says
Maybe. Just like the TV show, all it would take is a band of Militia to come and take who and what they wanted. It is the same anywhere without law enforcement.
Hi I would just like to tell you how we are surviving without 240 power. Currently we are parked up in a National Park In Northern NSW camping in a caravan we call home. My husband and I are using our computers, the fridge is running, the phone is charging and yesterday we made a loaf of bread in the breadmaker all with solar from the sun which goes to our battery bank and then through an inverter produces our power. The fridge is 12 volt only and phone is charging to a 12 volt plug. It was raining this morning and we look forward to sun coming out to make this all happen. So currently a power strike does not affect us. We also have bicycles to ride the five kilometres to the nearest town.
Gavin Webber says
Well done Melinda. I am impressed.
I have a self contained Solar PV system as well, so I was not too worried if the power stayed off for a day or so. I can just hook it up to the fridge/freezer and a few other essentials and we would be just fine. Obviously we would have to cut back on some luxuries, but in that situation, we certainly wouldn’t worry.
Hi Gavin, Loving the new look site, it’s clearer, brighter and easier to read!
Writing this from soggy Suffolk (UK) where this winter has been mild but so wet. We have had rain 23 out of 25 days. We have a stream running down the road here, with puddles 6″ deep at times across the lanes. Everything is waterlogged. The farms in Somerset have been underwater for over a month: devastating for the cattle herds. What will be left for them to eat as the grass is surely dead by now?
Too hot (Aus), too cold (US) too wet (UK) : perhaps we all need to plan to go without power at times to reduce the increasing demand for fossil fuelled power and cut the greenhouse emissions. Ecology is a delicate balance which I believe is tipping up.. we see signs of change all around us, but don’t seem to want to believe it.. We now have fracking starting in the UK. It’s madness!
Gavin Webber says
Thanks for the feedback regarding the site. It also loads twice as fast as well.
Madness is probably the right term for it! Cause and effect, but no one wants to see the effect
Hi Gavin, my thoughts on energy are at http://homehillfarm.blogspot.com.au/
Feel free to cut and paste if you don’t want the link on your page.
Bubble Burst is not the term I’d use but more a Slow Stew.
Gavin Webber says
Well said John. There seems to be no stopping the greed machine. Dig it up, drill and pump it out, all as quickly as possible. NO thought for future generations.