Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm looking for a Petition that says "I Demand Less!"

I must be obsessed with the notion of "peak oil". Recently I woke up in the middle of the night trying to calculate the worldwide average daily per capita consumption of this incredibly concentrated energy resource. I was thinking about what Thomas Homer Dixon had pointed out to us in his book The Upside of Down:
Three large spoonfuls of crude oil contain about the same amount of energy as eight hours of human manual labor. When we fill our car with gas, we're pouring into the tank the energy equivalent of about two years of human manual labor.
I wanted to know, if we divided this precious stuff out in an equitable manner, how much I would get. Upon rubbing the sleep out of my eyes in the morning I unearthed these numbers from Wikipedia:
(A) Total World Oil Production as of March 2008 = 87.5 mb/d
(B) Total World Population as of January, 2009 est. 6.756 billion
(C) One barrel of petroleum = 158.99 litres
A divided by B multiplied by C = my equitable share, or about 2.06 litres per day (.54 U.S. gallons/day).

I then compared this to recent U.S. consumption figures:
(A) Total U.S. Consumption as of 2005 = 20.7 mb/d
(B) Total U.S. Population as of Oct. 17, 2006 = 300,000,000
(C) One barrel of petroleum = 158.99 litres
A divided by B multiplied by C = what America takes, per person, about 10.97 litres per day (2.9 U.S. gallons/day)

I sat stunned looking at those numbers for some time. I re-calculated them. I crunched them some more. I knew this was a gross over-simplification. Yet, it was quite obvious that Americans (and I expect Canadian numbers to be similar, although I haven't searched out our numbers yet) consume far in excess of their equitable share of world oil resources daily. And why do we consume so much? Because we can. And, of course, just last week, we all heard Barrack Obama say:
"We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense."
How can he say with a straight face to these people living in this neighbourhood in Indonesia:

That Americans have nothing to apologize for when they use fuel for the likes of this:

I like Barrack Obama. I like him a lot. However, ultimately, someone needs to start saying it the way it is. Americans, and the rest of us in the gluttonous western world, have a lot to apologize for. It's time someone started speaking the truth to the masses. As pop psychologist "Dr. Phil" likes to tell us:
"You can't change what you don't acknowledge."
After looking at these very sad and disturbing numbers and photos, it helped me understand why I cringe every time I hear another populist demand for "more of this" or "more of that". A union wants higher wages, or this sector of the economy must be bailed out, or we must protect our pensions, so that we can be secure, retire, and play golf during our "golden" years. Actually, no. It is the constant demand for more that is killing us. We not only appropriate through our profligate spending far in excess of what is our fair share, we also, in essence, are stealing from our own grandchildren. Bring me a petition that will demand less. Where do I sign!?!?

1 comment:

  1. Sadly most of us in the North American continent will have a hard time coming to grips with the inevitable. If global energy production cannot be raised to a standard near levels that our continent currently enjoys then the end result will be wars to take what we believe we deserve and hatred towards all those who live better than we should.