Saturday, December 29, 2007


Heyoka are thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrarian in nature. This spirit is often manifest by doing things backwards or unconventionally--riding a horse backwards, wearing clothes inside-out, or speaking in a backwards language. For example, if food were scarce, a Heyoka would sit around and complain about how full he was; during a baking hot heat wave a Heyoka will shiver with cold and put on gloves and cover himself with a thick blanket. Similarly, when it is 40 degrees below freezing he will wander around naked for hours complaining that it is too hot. A unique example is the famous Heyoka sacred clown called "the Straighten-Outer":
“ He was always running around with a hammer trying to flatten round and curvy things (soup bowls, eggs, wagon wheels, etc.), thus making them straight ”

Dribbles of potable energy have lately been produced increasingly from food. The effects are startling to most. Food prices of staples have shot up as a result of this wickedness, while fuel prices have done the opposite of decline. Then entanglement begins.

Food prices are up, because people have grown in quantity and a predictable change in the weather has reduced surface area of current producing farmland. Ethanol laundered back into this system does nothing except increase the dead zone where the river joins the ocean. This is a pulse of scarcity, the first of many, like a series of standing waves rising up behind the first gentle one splashing at our feet.

The peak oil crisis: storm of the century
Other peak situations cut both ways and may have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Food grain-based biofuels (peak oil vs. peak food) should in theory help to mitigate the peak oil situation but is contributing significantly to peak food and higher food prices. The amount of corn-based ethanol being produced today is making a minimal contribution to keeping down oil prices while resulting in much higher food prices. Increases in fuel and food prices are starting to result in significant inflation which in turn is complicating efforts to deal with peak money.

As sources of ready made potable energy decline, such as oil, a change in patterns of energy consumption is called for. This change, in many respects will likely incur an up front cost of more energy, such as the energy needed to fabricate windmills or crustal heat exchanges or wave mills. This is electricity and it is fair to say that there is an infinite ability to generate electricity at a profit.

Unfortunately, much of our globe is more than ten steps away from efficiently making do with electricity. Goods and most importantly food rely on this concentrated energy source, what I call potable energy or liquid fuel. All transformations of electricity into liquid fuel result in a net loss of usable energy, so if one plans on doing this one might be advised to start from a massive surplus of electricity. There is no surplus. Presently most electricity is produced from potable energy. The tail cannot wag the dog unless there is another, bigger, dog at the other end.

So the entanglement begins. What real liquidity is left in the world, what capital is not currently tied up in foolish, bullet ridden projects, must be applied to survival. But we are in the midst of a liquidity crisis, one which is constraining scenarios.

Prudence might dictate, a sour lipped muse, that our civilization triangulate towards a specific sustainability. This sustainability is shortly defined. The leavings of this generation shall not choke the next one into oblivion.

Naturally, we might be fitting our ocean going ships with sails. Ideally, we might rebuild the Appalachian mountains, burying the diamonds of energy stored within for a million years. Of course, we may scrap and recycle all automobiles in favor of go-carts which get 150 miles to the gallon. Every child might be taught to maintain a garden before ever being permitted to visit a supermarket.

This is not close to happening except in the farthest margins of our civilization. A self selecting few kookily unhook from the control rods of the Western economy. In contrast, of course, to the kooky bankers who are capitalized 10 to 1 trillion on mortgages alone. Premised on energy growth that will result in economic growth for the next sixty years. The parameters of the model have changed, but the economic structure is rigidly crystallized in the real word, and fixed in the minds of her inhabitants.

That damn losing bet is an entangling bet for everyone in the world. There is nowhere to run. Remember that. Don’t expect any help from the top when the aisles of your supermarket are bare. Positive outcomes are constrained, and wishful thinking will constrain them again.

For the time being, peak oil types are clowns, if not quite sacred. What is changing is that people are beginning to see us.

Accurately identifying the problem is the first step. Make sure your remedies are sensible and local, even if it means leaving your desert home to the lizards or your city to the ocean twenty years before the ocean comes to you.

In a moment, our backwards thinking, contrarian ideas about energy will become apparent to all. At that moment, don’t lead the people on. Don’t parody sincerity by being what you mock.

I’m talking to you, corn whiskey.

I was content to let is drop, but G then said. "You know, you've been predicting all these catastrophes for years now, but we're still here, the cars are all rolling down Broadway out there, and life is going on. You're beginning to sound like a crazy person." It didn't bother me especially that G thought my my ideas were outlandish so much as being comprehensively written off by an old friend as a crazy person, someone who... I dunno... rummages through dumpsters and talks to himself on the street without any sign of a cell phone in hand. I didn't hasten to defend myself. G obviously needed to feel that the world would continue functioning like a well-oiled machine now that he was responsible for an operation that employed a hundred other people. We parted agreeing to acknowledge a difference in our view of things.