Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The coal crisis

The current high oil prices have the doom and gloom sayers out in full force.

Oil is getting more costly, they say, because it's running out, the tank is almost empty.

And as oil gets scarcer, the price will just keeping higher and higher until only Bill Gates will be able to afford to drive a car.

Eventually our industrial civilization -- which runs on oil -- will grind to a halt and then everyone will have to dress like one of the Road Warriors.

And maybe this will all happen.

But then again, doom and gloom sayers have been wrong before.

Back in 1865, for instance, an English economist named William Jevons wrote a book called The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal-Mines .

In this book, Jevons argued that's Britain's finite supply of coal was running out. This would drive up prices and ultimately destroy the country's prosperity.

Jevons glumly wrote, "it will appear that there is no reasonable prospect of any relief from a future want of the main agent of industry. We must lose that which constitutes our peculiar energy."

And he concludes: "after a time we must either sink down into poverty, adopting wholly new habits, or else witness a constant annual exodus of the youth of the country.

Of course, he was wrong.

What Jevons failed to take into account was that higher prices would inevitably lead the market to find alternatives to coal --ie oil.

So ignore the doom sayers and enjoy the summer.

9 comments:

Reid said...

Oh I will enjoy the weekend. I'll tow the boat down to Montana for a weekend of fossil fuel burning fun.

Anonymous said...

But then again, doom and gloom sayers have been wrong before.

Who exactly are all the doom and gloom sayers, Mr. Nicholls? Or are you just trying to characterize anyone who's thinking critically about the issue of fossil fuels and energy in general as simply mindless hysterics?

Given your record of mindlesss hysteria, that isn't exactly a path you should be going down, knowhatimean?

Anonymous said...

The real problem in the US has more to do with their governments response to it. You would think that given a tight energy demand/supply ratio they would respond by trying to increase supply. The current direction is to instead be more concerned with global warming and look at a cap and trade system. With this kind of a thinking the problem will only get worse. The US is headed for lineups at the pumps again.

Red Tory said...

Your post is completely wrong. Would it kill you to get your facts straight for once?

Powell lucas said...

Just think how happy that would make Greenpeace, the Suzuki Foundation, and the Nutty Professor who leads the Liberals. We could all go back to horses and wagons.
Of course, a study that once determined that if all the present transport in New York City were replaced by horse driven conveyances, it would take the manpower of every citizen in that city just to clean up the droppings. But, we wouldn't care because we would have all attained such a state of blissful Nirvana that we could then inhabit the same plane of existance as the aforementioned fruit loops!

Anonymous said...

Hey Red, I suggest that you get your facts straight. Nothing Gerry said here is inaccurate.

The "paradox of peak coal" put forth by Jevons suggested that demand for coal would continue to increase. Jevons was concerned that coal supplies would deplete quicker than alternate sources of fuel could be developed. Jevon, of course, was wrong.

FLAVRFLAV

saskboy said...

It doesn't prevent someone from enjoying the Summer if they conserve fossil fuels. The implication in your advice is to consume as normal - at a time when most peoples' normal consumption is driving this country and the planet over a sharp cliff. Not a great bit of advice you've come up with, especially given the facts Red Tory points out.

nbt said...

Yes, but there is evidence out east here that the shift from wind (boat building), to coal (trains) resulted in the shutting down of towns, cities and regions which relied on it as their staple industry.

There is plenty of coal in Cape Breton, Pictou and Springhill, but obviously the demand is no longer there or many of the mines would still be in production. Same could be said for the once thriving shipbuilding industry. There's still lots of lumber around to build boats.

Will the oil powered car be next to hit the museum? Much like the coal powered train.

Anonymous said...

If there is an oil shortage why then is there no shortage at the pumps?, Anywhere.