When oil failed to peak

Stanley Kurtz has a three-part article in National Review Online about the movement to divest university funds of their fossil-fuel holdings.  In part one, he introduces us to Bill McKibben, the anti-Keystone XL pipeline activist who advocates leaving 80% of known fossil-fuel reserves underground.  "Since writing off 80 percent of reserves would wreck the oil industry’s profitability, McKibben maintains that only government compulsion can keep all that energy underground — through a steeply escalating carbon tax, for example."  He also notes the discovery by McKibben's ally Naomi Klein "that the reparations movement had dropped its polarizing label and had seized instead upon 'climate debt' as a backdoor way of advancing global wealth redistribution."

Part two traces McKibben's advocacy of controlled economic decline.
McKibben is convinced that averting global warming requires a winding-down of modernity. . . . Th[e] [pre-modern] world of tight families and interdependent neighbors, says McKibben, was far more satisfying than our hyper-individualist, consumer-driven, tech-saturated present. He explains that his attraction to this pre-industrial social model long predated his encounter with the “greenhouse effect” in the Eighties. . . . Living in an increasingly isolating, secular, and materialist universe, McKibben’s young followers seem intent on turning climate apocalypticism into a substitute religion.  That won’t fill the gap. You can run from the economy, but you can’t hide.  And catastrophism alone will not a morality make.
McKibben has pivoted adroitly to address changing beliefs about fuel reserves and climate, from global cooling to global warming, and from peak oil to the need to sequester 80% of supplies that suddenly are burgeoning to dangerous levels:
Just three years after McKibben consigned peak-oil denialism to the dustbin of history, peakism itself looks ready for the broom.  Drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other technologies for tapping so-called unconventional oil have ushered in a new era of fossil-fuel abundance.  And it has all followed the classical economist’s playbook.  As oil scarcity forced prices up, technical innovations once too costly to consider increased supply.  Mistaken end-of-oil predictions have been issued since the dawn of the industrial age.  All have been swept away by technological breakthroughs driven by the law of supply and demand. 
While a few peak-oilers hold out, McKibben himself seems to have surrendered.  Not scarcity but fossil-fuel abundance is our problem, he now says.  His divestment campaign is essentially an attempt to induce peak oil artificially, via political pressure.
Today's final installment examines the level of debate-squelching needed to make all this seem like good sense to the voters now emerging from fine campuses.


Grim said...

It sounds as though McKibben is mad. He's not even a good Marxist, because Marx would have understood that a return to a 'quasi-peasant lifestyle' would provoke not left-leaning progress, but a resurgent feudalism.

Which is fine if you like feudalism! Maybe some of these folks at the UN are secret monarchists.

MikeD said...

It is "well meaning" dictators like this that should be shuffled off to the dustbin of history. He reminds me of the morons who wish human populations would steeply decline. But strangely, most of those people don't see why the rest of us wish they'd go first.

Texan99 said...

There's an odd confusion among radical environmentalists about whether we should be preventing harm so that the Earth will be kinder to humans, or eliminating people so they won't be so hard on the Earth. Some manage to argue both at once.