Some might argue that it’s hard to whoop it up too much this Thanksgiving season. It’s true, much is not going well. Covid is proving to be the most robust of China’s exports. Supply chain problems are so bad that that power sander in the garage you bought 20 years ago and used once to try to remove your fingerprints is probably appreciating in value, because inflation is here, it’s feisty, and it is just getting settled in.
Of course, the idea that things are all that difficult is a bit melodramatic, for most of us anyway. The vast majority of westerners are most heavily afflicted with the disease called comfort – the more comfortable you are, the more every little flaw annoys. And while that happens, the things that hum away in the background ceaselessly, the little wonders that are the support beams of that comfort, are discounted, forgotten, and taken for granted.
We have rich lives full of interesting options and opportunities. Not everyone does. Amongst the rich torrent of emails in my inbox are great ones from around the world, with first hand accounts of hard-scrabble lives where little is taken for granted. In fact, many people would be ecstatic to face our utility bills, because it would mean they would be the beneficiaries.
Energy is primary among these taken for granted items. We grumble at the cost to fill up the car, but are never grateful that that fuel is there in the first place. We notice instantly if a room is two degrees too hot or too cold, but are completely tuned out to the fact that it is heated at all, or air conditioned.
Even though this is an energy-focused website, the scope of what we take for granted needs to be acknowledged, and hence the scope of what we should be thankful for. We take agriculture for granted, and we should not, and I am grateful to live in a part of Canada that recognizes the value of the land. Prairie grain/cattle farms, orchards in the Okanagan and the Annapolis Valley, and every unrecognized place in between that provides food we take for granted – thanks. Forestry/silvaculture workers that harvest and replenish our forests to the best of their abilities – thanks. Miners that risk their lives going underground in a thankless job that provides the building blocks for every single thing we use – thanks. All of these things come from the land, and anyone that spends significant time in the wild knows how precious it is. Paradoxical as it may sound, people in agriculture and resource industries care as much as anyone about the environment, because they see firsthand the tradeoffs required to provide the world with what it needs to survive, every day.
As this new phase of the ‘energy transition’ unfolds – the part some of us have been talking about for a decade, the part where the engineers driving the big green train at maximum speed finally got around to looking at the map and realizing the track ends in 200 meters – I’ve been trying to keep up with the news flow as it pertains to the looming crisis. It is impossible. Everywhere I turn are frightening stories.
Here is a smattering of headlines (some simply Twitter sourced, not all with links, sorry; one needs to be a billionaire to pay for every firewall) of the past week or two:
- Argentina’s vineyards are struggling to find wine bottles amid a global shortage of glass
- North American fertilizer prices triple from 2020 levels, threatening food supplies
- European zinc and steel manufacturers limiting output
- Dutch greenhouses reducing output
- “The hit from China’s energy crunch is starting to ripple throughout the globe, hurting everyone from Toyota Motor Corp. to Australian sheep farmers and makers of cardboard boxes.” Bloomberg, October 7
- Market needs Half-Trillion Dollar Injection to Ensure Oil Supply (Bloomberg)
- Spanish power prices surge to 288 Euros/MWh, 550% above the 2010-2020 average
- New study shows Rapid Increase of Diesel-Fueled Backup Generators Across California – a study of two of California’s Air Quality Management Districts (out of 35 total) show 23,507 backup generators with a capacity of 12.2 GW (Fuel Cell Works)
- “Shortages of key construction materials are forcing some builders and contractors to turn to substitutes” Wall Street Journal, October 6
I’ll stop at that last one – I shudder to think of what a cheap replacement might be for ‘key construction materials’ in this environment when everything is in short supply (the only things not in short supply are underdeveloped energy transition specialists and over-calculating politicians, neither of which are likely to make good building materials (but I don’t know that for sure)). (And I’m not kidding about all the energy transition specialists; I get 5-10 emails per day from random new ‘experts’ that want to be interviewed about their new-energy think-tank, or miracle battery, or sustainable energy seminar, or cow-manure-to-jet-fuel home-made contraption.
Making things worse, the note almost always emanates from a PR/marketing firm ‘on behalf of’ the up and coming guru, meaning the first thing these people spend their bucks on is a PR firm. That’s what happens when you throw a trillion dollars into the air and shout ‘Save the planet, everyone!’)
Dark days are ahead, unfortunately; figuratively for some and literally for others. Thanksgiving season is a great reminder to look around and be grateful for everything we have. That includes your home, your appliances, your health, your car, your holidays, your utilities, your ability to see friends and family whenever you like, more or less. Few in history have ever had it so well, but that status is precarious. Enjoy every second you can.
If the whole world had read this book like I told them to, maybe we wouldn’t be in this position. It’s never too late though – pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. Thanks for the support.