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Peak Oil & System Justification: “Threatening” Status Quo

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It’s a lot easier to seek confirmation than information.
So not only does the online world provide less information, it provides more spin and distortion of that information from an online empire of advocates that enables us as never before to find the voices we agree with, and to ignore anybody else. 

DENIAL & AVOIDANCE HAVE DRAWBACKS

When you are confronted with information that contradicts your attitudes, beliefs, impugns your identity, or groups that you identify with, you—we—all of us are motivated to reason through that information in a way that keeps our original attitudes intact.
So, we’ll counter argue, we’ll criticize the data source, not pay attention to information that contradicts our pre-existing attitudes.

Mix in the conservatives’ recognized fear of change and support for simplified decision-making with their inclination to support the “system” as currently structured [so as to avoid change and any considerations regarding new perspectives or factors], and then add human nature’s basic desire for consistency in thought and belief, quite the stew is served! Avoiding new and contradictory information is step one, supplanted with a quest for obtaining reassurances as needed.

Questioning what the reassurances are, their sources, how they came to be, or what they are based on and/or if they are even valid are not part of the program. So those so inclined defer knowledge and presumed expertise to others who share their psychological and ideological preferences, and what results is a profound urgency to preserve what they know, regardless of the implications. Sometimes that’s just fine.

RUNNING THE RISKS

But when the challenges we face have the potential for imposing so much change, denying themselves a place at the table carries a certain set of risks. Blithely dismissing those risks—made easier by avoiding information worth at least considering—is a curious strategy.

As liberalism has increasingly been aligned with the values of empiricism and reason, the incentives for conservatives to reject empiricism and reason multiply.
To be a ‘conservative’ increasingly means taking a contemptuous view of reality.

Today we in America are besieged by a reversal of intellectual growth that finds comfort not in scientific inquiry and method but rather in instinctive reliance upon either what we want to believe or what we think others want to hear.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil & System Justification: Avoidance

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The researchers found that being intolerant of ambiguity is associated with such conservative characteristics as unwavering certainty and strong loyalty to particular people and positions.
Conservatives don’t feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions. They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white.…

THE DRAWBACKS OF AVOIDANCE

As much as those on the Right seek to avoid ambiguity, nuance, and examination of the various complexities of most significant social, political, and economic issues, the resistance to acknowledging the potentially drastic impacts and implications of a peak in oil production and climate change cannot be fairly or honestly explained in a sentence or two. Our 21st Century planet is not exactly a black and white/either-or/yes-no world.

Of course, that immediately presents a bit of a challenge. Being pre-disposed to ignoring or dismissing any set of facts which create cognitive dissonance [or stimulate the fear they are actually trying to avoid], may offer some comfort, but….For those ensconced inside their denial bubbles, choosing to ignore the very information they’ll need to manage the conditions which arouse those very fears is a curious approach.

The conservative inclination to “cut to the chase” in decision-making and policy-making is a time-saver, to be sure! But once we get beyond kindergarten or first grade problem-solving, avoiding the complexities of modern society’s greatest challenges [with the myriad perspectives, differences, needs, purposes, and expectations which contribute to both the challenges and the solutions] by cutting to the chase is at its very best intellectually lazy. Actually, it’s counterproductive in the extreme.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Peak Oil; Climate Change; & System Justification Pt 10

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Shaping our identity in large part by the groups we align ourselves with for emotional, psychological, cultural, and political reasons are powerful anchors—individually and collectively. All of us are much more inclined to seek out information and assurances which bolster who we believe ourselves to be rather than contemplate facts or assessments casting doubt about our choices and conclusions.

GROUP INFLUENCE

The more solidly anchored one might be in the identity of their chosen group(s), the less likely it is that information contradicting “group-think” will be received well, or at all. Human nature being what it is, we’re all psychologically inclined to seek out and accept information which supports our beliefs and values, and thus much less inclined to consider data which casts doubts on what we’ve come to believe.

Being actively critical of something one is dependent on is thought to be psychologically uncomfortable, and therefore avoided in favor of increased perceptions of legitimacy, trust, and desirability. System justification theory posits that people are motivated to justify and legitimize the status quo and the system in which one lives. Many mechanisms for this motive have been proposed and studied, including threats to the system, decreases in personal control, feelings of restricted exit, and feelings of dependence on the system. In such situations, instead of becoming increasingly critical of a system that one is dependent on, which would cause considerable dissonance and psychological discomfort, people have been shown to become increasingly motivated to justify and legitimize that system (citations in original quote).

So the message that our technological prowess is a direct contributor to the problems of a warming planet, and/or that for all of our ingenuity and technological advances industry will not overcome the realities of drawing down a finite resource, is especially troubling to a conservative mindset firmly convinced that our market system can solve any problem.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil; Climate Change; & System Justification Pt 8

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Of course it’s threatening to think that our lifestyles, systems of governing, and capitalist processes themselves may all face drastic changes in the not-too-distant future because of the facts and reality of Peak Oil and climate change! I’m certainly notthe poster-child for Peak Oil advocacy and lifestyles. I have a very nice, capitalist, well-to-do lifestyle. To hell with all of you, I don’t want MY life to change!

STATING THE OBVIOUS

I’ve noted this on several occasions: I’m willing to wager that almost all those urging greater awareness of the oil production/energy supply challenges we’ll be facing soon enough would be delighted to be proven wrong. None of us are eagerly—or in any other manner—awaiting the onset of the inevitable magnitude of personal, economic, commercial, and cultural changes which our beliefs about peak oil suggest. Being wrong about this would be ideal, but we—I—have serious doubts about that outcome being the likeliest.

There’s too large a group of ardent and well-financed others well aware of the inherent limitations finite resources carry. They more than most appreciate how widespread will be the impact of a diminishing energy supply colliding with increasing demand and a growing worldwide population. They also understand—as do those opposing/denying the facts of climate change—the costs and consequences to their own organizations once their Business As Usual practices succumb to the production facts of these finite resources.

What worries us: the problems will be of such scope and impact and complexity that we strongly believe in a need for planning to take place now—by all of us, both Left and Right—and we’re not seeing enough honest, intelligent, rational analysis from those whose contributions will be every bit as important and meaningful. The ideology sponsoring practical and effective adaptations and solutions won’t matter to us if they work.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil; Climate Change; & System Justification Pt 1

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Research has powerfully illustrated that a lack of knowledge in domains such as energy and the environment can lead to bad decisions and erroneous beliefs that hinder a society’s ability to create change in domains that require it

KNOWLEDGE & UNDERSTANDING

Rather self-evident, isn’t it? Certainly that observation is not limited to energy and environment, but the more complex the challenge, coupled with the greater potential impact, the more critical it becomes to understand the issues—all of them—and the range of consequences should there be a failure to respond appropriately.

There are reasons and explanations as to why the general population—and those leaning Right in particular—choose to deny, avoid, or ignore matters of great import and impact. That the justifications, rationales, and innate strategies used might be understandable should not be the end of the discussion. Self-awareness and introspection carry their own set of benefits.

This new Friday series, extending well into the latter part of 2016, will examine the concept of System Justification * and the role in plays in generating continued opposition and denial of the facts and implications of both a peak in the rate of oil production, and climate change. Facts won’t go away, and denial is not a shield, but there are well-defined patterns and behaviors which provide a foundation for the tactics employed to sow doubt and preserve the comforts of the known and familiar.

While the benefits are clear and gratifying today, the ongoing failure to move beyond the emotional and psychological comforts afforded by system justifications is not without its costs and consequences. A greater appreciation for not just the facts of peak oil and climate change, but an understanding as well of how we respond to them, why, and what happens if we fail examine other approaches is arguably of more enduring benefit.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: The Next Steps Pt 4

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We remain free as always to choose to fear the consequences of a permanent decline in the availability of affordable and accessible fossil fuel supplies. The enduring impact on our society and our ways of life as a result of a diminished supply of our primary energy supply is no small matter. So fear is certainly an option.

We can also rely on those disinclined to examine the majority of production realities, offering instead a steady diet of optimistic statements and light-on-fact assurances.

Very few of us who are concerned with the full range of oil production issues and challenges find anything about the widespread future impact of peak oil to be other than a somber realization on our best days.

WE HAVE CHOICES

But so too do we have the choice to view the challenges we’ll face [sooner than we’re likely to be fully prepared for, unfortunately], as opportunities to fashion new successes for ourselves; new definitions of prosperity; new ideals of community; and new ways of projecting humanity into a future of hope and progress. Completely idealistic in this moment, to be sure. But it strikes me as a better attitude to have as we approach the urgency of addressing our concerns before available options start getting crossed off the list.

The opportunities to plan and prepare will surely be different than those crafted as a result of the many benefits of readily available crude oil and its countless products. We may not have much choice in that regard, depending on what plans and adaptations take shape in the years to come. This process of transition/adaptation is not going to be measured in any shorter time frame.

But there is no reason to lament, out of fear, that those descriptions will be less worthy or satisfying. We own the choice of assessing what needs to be done and what will be done, too.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Energy Advisory June 17th 2016

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Entrenched as each side is in what seems an endless and ever-disheartening conflict between conservatives and progressives, finding seams to broaden discussions is no easy task. Cocooned as each partisan is in the selective comfort of peer perspectives and beliefs, suspicion and ridicule are the easier guidelines to follow.

But at what cost to all of us, if not today, then soon enough? Has there been a collective, irrevocable determination by all that the political and ideological wars will continue until … well, when?

THE LEFT-RIGHT VIEW OF SCIENCE

Progressives consider the statements and rationales offered by most public leaders on the Right with a mixture of disdain, astonishment, and ridicule. Conservatives view every action and proposal from the Left with a blend of deep suspicion as to motivations and objectives. That few take the time to contemplate what’s actually being presented—and of greater importance: why—is doing nothing but perpetuating and deepening the distrust and animosity. Probably not the ideal outcome….

Few of us doubt the conclusions presented by professional engineers when they direct that construction of buildings or other structures must meet certain criteria. While second opinions are not uncommon, most of us accept the medical findings from doctors and dentists without doubting their competency or motivations. We trust airline pilots to fly planes more so than we would an investment banker, just as we would trust the latter to properly handle major financial endeavors more so than we would the owner of a chain of hair salons.

Yet the findings of climate scientists worldwide, or the concerns offered by those who examine the range of factors in the field of energy exploration and production are held to different standards. Unanimity and perfection are the requirements to be met before a sizeable portion of the populace will even consider the issues they raise. All or nothing seems to be the not-entirely-unspoken rule.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 9

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There are—almost always—at least two sides to any story of significance and potential impact upon others. The greater the impact and potential for a range of outcomes, the more certain one can be that there are more than a handful of factors, considerations, and perspectives to be accounted for if the issue at hand is to be both understood and resolved effectively.

Ignoring the “other side” of the issue may be effective if one prefers their narrative to remain unchallenged and to provide reassurance to fellow believers, but beyond that, it’s hard to understand what the benefit might be to those seeking information if what’s shared is inaccurate or purposely incomplete.

From the second article I’ve been referencing throughout this series:

In the USA, hydraulic fracturing has taken petroleum production to its highest level since 1972, and oil imports to their lowest level since 1995. America now exports crude oil, natural gas and refined products.
The fracking genie cannot be put back in the bottle. In fact, it is being adopted all over the world, opening new shale oil and gas fields, prolonging the life of conventional fields, leaving less energy in the ground, and giving the world another century or more of abundant, reliable, affordable petroleum. That’s plenty of time to develop new energy technologies that actually work without mandates and enormous subsidies.

FACTS OFFER A DIFFERENT TAKE

But in the real world where facts are actually important, a different story is told. Two days before the above-referenced article was published, we had this:

[N]ow, over 1.5 years into the price collapse, production declines in shale oil are finally starting to appear as low oil prices have slashed company investments in new supply, and production begins to decline from existing wells….
The array of spending cuts and production declines announced by dozens of separate companies may be difficult to wrap one’s head around. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: The Next Steps Pt 1

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I ended last week’s post by explaining the significance of getting all of the facts about our energy supply future as a first step.

Before deciding whether or not to accept the realities of a depleting finite resource and the impact this will have on our society—or ignoring it for whatever comforting alternative explanations suit one’s needs—understanding the implications and those realities is a more beneficial approach.

THE FIRST CHALLENGE IS NOT THE ONLY ONE

The corollary to an appreciation for what a less adequate, less affordable, and less available supply of our primary energy resource is the transition itself. That effort will not happen via magic. Not only will the research, development, and planning require more effort, time, and contributions than we’re likely considering now, putting everything into place is no easy assignment, either.

Just to keep things interesting, the transition from an oil-based industrial economy to Whatever-Plan-B-Will-Be will have to be achieved using that same declining measure of supply to design and construct and transport and put into place the infrastructure we’ll need to support and maintain this as yet unidentified and not-planned-for-yet Plan B, thus making less available to us for all of our ‘normal’ demands and needs, creating its own set of problems. We’re talking about using a lot of declining energy supplies that’s a lot more expensive, over the course of a lot of years to put into operation a lot of new industrial and economic and civic foundations to (we hope) enable us to maintain some semblance of growth and prosperity—all while using new energy resources that simply will not be as efficient or inexpensive or dependable as oil has been.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 7

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I began last week’s post with a variation of these questions:

How do optimistic projections from ExxonMobil’s “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040” report—which I highlighted in that post—square themselves in the face of the oil production challenges suggested by the news excerpts which were also included in that piece? How long do those opposed to climate change and peak oil implications dance away from the unpleasant truths?

What is the benefit beyond avoiding painful discussions today? At what point do those contrarian viewpoints give way to a recognition that there is more than enough evidence already in play to make those challenges both very real and quite formidable now?

How does postponing not just acknowledgment but any and all efforts to come to mutual understandings and a commitment to work cooperatively in addressing these matters make it any easier or better for anyone?

At what point does the single-minded pursuit of any and all efforts to oppose, deny, or obstruct the efforts of one’s political opponents give way to a recognition that repeatedly shooting oneself in the foot has limited benefits? A question I’ve raised numerous times in the past is just as relevant today: if you have to mislead, misinform, distract, omit, or even lie outright to support your opposing viewpoints or policy proposals, how valid are they to begin with?

What’s the point? What happens if you “succeed”?

Today’s reality about fossil fuels—oil in particular—and production thereof is no different than it was several months ago and no different than it will be in the days ahead: it is still a finite resource. Production of conventional crude oil, responsible for most of our technological marvels and economic progress over the course of a century-plus, peaked a decade ago.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 6

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I suggested at the outset of this series that I did not want it to turn into yet another exercise in mocking those who do not accept the implications of peak oil. A legitimate argument could be made that I’ve failed in that objective.

I view the tone adopted in a number of comments I’ve offered not as mocking so much as it is an attempt to point out that there is a communication problem emanating from the Right [not a news bulletin], and by doing so in the manner I’ve chosen—more wry, in my mind, than mockery—I’m trying to suggest that “the opposition” consider how their tactics and failure to substantiate their positions carries risks for them as well.

Actions and words create impressions and responses and outcomes. If the objective of one’s behavior—individually or in abiding by the expectations of one’s group—is to produce a satisfactory objective however defined or relevant to the issue, ignoring the impact on those who do not share the same considerations, values, or goals is a risk rarely considered to the degree necessary.

Reality will not be impressed by efforts to ignore it or deny its impact. Uttering statements as if their mere appearance online is sufficient to refute opposing viewpoints cannot sustain itself as a strategy for much longer. What Happens Then?

It may not be a message many wish to hear, but when it comes to peak oil and climate change—among other critical issues of at least national scope—we are all in this together.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Time To Get Serious Pt 4

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A fossil fuel-driven-and-made-possible life is all any of us have ever known. There are virtually no aspects of commerce, leisure, transportation, or consumption which do not depend in some part on inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels. That is most certainly not going to change dramatically overnight, but the situation we’ll soon be facing simply isn’t going to get any better if all we’re counting on for many more years is even more inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels.

So what to do? Do we want a voice in the solutions or not?

Who among us wants even more problems and worries to contend with now? Plates are still full and then some. For issues like peak oil—where it’s not at all clear that problems with fossil fuel supplies exist today or tomorrow or next month—that challenge very quickly slides down our list of priorities.

Aided by determined efforts to shade the truths about current and future production challenges makes it that much easier to pay no attention at all to what a declining base of our primary energy source might mean for all of us.

All duly noted and a perfectly reasonable determination to make … today. The underlying concerns voiced by proponents of peak oil and its impact remains unchanged notwithstanding. A future with diminishing fossil fuel resources—our future, more specifically—is going to be so different and in so many ways, and so much more constrained by that fact, it’s unlikely anyone can legitimately wrap their mind around that eventuality at this moment.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 5

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[T]he West’s energy security is assured to a degree that has not existed in the past.
That’s good news for the American people and for the world, even if it is not news that Obama wants to hear.

He doesn’t? I wonder how that author knows this? Any chance it’s instead just a variation of the same let’s-not-consider-facts-and-instead-just-make-stuff-up-to-“prove”-our-point-and-keep-the-followers-properly-agitated strategy?

With a century’s worth of cheap, practical energy in hand, the global economy has a good chance of expanding.

A “good chance”?! And that would be based on … what?

What if we actually had meaningful discussions about the assertions contained in ExxonMobil’s “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040” report which the author of the above-quote focused on [in one of the two articles which serve as the foundation of this series]? What if it was finally agreed that just firing off assertions based on little more than conjecture, hope, or a let’s-do-or-say-whatever-we-have-to animosity?

There’s no reason my grandchildren should not be living ten times as well as I am today. What stands in their way is not a lack of resources or technology – it’s government. Specially, liberal government.

Of course that’s the problem! Geology? Costs? An array of exploration, production, financial, and access considerations? Nah! Just liberals in keeping with their still vast, double-top-super-duper-secret conspiracy to … do stuff that the Right doesn’t approve of. We certainly don’t want our children or grandchildren to have better opportunities and better lives than we’ve enjoyed! Nope!

Our focus continues to be solely on dealing with facts, raising concerns based on same, seeking options and alternatives, planning, preparing, and … wait! Where is that approach going to take all of us? Damn those facts!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 4

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I’ve mentioned in the prior posts of this series that there were two articles posted online a number of weeks ago *  which caught my attention for reasons which at first puzzled me. No disrespect intended either author, but the contents of each were fairly routine offerings by those who clearly have not accepted the rationale of Peak Oil [and/or climate change] and have a decidedly anti-liberal/progressive perspective about … probably everything. Not exactly unusual these days, is it?

But as I suggested in the second post of this series, what struck me about the combination of the pieces [and the commentary from quite rabid believers in all things Right] was not the messages conveyed. They were what is by now standard fare from the Right. Perhaps it was nothing more than I had finally maxed out on the same vague, boilerplate, stay-with-the-message contributions to public discourse on matters of more than passing significance.

They each and both highlighted just about everything that’s not only “wrong” [disheartening and pointless, more accurately] about public policy and social issues discussions, but they also managed to encapsulate how each side in our ongoing Left-Right war talks past the “opposition.” They have no use for what we on the Left are trying to convey. From our perspective, the light-on-facts-if-they-even-bother approach seems more ludicrous by the day.

Given that our understanding of facts suggests we have some serious challenges ahead, the completely dismissive attitude of our perspective has flown past “just annoying” and landed on the “what the f*ck are they thinking?” square. Ignoring every bit of evidence offered in order to remain true to their foxhole partners carries the potential for significant consequences that will land on all of us. That makes us a bit edgy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Peak Oil: Time To Get Serious Pt 2

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If nothing else, we’ll need to recognize that, like climate change, Peak Oil is not some event looming on a distant horizon. Peak Oil is happening now.

We must guard against the notion that Peak Oil’s impact (like climate change) is just a one-time, cataclysmic episode “scheduled” to happen but only at some random time at an indefinite point sometime long into the future. That thinking suggest we can put off dealing with it until “later.” Conventional crude oil production peaked a decade ago. The short-term bump from tight oil production in recent years changed the totals for a brief period, but the the main issue is unchanged.

Media and industry spin may alter the perceptions of reality, but the efforts won’t change the reality. Peak Oil is already here! It’s not just about barrels of production totals. It’s what happens to a modern society powered by a finite fossil fuel resource drawn down every day to provide energy for a nearly-infinite number of needs, products, and demands.

The B team cannot match what conventional crude oil has provided all of us for more than a century. We’re now cruising along atop a somewhat steady (?) plateau of crude oil supply while feverish exploration continues, but a finite resource is still finite.

And inferior substitutes with their assorted financial and production challenges are still inferior substitutes.

The fact that peak oil’s impact won’t be obvious to all but the most rigidly delusional by next week, or next month, or next year, or for several years thereafter won’t alter the fact that what has powered modern society over these many decades will not be as available, affordable, or plentiful to power modern society in the years ahead. If we’re all waiting for a one-time collapse, then we’ve got a long wait ahead.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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