Peak Oil and Social Ownership: 12 Steps for Britain

'Big Gav' at the Oil Drum's Australia and New Zealand regional site has put up a very interesting article. In it, he notes 12 ways that the world, and especially those in the richer part of it, can cure our addiction to oil. This is important as the oil is running out, (constantly) and is of course non-renewable. The science is real and those who convinced of the idea are convinced by facts, not predisposition, credulity, or ideology. Have a look.

Oil is at the heart of our models of how to use materials, how to grow and transport food, and how to use energy. It is not enough to say 'oh we have reserves', because this does not seem to be the case. Where new deposits have been found, they are only viable at ludicrously high prices, otherwise they would have been exploited earlier.

There is also a huge global overhang of debt and an inflationary surplus of money in the world. The combination of these factors with ineluctably rising oil prices is going to lead to a form of stagflation. It is not enough to say, 'oh we will just use renewable sources and china and india are growing anyway'. There are not enough energy resources for China and India to live as the west has lived for the past forty five years or so. Renewables are not at present a viable replacement.

To a great extent, human liberation, and the lifestyle that has led to consumerism, and personal narcississm on a stunning scale have also been associated with the cheap materials, transport, and food that have been derived from the fifty-year oil boom. You don't have to be germaine greer to note how dependent feminism and the liberation of women from housework and drudgery has been a consequence of technology, any more than you have to think about how cheap energy and materials have been at the heart of contraceptive distribution.

The loss of oil without a viable replacement will therefore bring about ineluctable social change. This may be briefly forestalled, but there are no signs that it will be. A recession in the west in the past would have brought demand destruction; no more, given growth in asia.

It follows that governments will have to adjust. Long-term planning would have got them ahead of the curve. Here is my list of suggestions of what we should do. I have tried to answer the problem of how to 'unbloat' and demystify government spending and get it ready for what is coming in the UK.

1) Get the silly, funny-money quasi fascist private finance initiative off the table and make all government spending transparent and on the books so we know the full extent of our debts. I am very grateful to Martin Kelly's blog for the connection which he drew from his reading between Mussolini's private finance initiative and that of the UK.

2) Create a national social fund backed by government investment in commodity assets, and taxes which could not be used for general spending and which would be administered by trustees with a duty to ensure health care and welfare benefits on an equitable, transparent basis.

3) Create arms-length utility companies in rail, power, food and airport management with workers treated as partners and with a capacity to raise money but a responsibility to limit payouts to consultants and managers. Make it impossible for involved ministers or the company directors themselves not to be directly accountable to parliament.

4) Apply the principle of freedom of information in full to any company involved in government business and make any attempt to hide behind the requirements of commercial confidentiality illegal.

5) Require any company seeking government subsidy to swap voting shares with chartered government bodies for the money, or to accept the presence directors elected by customers on a one-customer one vote basis.

6) Expand food production, re-open food stores and enhance buffer stock schemes. There is at present a 'spastic stretchback' to the 1990s going on in which various silly people are trying to convince us that slashing food prices, and subjecting people to the huge market pressures of big-food is the solution to our problems. Occasionally they tack on foreign aid sentimentality and suggest that we are hurting African farmers by doing so. This is just wrong.

7) Get out of the arms industry and the pressure for war alongside the USA at all times, which limits Britain's capacity as an independent ally. There is a war going on against encroaching Islamism which will take up the better part of half a century and which is both internal and external. It needs to be fought intelligently, by sovereign countries, not by satraps of cold war neoconservatives.

The Dependence of the UK arises because the UK armed forces depend upon BAe systems ltd. BAe systems ltd depends upon American defense contracts. Those contracts depend upon the billions Britain spends every year on buying in an American nuclear deterrent and various other American systems. If BAe went bankrupt, renationalising it would be a tempting solution. If Airbus were undermined, buy their refuelling and radar-adapted aeroplanes, and engage in joint construction projects with European governments.

8) Stop building roads and start building railways.

9) Give local councils or housing associations the capacity to take over failed housing projects or to bail out builders who fail halfway through building housing estates, and also to buy at cheap rates any repossessed property not sold within a period of time, and use them to house employed but low-disposable income workers with the rent to go to a local welfare fund. Make it a requirement of any new housing construction that land is set aside for allotments or set-off against allotments within an easy distance.

10) Stop subsidising under performing schools and universities and wasting money over educating people for soul-destroying service jobs which are going to disappear. Spend part of the saving on the open university and public libraries. Consider allowing a mix of independent, religious, voucher-based, and public schools. Abolish the national curriculum, GCSE exams, and coursework. If universities have modular exams, make them transferable between institutions and capable of being accumulated over time. Twin local schools with universities and make graduates and lecturers teach in them occasionally as part of any loan or subsidy scheme.

11) Abandon the carbon-obsessed, cumbersome schemes associated with global warming silliness except for those that produce clear reliable benefits in terms of energy conservation or sustainable energy sources.

12) Scrap all identification card, government-database boondoggles. Every time that government saves money, pay off debt.

Then we will be in a fitter position to deal with the other challenges of the world after peak oil.

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