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Three One Eighties in Fifty Years

By January 22, 2024January 29th, 2024Energy Rant

My top “strength,” according to Gallup’s CliftonStrengths survey, is context, which means knowing and understanding history to assess situations and inform and guide decisions. “Those with Context are the people in our lives who instinctively look to the past to understand the present.” How does this affect my perspectives? Historical context serves as an impenetrable bullshit filter. I.e., we’ve been here before. I recognize this pattern, and I’m not joining the mob. See you later.

We’re Going to Starve

If you’re over 50, you were probably told that we would run out of food. Here are some zingers from the 1970s.

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 issue of Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years [by 1980].”

“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Paul Ehrlich in a 1969 essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe! “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”

In 2024, we have too much food. My fellow cynical blogger, Joel Gilbert, notes the “existential threat” of too many Mexican avocados. Think about that while you have your avocado toast and cappuccino in the morning. They’re coming for you. Thanks, Joel, for triggering this Rant topic and post.

Industrial ag, which is to say, food at scale including, “the manufacture and use of pesticides and fertilizers, fuel and oil for tractors, equipment, trucking, and shipping, electricity for lighting, cooling, and heating, and emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and every possible greenhouse gas they can think of, increases the impact up to between 25% to 30% which is the number used by John Kerry[1].”

The war on fertilizer, farmers, and food has been raging in the Netherlands for several years. In 2019, The Guardian reported, “By far the largest share of nitrogen deposited on Dutch land comes from agriculture, so these measures would need to involve, according to the committee’s report, buying out and shutting down livestock farms.” In 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Farmers, the government said, have three options: ‘Becoming more sustainable, relocating or ending [their businesses].'”

This tack of coercion makes me angry for the farmers and the poor who cannot afford food. Notice how we must constantly save the planet for the sake of the poor, but the poor are hit first and the hardest, whether it’s their grocery or utility bill? I have a big problem with this.

Pattern: we won’t have enough food; we have too much food. I didn’t even mention that 40% of this country’s largest crop, corn, is wasted in ethanol production. Oops. I just did.

We’re Going to Run out Of Energy

About 50 years ago, we had the Arab oil embargo, inflation hit 11%, and President Nixon declared we would not have inflation: “I am today [15AUG71] ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.” That is John Kerry and UN-esque brilliance, to be sure. Price controls produce one thing: shortages.

Today, except for the five BRICS nations, which include 40% of the world’s population and 54% of its CO2 emissions, countries are going to crazy lengths to keep fuel, including uranium, in the ground.

What happened to peak oil, the “hypothetical point when global oil production maximizes and enters an irreversible decline?” Forbes writes that peak oil “has been the holy grail of resource economics for decades: prized and just as elusive.” Peak oil is another 50-year-old theory that has yet to materialize.

Pattern: We will run out of energy; we have too much energy. If decarbonization lowers energy bills, especially for the poor, I’m all in. Otherwise, convince the communists they have a problem.

We’re Going to Freeze

In yet another 50-year-old theory from the 1970s, we were on the doorstep of the next ice age. This article from Longreads provides a perspective[2]. It cites a Newsweek article, “He [Peter Gwynne] raised the possibility of shorter growing seasons and poor crop yields, famine, and shipping lanes blocked by ice, perhaps to begin as soon as the mid-1980s. Meteorologists, he wrote, were ‘almost unanimous’ in the opinion that our planet was getting colder. Over the years that followed, Gwynne’s article became one of the most-cited stories in Newsweek’s history.”

Famine. There he went again! Yawn.

Arctic blasts are catnip for conservative media. Zerohedge headline: Two Weeks After “Hottest Year” Ever, NFL’s Bills-Steelers Game Postponed For Snow. You may have seen, heard, or read about Patrick Mahomes’ helmet “shattered” because of the cold weather a couple of weeks ago in sub-zero Kansas City as they took out Miami. My dog Sunny’s ChuckIt launcher faced the same music as his ball froze into the cradle with the glue of his frozen slobber. It slipped out of my hand and shattered into pieces as it hit the frozen alley.

More catnip:

Notice how people never complain about unusually warm weather in wintertime and how people are flooding into hot zones like Texas and Arizona and coastal Southeastern states that are reported to be at risk for rising sea levels and hurricanes?

Is this some psychological disorder? Searching “people’s actions don’t align with their opinions,” I get cognitive dissonance.

I do not think this is the situation for most people moving into the heat. I think they weigh benefits (weather, lifestyle, low/no state income taxes, cost of living) against risks (flooding, hurricanes, and atrocious heat) and say, pack the U-Haul kids; we’re moving toward the equator!

[1] The most irresponsible fool in the climate fight.

[2] Plenty of Rant banter in this article.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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