Monday, January 14, 2013

Staunchly Materialistic?

Once or twice every year (early for the first time this year), one particular aspect of modern culture makes me smile. We are so staunchly materialistic, yet we do not pay a whole lot of attention to the material dimension when our greed for insubstantial money comes in conflict with substantial materiality. The trigger today was an article Brigitte had left me overnight entitled “The Great Oil Swindle: Scaling the Peak of Fossil Fuel Scarcity,” by Nafeez Masaddeq Ahmed (link, it’s slow to load). Much of it concerns shale oil and gas, and, at the end describes looming problems there. That in turn reminded me of a post on LaMarotte where I had looked at the physical problems of shale. After writing that post, which makes one somewhat dubious about the supposed great bonanza of shale, I have been enduring a torrent of hopeful, indeed triumphant articles based on the boom mentality. Forget your troubles, baby, never mind that has-been, Peak Oil. All will be well as, for the next eternity or two, the U.S. of A. becomes the Saudi Arabia of Shale. Every now and then comes a contrarian drop in this downpour, and the article I cite is one such.

Materialistic humanity is always falling for mirages. The tulip mania comes to mind. It peaked in February 1637 in Holland. In that year some single tulip bulbs, Wikipedia informs me, “sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.” Okay. Let’s translate that. Let’s put the annual income of a skilled craftsman today at $65,000. A tulip bulb for $650,000? Why not? Anything is possible when you are a Shale Sheik.

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