And what a taster it was.
While people shift the blame for the Great Blackout around, the underlying themes are conveniently forgotten. Our monsoons have been variable in the past. But every 100 million population increase makes it worse. This year the monsoons have reduced by 22%. Just 22%! I still remember - 600 million people 30 years ago - this fraction would have been a deal, but not a big deal. Decreasing monsoons mean less water in hydroelectric panaceas and less generation. Frantic pumping of groundwater out of a lowering water table. No significant rainwater harvesting. The frantic pursuit of water, ageing, poorly maintained grids and fossil fuel powered generation all combine into the perfect storm.
And of course, the greatest dilemma of all - we are not discussing the futility of creating an acquisitive culture so that 1.2 billion people can aspire to the systematically destructive "living standards" of our peers abroad, without simultaneously destroying ourselves in the process. Ins very interesting essay, by a Mr Mead we know that the powers that be in the rest of the world are focused on further energy spending.
The energy revolution of the 21st century isn’t about solar energy or wind power and the “scramble for oil” isn’t going to drive global politics. The energy abundance that helped propel the United States to global leadership in the 19th and 2oth centuries is back; if the energy revolution now taking shape lives up to its full potential, we are headed into a new century in which the location of the world’s energy resources and the structure of the world’s energy trade support American affluence at home and power abroad.
By some estimates, the United States has more oil than Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran combined, and Canada may have even more than the United States. A GAO report released last May (pdf link can be found here) estimates that up to the equivalent of 3 trillion barrels of shale oil may lie in just one of the major potential US energy production sites. If half of this oil is recoverable, US reserves in this one deposit are roughly equal to the known reserves of the rest of the world combined.
And why is this development essential? Why, to create jobs for an already rich population.
The energy revolution is first and foremost a revolution that affects jobs. We are in the very early stages, but since the financial crisis of 2008, fracking alone has created something like 600,000 new jobs in the United States, says the FT. Throw in more jobs in both extracting and refining the new energy wealth, and add the manufacturing and processing industries that will return to US shores to benefit from cheap, secure and abundant energy and feedstock, and it is clear that the energy revolution will be a jobs revolution.
These jobs pay well; for the first time in a generation we are looking at substantial growth of high-income jobs for skilled blue collar workers. Some of these jobs, especially with overtime, will pay in the six figures; most offer wages well above the national blue collar average.
The boom has the potential to change the debate over immigration. The best blue collar jobs in the new oil and gas patches will demand workers with good English language skills and some technical background — good junior colleges and strong vocational high schools will prepare workers for these new jobs. Low skilled, non-English speaking workers will have a hard time competing for these jobs but will work instead in less well paid jobs servicing the energy sector and its workers. They will build houses for the oil workers to live in and staff the restaurants where they eat. As more blue collar native-born Americans see their living standards rise, it is likely that (legal) immigration will lose some of its political salience.
But blaming the West for our problems (though part of our political DNA) is, as always, futile. The West will continue do what it has always been the best at doing - the most vigorous and efficient exploitation, at any cost. Mr Mead, again.
Politics in an age of survival is ugly and practical. It has to be. The best leader is the one who can cut out all the fluff and the folderol and keep you alive through the winter. During the Battle of Leningrad, people burned priceless antiques to stay alive for just one more night.
They will butcher every panda in the zoo before they see their children starve, they will torch every forest on earth before they freeze to death, and the cheaper and the meaner their lives are, the less energy or thought they will spare to the perishing world around them.
We need to stop the wishful thinking that someone in the avidly consuming people, at some point in the future will see and understand and put measures in place to deal with emissions control. We are not in a position to influence the debate or the outcomes. We need to focus on adaptation and mitigation. In many ways we are progressing well - especially in the vitally important area of reducing population growth, so that the impact on future generations is lower. Our elites, being culturally frugal do a better job than most at reducing consumption - although this, too, is under threat. Perhaps it was heartening to note the lack of increase in crime and violence over the days of the blackout - but we have not been particularly efficient at organised violence. But what we really need to do is radically reverse the idea of a culture of permanently increasing consumption, in spite of what our supine propagandists tell us.