The political acceptance of peak oil, and what it means for 'economic normality', has begun

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Wed Apr 20 00:11:31 BST 2011

Hash: SHA1

View/download ecolonomics 11 from --


The Free Range News and Alerts Network » FRNAN-2011-04-19

The political acceptance of peak oil, and what it means for 'economic 
normality', has begun

In a follow-up to last months piece on the debate over energy and George 
Monbiot's support for nuclear power, writer and researcher Paul Mobbs mulls 
over the wider implications that the French Prime Minister now "gets" peak oil

Today, environmental consultant and author Paul Mobbs(1) has released an 
update to last months 'ecolonomics' newsletter(2) on the energy situation and 
nuclear power. He continues to examine George Monbiot's recent attacks on the 
work of the anti-nuclear movement, broadening his view to look at the areas 
where Monbiot's pro-nuclear stance falls down when we factor-in the 
implications of peak oil.

To summarise the main points:

# The announcement by the French Prime Minister that we have "reached the peak 
of oil production", given that France is both one of the G7 and one of the 
major industrialised nations, adds a new dimension to the debate over oil 
production. (pages 1/2)

# Using data from the US Energy Information Agency and BP, Paul graphs 
production to demonstrate the plateau in global production, and demonstrates 
why when oil production is constrained the oil price is very sensitive to the 
level of production above constrained level of production. If we assume that 
the present plateau in production were symmetrical with the peak, which he 
assumes was around late 2008, that puts the fall in production – and ensuing 
economic difficulties – as taking place in the Autumn of 2012 (pages 2/3)

# Returning once more to George Monbiot's recent attacks on the anti-nuclear 
movement, Paul outlines the problems of defining what is the "truth" about the 
relationship between radiation and health, given that there is evidence that 
the present dose model does not reflect the effects we see – and the failure of 
the nuclear establishment to accept any alternative viewpoint means that the 
present permitting system for power stations is a "fait accomplis". That being 
the case, radiation will not be the defining point for the permitting of new 
nuclear plants. (page 4)

# Paul challenges what remains unstated within George Monbiot's support for 
nuclear power. For example, does he support fuel reprocessing?, the use of 
"mixed oxide" (MOX) fuel containing plutonium?, and how does George stand on 
the ecological effects of uranium mining? Curiously, whilst George demands 
"peer reviewed" research from the anti-nuclear movement, the UNSCEAR report on 
the safety of uranium is based on un-reviewed studies from agencies with 
interests within the civil and military nuclear sector – despite there being a 
far wider body of research available on the effects of uranium mining, and its 
effects upon health and the environment. (pages 4/5)

# Paul picks apart George Monbiot's "over-emphasis" on the production of 
electricity when the data clearly shows that it's petroleum that dominates the 
economy, not electricity. If we look at the scale of energy use, petroleum is 
a far more critical component of the energy economy, and when we factor in the 
French Prime Minister's comments about peak oil it completely redefines any 
"certainties" we might have about out economic future. Consequently, given 
that the nuclear fuel cycle is also dependent on the use of petroleum-fuelled 
machinery and transport, nuclear power can't solve the problem of peak oil – 
as he says a number of times, "add peak oil into this equation; has the penny 
dropped?" (pages 6-8)

# Finally, drawing his arguments together, Paul contrasts the message of 
stasis and reassurance – presented by "largely self-appointed and 
unaccountable figures within the 'green' movement" – with the realities of what 
a peak in oil supply means. As indicated by the title of the piece, any such 
"certainty" that we can maintain the present affluent lifestyle against the 
effects of a peak in global oil production is "absurd". Following the 
"existentialist" theme within which he has composed this edition of 
Ecolonomics, he concludes by characterising "green consumerism" as 
"bourgeois", since it seeks to maintain the affluence of a small minority 
against the obvious trends that threaten society in general. Green consumerism 
is no more than an extension of the same trends of "conspicuous consumption" 
identified by Thorstein Veblen a century ago; the opposition of George Monbiot 
and others to "deep green" change is an attempt to provide a vain reassurance 
to affluent consumers that they can maintain their material comforts and "save 
the planet", even though such an outcome is unrealistic because the 
implications of peak oil. (pages 8-9)

To quote Paul Mobbs' views on the bias within "pro-nuclear" environmentalist's 
arguments –

Today we have politicians, journalists and environmentalists fixated by 
electricity producing nuclear, coal or renewable power plants, but the fact is 
that we expend TWICE the amount of petroleum-based energy in the transport 
sector as is currently used in all final electricity consumption applications. 
To have such great fixations over electricity, from wind-up radios to nuclear 
plants and wind turbines, is an assumption about the relative importance of 
certain forms of energy (e.g. electricity) over others (e.g. petroleum) that's 
not borne out by the statistics; clearly, the importance of electricity to the 
economy above other forms of energy is a "poorly proven assumption".

On the issue of the implications of peak oil within the nuclear debate he 
states –

Quite obviously, if you accept that you can have a peak in mineral oil 
production, then you must also accept the reality of a peak in uranium 
production. The geophysical processes which create one will create a similar 
phenomena with the other. More importantly, if you accept that peak oil is a 
reality, then not only does that redefine the validity of "the nuclear option", 
it also significantly re-engineers the scenarios behind climate change too.

In conclusion, on the general philosophy of environmentalism, and the innate 
contradictions between the reassuring messages of Monbiot and others versus 
the reality that the "deep green" philosophy they so despise provides a far 
more incisive analysis of our current predicament, he stated –

Today, as I outlined in the last ecolonomics, the infiltration of market 
principles has nullified the definition of human ecology within ecological 
limits. Instead we see the self-appointed environmental cognoscenti promoting 
"sustainable consumption" and "green consumerism" as solutions – when in fact 
these are not solutions at all, they're distractions from the real limits 
which are biting down upon the human system. Within the portrayal of 
environmentalism and environmental "solutions" in the media, what I find is not 
the "green nirvana" that its affluent promoters desire; what I see is the same 
delusional, short-term economic imperative that drives the rest of the 
unsustainable economic process. When I try to encapsulate the green 
consumerist approach in a simple description I always revert to the rather 
loaded epithet – "green with envy"; green consumerism represents the same 
consumption driven imperatives that Vablen identified a century ago.

Paul's update on peak oil and nuclear power is available at –

or for the PDF version go to –

For further comments or interviews he can be most easily contacted by email – 
mei at – or if necessary by telephone on 01295 261864 (for ecological 
reasons, he has no mobile phone).



1. For information on Paul Mobbs' past and present work visit his web site –

2. The 'ecolonomics' (a contraction of the terms 'ecology' and 'economics') 
newsletter is an occasional publication that examines issues relating to 
energy, ecology and economics, and seeks to develop a more in-depth (in Paul's 
terms, unapologetically detailed, or as he uncompromisingly states, "My medium 
is the word, the argument and the reference") view of everyday issues that 
define human ecology. For further details see –

- -- 


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see

Read my 'essay' weblog, "Ecolonomics", at:

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at
website -
public key -

Version: GnuPG v2.0.16 (GNU/Linux)


More information about the Diggers350 mailing list