A little less than one year ago, the major environmental news pertained
to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. From Wikipedia:
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP
oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the BP oil disaster or the
Macondo blowout) is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which
flowed for three months in 2010. The impact of the spill continues even
after the well has been capped. It is the largest accidental marine oil
spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The spill
stemmed from a sea-floor oil gusher that resulted from the April 20,
2010 explosion of Deepwater Horizon, which drilled on the BP-operated
Of course, the huge environmental news today is the nuclear crisis in
Japan, stemming from damage to the Fukushima
Dai-Ichi power plants.
It occurs to me that both of these disasters have a common cause: they
were caused by desperate efforts to wring cheap energy from
nature. The Macondo well was drilled in very deep water.
This is difficult and hazardous. We would not do it if we were
The Fukushima Dai-ichi power units were built in the late 1960s to late
70s. One could argue that the continued operation of the units
reflected a desperate need for more cheap energy. The units were
old; their designs, obsolete .
Debt-based economies require a positive growth rate in order to keep
functioning. That is, if the economy does not grow enough for all
the accululate interest-on-debt to be paid, defaults inevitably
occur. But economic growth requires either even-increasing energy
expenditures, or ever-increasing improvements in efficiency.
Therefore, there is a great need to constantly increase energy supply,
given the political impracticality of getting people to become more
efficient. We are trying to increase supply, despite a stread
decline in energy return per unit of energy invested (EROEI).
Hence, the desperation, hence the disasters. We have had two
major disasters now in less than a year. This is not a good sign.