Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Peak Capital

In several previous posts I discussed what I inelegantly call the “Great Fall-Apart,” meaning that the physical infrastructure of industrial civilization is beginning to crumble, and all our efforts to maintain and replace it will be unable to keep up with the growing pace of deterioration.

In this connection The Oil Drum: Europe has published a piece titled The Fifth Problem: Peak Capital, which I urge you to read. The infrastructure of developed countries has grown to such immense proportions that large amounts of energy and resources are needed just to maintain what has already been built. And anyone who reads the newspapers knows that roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, pipelines, and all the other infrastructural elements upon which our societies and economies are built are in serious need of repair and replacement, yet we are falling behind.

And as I noted previously, plans to run industrial society on renewables call for the construction of a great deal of new infrastructure that would also need repair and replacement, an obvious impossibility.

Certainly it’s a grim situation, as this means we’re sliding inexorably back toward a pre-modern existence (note I say “pre-modern,” not “Stone Age”). But I want to emphasize here, as I have before, that I am in favor of a crash program to build all the renewable infrastructure we can while it’s still possible, because that will help us achieve a soft landing. Instead of wasting more money, energy, and resources on airports and superhighways, which will become worthless sooner rather than later, we should be investing them in expanding rail systems, and building renewable energy infrastructure.

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