Here's the link to the original publication of my remarks and Wayne's essay:
We were responding to a cheery article in the business press about how there would soon be an ice-free passage for ships traveling directly from Europe to Asia through the Americas -- a fabled "silk road" of the oceans, which the mariners of the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries yearned for and died trying to locate.
[November 11, 2004: Petroleum elites are benefiting from oil scarcity, because it raises prices. But they also fear oil scarcity, because it raises costs and eventually makes business impossible. And since the oil industry is also impeding the large-scale development of alternatives while continuing to encourage rampant consumption, scarcity of fossil fuels may eventually kill them. They don't seem to mind. Maybe the pursuit of world-destroying policies is some kind of compensation for their own mortality --- you know, if I can't live forever, I think I'll take the rest of you down with me. Such a policy is neither government nor business; it's the melodrama of a big dysfunctional family whose patriarchs are finally going crazy - just when their power is at its height.
Here's another metaphor: the Petro-Administration of Cheney-Rice-Bush is like a psychotic who tries to play chess: indifferent to the rules, he simply steals the opponent's king off the board, claims victory, and burns the whole chess-set in the fireplace.
In the following shocker by Wayne Madsen, we learn that there are people high up in Washington who regard the apocalyptic melting of the polar ice caps as a good thing. Why? It will clear new shipping lanes for the exploitation of Arctic oil and gas.
About six years ago I published an essay in the Massachusetts Review called "Scarcity and Compensation in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick." I learned that the American whaling industry did not end because petroleum replaced whale oil; whaling stopped because the animals had been "harvested" almost to extinction, and the only place left to catch them was in the perilous ice floes of the Arctic Ocean. In 1873 thirty-three out of forty whaling ships cruising in the Arctic were destroyed by ice. 1
Today the American oil industry finds itself back up in the Arctic, chasing petroleum (not whale blubber). But this time, pollutants from its own product have warmed the globe, and instead of destroying our ships, the ice is just melting out of the way! What a wonderful way to settle an old score. - JAH]
1. See Jamey Hecht, "Scarcity and Compensation in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick," The Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXXX No. 1. Spring 1999:
From 1805 to 1875, the per capita demand for whale oil was increasing at an average of 15.76% per year [Michael Maran, The Decline of the American Whaling Industry, Doctoral Dissertation in Economic History, University Microfilms, (Ann Arbor, 1974), p.40]. "Whale products were displaced by mineral oils and gas as illuminants between 1850 and 1860," writes Michael Maran, in his econometric analysis of the whaling industry's decline:
"However, this did not mean that the total demand for whale products decreased... It was the scarcity of whales that shifted the industry's relatively inelastic supply schedule toward the left... The industry's demand schedule shifted to the right as the market for whale products grew, but not by enough to offset the loss of revenues caused by the shift of the supply schedule to the left. "[my emphasis].
The whaling industry was destroyed not by competition from alternative products like petroleum and kerosene (which were developed in quantity only as whale products became increasingly unavailable) but by the inability of the whale populations to recover from relentless hunting. In 1852 (one year after the quite obscure publication of Moby-Dick), Scientific American reported at the conclusion of a market analysis that "the exports of the present year do not come up to half the demand." In 1856 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper warned: "The whale, upon which we depend for oil, is rapidly being driven...into inaccessible seas, and will before many years...entirely disappear." As Maran writes, "Each phase of whaling marked the exhaustion of one stock of whales and the exploitation of a new stock," beginning with the off-shore whaling of the colonial period, which sufficed until the 1760's, when deep sea whaling was begun of necessity.Meanwhile: "On November 28, 2008, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canadian Coast Guard confirmed the first commercial ship sailed through the Northwest Passage."
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