This was always going to be the year of energy insecurity. I’m pretty sure that, if you gave me a minute, I could produce half a dozen authoritative predictions that in 2006 various (or all) Western economies would be damaged by failed or blocked supplies of oil or gas. We’re so short-sighted, so incapable of reading even our own most immediate history, though, that it’s still a surprise.
The logic of the current crisis (forgive me for a bit of out-of-character pessimism) is that we’ve just come to the end of our first (and presumably our only) century of energy plenty, a century during which we exploited cut-rate, externality-free energy to build up the planet’s productive capacity to something close to its theoretical maximum.
The energy market’s more robust than it used to be and this particular crisis will be short-lived but access to cheap energy will falter again and the awesome energy bubble we call the Twentieth Century will begin to look like the kind of final, catastrophic, overdone peak that came just before the collapse of various historic empires: Rome, Mesopotamia, Britain, Capitalism. Like I said, oh shit.