We’re Going Into Fossil Fuel Withdrawal

Image from Trainspotting 2

Farmers in the Netherlands are protesting against emission cuts, like a drug-addict avoiding rehab. America is desperately fracking its veins, and even going to Venezuela to score. Germany is hitting that black rock again, they’re reverting to coal. Fossil fuels are a hell of a drug, and the world just can’t quit. In fact, we’re going into violent withdrawal.

I too once thought that we could ‘just stop’ fossil fuels and honestly, I was wrong. People are protesting for fossil fuels, not against them, and it’s totally understandable. If any government actually tries to make the emissions cuts they should be making, people will cut their heads off. Elites have certainly gotten us into this situation, but we can’t just quit cold turkey now. We’re fucking addicted.

Addicts can know perfectly well that they’re on a bad path and still keep going. They’re not dumb, it’s a perfectly rational calculation. Should I feel better right now or spend years maybe getting my life back together? It’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through the day. So fuck it, take another shot. That’s where our civilization is at now.

We know that fossil fuels are bad for us, but if we stop them we immediately feel worse. I know because my country, Sri Lanka, has involuntarily gone cold turkey and it’s fucking awful. Our livelihoods depend on oil. Our food requires fertilizer (often made with gas). Hell, we need natural gas to even cook our food. Now we can’t move. We can’t cook. We can’t eat. Withdrawal from fossil fuels is fatal. I know. My people are fucking dying.

Europe is also being involuntarily withdrawn from fossil fuels, because their American rulers feel like it. Now prices are inflating there, Germany is running a trade deficit, and this winter a lot of people are going to be unemployed and cold. And Europeans are historically violent people. They don’t usually deal well with deprivation. The ongoing protests in the Netherlands are just the start.

People have long asked why don’t governments ‘do something’ about climate collapse, and this is why. Because doing something sucks. Yes, politicians make money from keeping us hooked on fossil fuels, but we also overthrow them if they stop. In the end, they just do what politicians do. Lie to us, like we want them to. “We can quit any time, in fact, we’re right about to”.

The only big country ‘doing something’ about climate collapse is China, which is investing more in renewable energy than almost everyone else combined. While western oligarchies debate shit endlessly while doing nothing, China’s CPC actually exercises control over the economy, which you need to actually do something about a fundamentally economic problem. China is the only government serious about kicking fossil fuels, which involves basically taking methadone for a few decades while you wean yourself off it.

Russia is at least the honest asshole in these geopolitics. As Vladimir Putin said:

Personally, I believe that many political players in the United States and Europe have been taking advantage of people’s natural concerns about the climate, climate change, and they began to promote this green agenda, including in the energy sector.

It all seems fine, except for the unqualified and groundless recommendations about what needs to be done in the energy sector. The capabilities of alternative types of energy are overestimated: solar, wind, any other types, hydrogen power — those are good prospects for the future, probably, but today, they cannot be produced in the required amount, with the required quality and at acceptable prices. And at the same time, they began to belittle the importance of conventional types of energy, including, and above all, hydrocarbons.

Putin is right that we can’t just quit without crippling our economies and agriculture, something Americans ignore as they blithely sanction the entire world into recession. Putin has no particular interest in planning his way out of this, but his at least not burdening us with hot air as well as emissions.

Americans and Europeans, on the other hand, just lie. They smile and smile and be villains. Joe Biden campaigned on taking climate change seriously, and then opened up more public land for drilling than Trump. His administration crowed about drilling the most ever, and they’re trying to drum up even more from allies like Saudi and even enemies like Venezuela. The whole American attitude towards fossil fuel addiction is like Elvis Presley’s towards drugs. He proudly got a narcotics agent badge from Richard Nixon while doing a shitton.

Elvis was literally a narc (via TIME)

The only people actually quitting right now are the poor countries that simply cannot afford these shenanigans. Poor countries like mine simply don’t have petrodollars anymore (having been broken by colonial capitalism for centuries). Thus the people who contributed the least to the problem are paying for it most bitterly. It’s like the difference between rich and poor drug users. The rich can get away with it for years, while the poor catch a vicious beating.

We’re all fucking hooked on this shit and while the dealers are certainly evil, we can’t just blame the dealers. We can’t blame ourselves either, cause most of us live in oligarchies, with only the appearance of democracy. We’re all just trying to get through the day, and the conundrum is that this leads to the end of days. It’s inexorable really. We won’t stop until we hit rock bottom, but even then the planet won’t stop heating.

Like many addicts, we won’t stop because we’re going to lose everything. We’ll stop after we lose it, we’ll stop because we lose them, we’ll only stop when we have no other choice. If we’re lucky. Many of us will just die. The sad fact is that withdrawal and near-death experiences aren’t enough for too many addicts. The fact is that numbing the pain of today is still better than some hypothetical tomorrow. And that’s the state of human civilization today.

We dug up some black tar and it gave us energy, it gave us power, it gave us light. Now we’ve gotten used to it and our bodies depend on it. Without fossil fuels we stop moving, we stop eating, we stop life. It’s fucking hard to quit, and all the moralizing doesn’t really help. All that’s happening is that the poor are being made homeless, the rich are acting holier than thou, and the only people with a plan are being lied about or just ignored.

Even as the world is going into withdrawal—as the planet itself is alternately feverish and freezing, burning and flooding—even as Mother Earth itself is obviously about to kick us out of the house, even now we can’t quit. We’re addicts and we haven’t even taken the first step of admitting it.

We think we can quit any time, if the dealers just stopped pushing it. But we don’t get it. From every synapse of our civilization, we’re pulling. Fossil fuels are a hell of a drug and I’m afraid we’re going to end up where too many beloved drug users end up. My friends. Quite tragically. This civilization is not going to recover. It’s going to OD.