The golden age of manufacturing and cheap oil
“Did you realise you were living in the golden before the downward turn occurred?”A very deep and philosophical question, I am aware, but the need to ask that question is at the heart of the challenge of which humanity and its civilisation now faces.
Listening to our politicians in this country abroad, you would be forgiven for thinking that the good times are only a belt tightening few years away, however the truth of the matter is that we (western civilisations) no longer have the tools to recreate the golden age of the last century.
Our industry doesn’t have the abundance of cheap oil and energy which previous generations benefited from. By the same token, our industries and our manufacturing, which puts the great into Great Britain, now belong to the Chinese people. They’re new found wealth and status is solely down to them inheriting our manufacturing industries.
Whether this transfer of Britain’s wealth to China was by design or a case of a ‘fool and his money’ is easily parted, that’s another article, but what I do know, is that the golden age which our politicians aspire too, cannot be recovered without that abundant cheap energy and a reversal of the outsourcing of manufacturing.
These two factors are the kingpin of economic success, for any country not just us and should be the priority of any current or future government policy, but if only life was that simple?
As the first decade of the 21st century has shown, we all sit precariously on the roller coaster ride that is ‘world energy pricing’, with demand now beginning to outstrip supply, and every Land Rover vehicle sold to China, bringing the world closer to the slide side of the peak oil graph.
The industrial revolution as celebrated in the Olympic opening ceremony was a fitting tribute to a dying nation, and as we ponder the if’s, what’s and whys of our eagerness to give away our once great manufacturing industries, we should also be prepared for the unintended consequences that China’s new found economy and wealth, will have on the price of oil.
A missed opportunity
As the world’s balance of power shifts Eastward and oil prices continue a gradual path upwards, most world leaders must be kicking themselves that they didn’t foresee these consequences sooner.
Communism may have many faults, but the ability to make vital and longer term decisions is not one of them. As the western nations were patting themselves on the back for winning the cold war against the soviet union, the Chinese communist party was maneuvering themselves to use democracy against itself. Our system of re-arranging the chairs every four years were a weakness, which our Eastern cousins have exploited.
As we were still enjoying the fruits of abundant North Sea oil reserves, and long before renewable technologies such as solar panels were considered popular, the Chinese People Party was resource grabbing around the world and still do so today.
This clever political maneuvering allowed them to dominate the rare earth metals required for this much needed technology, but as our political system squabbled and concentrated on nothing more important, than how to spend the money on the last of the North Sea revenue, as they still do today, the Chinese people were looking much longer term.
Looking long-term is democracies Achilles heal. The reasons why solar panels and other green technologies are so cheap today, compared to even two years ago, is the Chinese currently manufacturing them at a loss. Why?
Flooding the market will achieve two things. Putting European manufacturers out of business and getting them (us) hooked on their technology before raising their costs dramatically longer term.
Like a drug dealer getting the kids hooked first and pay later, this period of cheap solar panels is a brief window in time. Another long-term strategy.
For those savvy enough to be reading this article and have not had solar technology fitted yet, now is the time. Even without the feed-in tariff scheme, the long-term dependence on traditional oil and gas fuels will end in tears. A solar panel system lasting thirty to forty years will be a welcome relief to any home as the ‘golden age’ slips deeper into time.
Politicians here and abroad can create as many fancy slogans as they wish, but without cheap abundent energy and a return to manufacturing in our own country, the decade on decade improvements on living standards as experienced by people in the last century will never be seen again.
"Feel the pride."Stuart Lovatt October 11, 2012
Founder of Heat My Home.