It's interesting (albeit mildly depressing) looking at the site traffic stats nowadays - while "peak oil" itself is just having a rest while the bottom of the barrel gets thoroughly scraped, interest in the topic (and related ones, like global warming) really has plummeted based on the traffic this blog is receiving.
A year ago (after a couple of years of little to no activity) I was still seeing well over 500 visitors a day coming to the site directly and a similar number via RSS. Lately the number is more like 220.
Admittedly its difficult to compare the numbers directly as the long period of inactivity has resulted in a dwindling number of inbound links and the site's Alexa rating dropping rapidly - so traffic from search engines is far lower than it used to be.
Nevertheless, my recent post on "Our Clean Energy Future" gave me some insight into how the other major energy sites are faring based on the volume of inbound traffic resulting from cross-posts.
When The Oil Drum was in its heyday it peaked at over 100,000 visitors in a single day. If I wrote something interesting and topical there I'd expect to see more than 10,000 readers for a single post and around 200 comments - perhaps 300 if the topic was hot.
Lately TOD seems to have dwindled to around 8,500 visitors per day - it still generated some referred traffic - perhaps another 250 visitors all up.
Resilience's traffic isn't clear (I can't see Sitemeter or an equivalent on their pages) but they referred almost as many visitors as TOD - around 180 - so perhaps their daily readership is around 5,000 visitors these days assuming a similar proportion of readers click through.
PO.com only referred around 30 readers, so their traffic appears to have almost vanished (and judging by the comments made there, the remaining readership is still living in some doom-world circa 2005 that allows no new thought to enter - no wonder they drove JD insane during his long years in the wilderness there).
I tried to post to the Energy Collective as well but it didn't make it through moderation.
While the peak oil sites remain afflicted with a doom ridden view of the future one guy did pipe up at Resilience defending my article - weirdly enough from the IWW (I never imagined when I was younger that I'd be popular with the communists, but there you go). He posted a link to an interesting article of his - Capital Blight - Green Illusions or Malthusian Miasma?. Who knows what your PRISM / XKeyScore file will be tagged with if you click the link, but hey - you only live once...
A recent item on truth-out.org, published on April 8, 2013, features an interview by Steve Horn of Ozzie Zehner, author of the book Green Illusions: the Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism . Titled, “Power Shift Away from Green Illusions” the interview would have been more appropriately named, “Deep Dive into a Vat of Malthusian Miasma.”
The interviewee, author Ozzie Zehner, argues that the public is being offered a false choice between fossil fuel based civilization and a renewable energy / clean tech based alternative, and that “most environmentalists” have “jumped on board the bandwagon”.
In Zehner’s mind these are not choices at all but, in fact, the same choice, because renewable energy technology production, usage, and maintenance cannot exist without fossil fuels coexisting alongside of it throughout its usage cycle, from manufacturing, to deployment, to maintenance, and so forth.
“There’s no such thing as clean energy, but there’s such a thing as less energy,” he says. “There’s a misconception that once alternative energy technologies are off the ground they can fly on their own. But alternative energy technologies are better understood as a product of fossil fuels,” he continues, also declaring, “Our planet has bounded resources and limited capacity to absorb the impacts of human activities.” Zehner goes on to dismiss electric cars as being no better than conventional fossil fuel vehicle, asserting that electric cars “merely create a different set of side effects (than their fossil fuel counterparts). It’s just that those side effects didn’t come out of a tail pipe, where we are accustomed to looking for them." He finishes up by opining that, “Mainstream environmental groups seem transfixed by technological gadgetry and have succumbed to magical thinking about their pet fetishes.”
These arguments are hardly fresh or groundbreaking. They are, in fact, essentially the same that were made by Richard Heinberg in The Party’s Over: Oil, Water, and the Fate of Industrial Society, in 2003, by William R Catton Jr. in Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, in 1973, and by Paul Erlich in The Population Bomb, in 1968, and Zehner expressly considers Heinberg and Erlich his compatriots (though he doesn’t mention Catton).
In their minds, the source of industrial pollution (and just about all of society’s ills for that matter) can be traced to an excess of human population, which is itself the result of fossil fuel based technology which enables a false increase in the survivability of human beings that would otherwise not be possible in nature. This core assumption (of nature as a rather harsh and unforgiving mistress) itself is a rather twisted reinterpretation of the ideas of reactionary cleric Thomas Malthus.
Malthus is most famous for his essay On Population which essentially argues that human population expands until the available sources of food is scarce enough to induce starvation among its poorest and/or weakest members. Early naturalists, including Charles Darwin expanded this line of reasoning to other species, and it has long been assumed to be an ecological maxim, but in fact, this is not true.
Malthus was not an environmentalist, and were he alive today, he would have likely been vehemently hostile to most environmentalists, primarily because of the latter’s tendency towards antiestablishment beliefs. Malthus was a defender of the status quo, a deeply religious Anglican cleric, whose treatise had been written as a rebuttal to the ideas advocated by William Godwin, the “father” of modern anarchism. Godwin had married the radical feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, and their daughter, Mary Shelley wrote the original poem that became the story of Frankenstein, an allegory for class struggle based environmentalism if there ever was one.
Such ideas were an anathema to Malthus who defended class stratification as “God’s will” for punishing sin--though he never offered any coherent analysis on how the rich were somehow able to avoid it. If anything, Malthus was as antithetical to environmentalism as one could get, and Shelley much closer to it. Many an environmentalist invokes Frankenstein as a metaphor for the industrial technocracy they so vehemently oppose never grasping the sheer irony in doing so! ...