Today oil prices touched $100 a barrel for the first time in history, marking a growing important trend for the near future. Even when historic prices are adjusted for inflation the price has been very slightly higher (at $104.70 during the Iran revolution in 1980). Crude prices reached a high of $97 in November and then fell, only to rise again after the new year.
Peak oil, and the other associated peaks (peak food production, peak metals and peak coal, among others) are a real concern over the next fifty years. When I participated in the collaborative fiction project World Without Oil in May, I thought peak oil was an interesting problem for the future but I wasn’t expecting prices to jump from $50 in January to $100 today. Although oil is always a volitile market, it looks like we may be hitting the point where supply can’t keep up with the increased demand. In the end $100 is just a number but the trend of oil, gold and other commodities mean many of the conservations needed to combat climate change may be forced on us by price alone.
[via the oil drum, where two people had a $1000 bet on whether oil would hit $100 a barrel in 2007. It didn’t, by one trading day, graph by futures.tradingcharts]
Peak Oil is a worrying topic but one that is complicated and based on many factors. Even if Hubbert’s predicted peak of oil isn’t close to happening and there are lots of barrels left in the earth, a plateau of oil production, which a lot of oil companies are saying looks likely around 2012, is likely to have a similarly heavy impact on economic growth and prosperity.
The oil taken so far has been mostly the easiest to extract. Whilst large swathes of oil lie locked away in places like the Venezuela Orinoco Belt and the Canadian Oil Sands, they are harder (and more expensive) to get. Added to the slowing of many major crude sources, these facts have led a lot of oil experts to predict the production of oil will slow and plateau, probably never reaching 100mbpd. With China and India increasing demand, we’ll be needing more than that in ten years time. What happens if the supply can’t keep up?
[via wired, image by jGregor]
With Virgin planning its first space tourists over the next few years and industry wanting to branch outside of the atmosphere, a little thought of problem has been solved by the industrialisation of space: money. Coins have sharp, metal edges that can cause great damage in zero-g and credit cards would be completely wiped by cosmic radiation.
Currency exchange company Travelex has come up with a new form of currency that is completely spaceproof. Made of a similar material to non-stick frying pans, the QUID is heatproof at a high temperatures, has no sharp edges or toxic materials that could cause problems for the astronauts using them. Maybe in the future we’ll all be walking round space malls spending our tubes of QUIDS.
[image from the QUIDS press release]
There are a lot of things in this world being changed by the internet. News is more immediate, more available and more impartial with the vast amount of sites and blogs reporting in a host of different ways. People sell their old stuff on ebay, or advertise rooms on craigslist. More and more the internet is bringing the service closer to the customer, cutting a lot of the middlemen out of the equation. After Amazon.com released its new DRM-free music download site to rival Apple Itunes, we could start seeing the beginning of a new purely-digital economy for some people.
The music industry is an interesting example of a business model rapidly changed by the internet’s influence. Just ten years ago, music was far more rigid – managers and scouts discovered talent, put an album out and promoted it. With Myspace pages, music blogs, internet radio and the 21st century digitalized version of word of mouth, it’s becoming easier for people to get their material out there themselves. Now, with music download sites becoming more and more accessible it’s easier for artists to skip the whole major label, CD store approach. Selling mp3s has far less overheads than red-brick stores that need to pay for manufacturing and transport of the CDs, the salaries of the managers, shop assistants and factory workers and all the many levels of bureaucracy that all take a cut of the profit, leaving the original artist with barely a few percent of the money spent on their work.
In the future, even in the near future, we could see artists that produce, promote and sell their work entirely online, making a greater percentage of the profits and passing that down to the consumer. If an artist gets 80% of the money for a song instead of 5%, they can afford to sell the mp3 for 30c instead of 99c and still make more money. The internet may give us the strange future of a place where we pay less for our products and end up giving the artist more. The advantages to such a lifestyle are numerous, especially in a society trying to cut down on its emissions.
[via guardian technology, image by Lord Cuauhtli]