[OPE-L] Peak Oil

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 15 2005 - 23:10:18 EST

The essence of the article by George Caffentzis regarding peak oil is
contained in the following:

        "For the 'Peak Oil' hypothesis is now becoming an early 21st century
justification for an attack on pensions, wages and workers' guarantees in
the so-called advanced capitalist countries. Presumably, the increased cost
of finding new fields and their increased rent in an era of Peak Oil will
force an increase in the transferred value into the oil industry that would
require an increase in the mass of exploited labour. The permanently
increased energy costs presaged by the 'Peak Oil' hypothesis are now a
convenient way for capitalists to invoke the need for 'austerity' (for
their workers) long before the actual exhaustion of oil, natural gas and
coal is on the horizon. Thus this hypothesis is an even more pernicious
tool in class struggle than the energy limitation ideology of the 1970s.
But the apparently logical connection between the 'end of cheap oil' and
reduced wages and working class expectations is simply a mirage. The hidden
assumption of Peak Oil ideologists is that increased energy prices (for
corporations) inevitably require a reduction of the wage rate instead of a
reduction in the profit rate. In other words, Peak Oil politics assumes
that the working class will finance the transition from cheap to expensive
oil come what may. Given the present configuration of class forces in the
US, this assumption is perhaps a good bet, but it is a far from necessary

Peak Oil is far more serious that such a conclusion captures.  It is a huge
ecological crisis, caused by capitalism.  It is far more than just a
'distribution of income'/'rate of surplus value' question.  It is a rape of
the Earth question with huge 'blowback', which could be ameliorated with
worldwide genuine socialism but even so we would have to face the stark
consequences of the preceding capitalist mode of production.

Peak Oil within capitalism suggests that the system is going in imminent
crisis, a crisis that would not be avoided by real wages rising and s/v
falling.  It would not even be avoided by socialism since socialism would
inherit the hydrocarbon-based transportation, fertilization, manufacturing
system all of us are using constantly, and the resulting ecological

Peak Oil is far more than a ideological justification to reduce worker
wages.  Wages are already near, or at, starvation levels for the majority
of the world proletariat ('good morning, sweatshop worker, be glad you've
got a job at all').  We have a genuine material question to face.

The full article is at



RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY,  Paul Zarembka, editor, Elsevier Science
******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

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