Tuesday, 24 January 2017 15:26

Y2K, Food Miles, Peak Oil—The Global Scares that Flopped

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Political Class-Media Armageddons Recalled

Three scaremongering and imminent disaster predicted without qualification by the political classes that would paralyse civilisation in the new millennium have now conspicuously failed to come to pass.

The millennialist threats in terms of the disaster they were predicted to precipitate were:-

  • The Y2K computer paralysis
  • Food miles
  • Peak oil

The Y2K COMPUTER paralysis was predicted to hit civilisation with the advent of the current millennium, the second millennium. In the event global data processing continued as before. The pretext for the scare was that computer operating system clocks were said to be self-eliminating at the point of entry into the new millennium.

What was the existing evidence to reveal the bogus nature of the claim?

The existence of a operating systems that were timed to run out prior to the millennium. Among these was the widely used Pick operating system, designed originally for the military, and which went on the market in 1973. In the event Pick operating systems having run through two clock changes (its proprietary one and the millennium one) continue to function as originally specified.

What happened? Global computational carried on as before, regardless of the digital changes inherent in the new digital time zone.

Who benefited? Computer service companies which toward the end of the first expansionary period of digital processing enjoyed a burst of activity in systems reworking.

FOOD MILES gripped the minds of the fashionable and media classes in the general superstitious frenzy attendant on the new millennium. This panic theory fed off the Peak Oil one. The contention was that any imported foods ate up miles in bringing them to the mouths of the consumers in the importing nations. Therefore everyone should eat locally, and ideally, organically produced foods.

What was the existing evidence that would have debunked this one?
Any sea freight shipping price schedule.

What happened? A surplus of refrigerated shipping tonnage meant that the cost-per- food mile of imported food dropped substantially below that of freighting the same foodstuffs internally the process which further worsened the urban congestion of developed nations. It was also discovered that producing local foodstuffs organically or off season in greenhouses in fact consumed more energy than was involved in bulk carrier freighted imports.

Who benefited? Food miles gave traction primarily to urban non-productive activists. The scare was eventually abandoned as it became obvious that it was now being taken up by nations which saw it as an opportunity to erect non-tariff barricades to keep out imports.

PEAK OIL Anyone who sought to be acknowledged as being fashionable early in the millennium needed to let these two words trip off their tongues. The claim was that all the oil in the globe would simply run out. Or, as a consequence would become so expensive as to be beyond the reach of anyone or any institution. Whole nations we were reliably informed would become paralysed.

What was the existing evidence that would have readily debunked the panic?

Any perusal of North American shale oil projections.

What happened? New resources cut in and oil in relative terms is now cheaper than it has been for a generation simply because there is more of it.

Who benefited? The oil industry and oil producing nations took advantage of this scaremongering which had the effect of exaggerating the value of their product simply by advertising its scarcity.

|  From The MSCNewsWire reporters' desk  |  Tuesday 24 January 2017  |