Follow the Energy to Find the Money

Peat, an early yet minor fossil fuel
Peat, an early yet minor fossil fuel

While the phrase "follow the money" is common parlance in progressive circles these days, a more relevant line of investigation for these peak oil times of ours might be, I think, "follow the energy."

For as it is, the suggestion of "following the money" generally refers to something like following the trail of bread crumbs all the way to where the buck stops, one eventually coming upon a conniving band of so-called "one-percenters," conveniently deemed as being responsible for all the evils in the world. However, if one tries "following the energy," the conclusions and perspectives drawn can be quite different. (Aside: if we really followed the money, then we'd notice that most money is actually created out of thin air by private banks as debt, but that's a whole other story.)

This alternate method of querying things came to me some time after giving a bit of thought to the most recent centres of finance, New York City and the City of London. That is, the Bank of England (England's central bank) came into being (under a truly fantastic ruse) in 1694, New York City's financial ascendancy coming some time later (itself not much better, establishing itself upon the back of manifest destiny).

Secondly, and although their mass production of fossil fuels proceeded their initial financial ascent, England's extraction and utilization of coal led to it becoming the locus of the Industrial Revolution, while the United States' discovery and extraction of oil a century or so later contributed to New York City becoming the new king of the (dung) hill. This then got me thinking; even though there was an obvious discrepancy in time frame, was there some kind of relationship between banking and fossil fuels (or better yet, with energy)? That being said, was my willingness to somewhat overlook the discrepancy in time an example of my sloppiness in seeing connections where none actually existed, or was it instead possible that the emergence of copious fossil fuels in England and then the United States proceeded to cement in the City of London and then New York City's status as hubs of banking?

My later realization that Amsterdam preceded the City of London as banker and banker-coattail-riding paradise by about a hundred years or so – and where unscrupulous goldsmiths came up with the fractional-reserve system and the underpinnings of the 400-or-so-year-old-modern-banking-system-aka-Ponzi-scheme – made me doubt all this. Until, that is, I happened to read Alfred W. Crosby's book Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Appetite for Energy. As Crosby put it,

In the 1600s, when New York was born as New Amsterdam,... Holland ran out of harvestable wood and couldn't shift to coal unless it imported it. The Dutch shifted to peat, a fossil fuel of which they had plenty. They warmed their homes, cooked their meals, and processed many of their manufactured products – brewed their beers, refined their sugar, baked their bricks – with peat fires.

A peat fire
A peat fire

Although Crosby went on to describe The Netherlands as "arguably the first modern society" due to them being "the first society powered by fossil fuels," peat doesn't burn at a high enough temperature per unit of weight or volume to make it comparable to the latter three of what Wes Jackson calls the five carbon pools (soil, trees, coal, oil, natural gas). In other words, Amsterdam would quite easily end up getting de-dunged by the City of London shortly thereafter. None the less, peat provided a significant source of energy at the time, and quite neatly fit my funny little theory.

Did anything else? Well, upon doing some "research" (Google searches), I found out that such places as Antwerp, Bruges and Florence were previous centres of finance. Did they fit my hackneyed theory? Perhaps a bit. They were all cities in countries with ample coastal areas and/or access to the sea via connecting bodies of water, these then providing the "free" energy source of wind which would have aided marine transport, for themselves if not for the countries they represented. Looking back a bit further, the (still) glorified centre of finance and empire, Rome, most certainly had a strong connection to a relatively large source of energy – the inseparable gloriousness of the energy of slaves.

The peat harvest
The peat harvest

I may be stretching things here, but it seems to me that a possibly not-quite-insignificant connection exists between energy and banking (if not money). Or put a bit more crudely, that bankers (should I say banksters?) and other lovers of money had (and have) a fondness for "cheap" energy, a fondness for outsourcing the use of their own bodies for manual labour to machines and/or vulnerable human beings, and, likewise, an aversion to sweating their own sweat (unless, that is, they're handing over money to personal trainers and other entities that confer a high status on sweating).

If there is a smidgen of truth to this notion that conjurers and promoters of easy money flock – if not help themselves – to easy energy like vultures converging on easy and vulnerable prey, does this possibly infer something in regards to these modern times of ours?

Well, although it still remains a "secret" to many, we're currently in the early stages of the bursting of the fracking bubble. What this means is that all the Wall Street vapour-money fleeing the fracking biz is going to end up wanting a new carcass to devour, and the giddy media is going to want a new energy source whose stocks it can inflate on the 6 o'clock news. For those "in the know," there is of course no new and untapped source of energy whose mantle those fond of parasitism can pick up. From what I can tell this leaves nothing else for the vapour-money to converge upon and the pundits to hype than none other than the alternative energy sector. If so, and since the business-as-usual method of recovering from a bursted bubble is to get the economy going by creating another bubble, one might expect the bursting of the fracking bubble to be followed by the inflating – and bursting – of the alternative energy bubble (which, as memory serves, isn't an entirely new theory).

Drying the peat harvest
Drying the peat harvest

And after that? At that (hypothetical) point all bets would certainly be off, but it would be nice if we could ditch the mind-numbing TVs and narcissism-inducing cinemas, and at least attempted to avoid the televised play-by-play coverage of industrial civilization's collapse as well as its navel-gazing and self-congratulatory portrayals on the big screens. For if circumstances dictate, and as history – and present times – readily show, legions of apologists would be all too willing to excuse and justify one of humanity's oldest (and still enduring) sources of energy – the outright energy of slaves.

Supposing then that there is a connection between energy and banking, and that we want to avoid slipping into usage of the energy source glossed over by the lovers of ease, money, and status, then perhaps the creation of local currencies could act as a decentralizing buffer against the slave-inducing prerogatives of the future's upcoming centre(s) of finance.

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Comments (6)

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Blair T. Longley
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5
Feb 2015
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Connections between following the money versus "following the energy" are controls over the energy systems, which operate via the methods of organized crime, BECAUSE it is the production of destruction that controls production, and therefore, ALL of the ways that money controls society are actually ways the ENERGY FLOWS through civilizations follow the general energy system laws, which manifested as the methods of organized crimes, & resulted in banksters dominating that.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Blair: To clarify a bit, I'm still a bit wary about using the term "bankster" (hence the question mark). That is, I didn't want to label all bankers as being fond of cheap energy (such as people running the town's local currency system, if they would even count as being bankers). Perhaps a better description would be "apologists of exploitation"?
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Blair T. Longley
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Feb 2015
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I define "banksters" as the biggest gangsters. I believe that the word "banksters" was coined in the 1930s, and that President Roosevelt even used that word sometimes: "Words pop in and out of our language as social conditions change. The American "gangster" has been around as a noun since 1896 according to the Shorter Oxford ... another Americanism from the 1930s is the word is bankster, derived by a marriage of banker and gangster. It was coined, it seems, by a lawyer by the name of Ferdinand Pecora, who was the chief counsel to the US Senate Committee on Banking, set up in the early 30s to probe the origins of the Crash of 1929 ..." As with any word, not everyone fits its definition to the same degree ... There is no generally agreed upon language or set of labels to discuss what happens when the best organized gang of criminals control the government ... I have been developing my own use of the English language to try to discuss those profound paradoxes that emerge when governments become the biggest form of organized crime, controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals. (My bla, bla, blah on that topic can be found in the last link appearing on the Web page on our Web site, that contains links to my current favourite "Excellent Videos on Money Systems")

I noticed your article republished on the Doomstead Diner Web site, and thought it made some worthwhile to note contributions to that discussion. In general, the "apologists for exploitation" are justifying and rationalizing the ways that "money" made out of nothing as debts has "paid" for strip-mining the planet's natural resources, by turning those into garbage and pollution as fast as possible, in order to keep that debt slavery treadmill going ...

As long as it was possible to continue to strip-mine a fresh planet at an exponentially accelerating rate, then the "apologists for exploitation" had a relatively easy job. However, now that we are reaching some of the limits of diminishing returns, their "apologies" no longer are as effectively convincing ...

I have generally been engaged in attempts to reconcile political science with physical science. That is the context in which I find reversing the suggestion to "follow the money" to become "follow the energy" an intriguing paradigm flip! My comment above upon your article was made in the context of my overall efforts to attempt to understand how and why human beings operate as entropic pumps of energy flows.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Blair: Huh, I wasn't aware that the term went that far back. Still, as much as I dislike what many bankers do, I'm again wondering if the term "bankster" is a bit too generalizing. I think I'll refrain from using it again (even with the question mark).
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Nathanael
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May 2015
Do follow the energy. But please, please, notice the sun. The future is solar, and increasingly it's the present. It's as close to free energy as anyone will get....
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Nathanael: I like the way that Wes Jackson put it best: We need to spread ourselves across the land so that we can capture contemporary energy – sunlight! (I take it he's largely referring to photosynthesis, and to a lesser extent solar panels.)

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