Prologue: The Rule of Threes
Lending weight to the popular saying that bad things always come in threes, three events in April of 2010 underscored the level of capitalist civilization’s addiction to carbon energy. On the 3rd of April off the coast of north eastern Australia, the Shen Neng 1, a Chinese owned coal tanker hauling 68,000 tons of coal collided into the Great Barrier Reef – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – at full speed. The impact ripped the ship’s haul, leaked three to four tons of the worst quality fuel oil into one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems and tore a two mile hole into the coral while shedding toxic bottom paint before the ship was re-floated and taken ashore. According to an independent investigation, the chief mate in charge of the ship’s positioning made an error due to fatigue. The coal hauler was leaving from Gladstone where the crew picked up the Aussie coal used to power China’s emerging market civilization that longs to outdo the West at its own historical profligacy. But to continue its modernization project, let alone outshine the West, China will have to import evermore fossil fuels in the coming decades. Queen Victoria used to be China’s biggest drug pusher, financing the Empire’s operations in India by battering down Chinese walls with opium. Today, the Milton Friedman inspired Communist Party and its energy firms have given China a wholly new addiction: fossil fuels and the promise of high energy intensive lifestyles for its 1.3 billion aspiring moderns.