Monday 22 October 2007

Charles Merz, Peak Oil and Civilisational Collapse.

The basis of all life, and human civilisations, is energy. Whether that energy source be calories or oil the same energy exchange process is the basis of the existence of all living organisms and all human civilisations, nations and societies.

Political Power, simply defined is the total amount of energy available to the political class in its management and development of the nation and society.

As the amount of energy available to a nation diminishes then social entropy and anarchy increases. As the street lights flicker and fade, then the power of the State is weakened and diminished. The LAW can only function when it can be policed and imposed. When the energy in a society diminishes then the power of the state to impose order is also diminished. As the darkness grows, so too does chaos grow.

Economic activity is also itself merely an aspect of energy production. Capital is merely symbolic of imbedded energy. The entire economic process is merely an aspect of the energy production process. Without energy the the industries that produce the mining equipment cannot produce the industrial equipment to open mines, the mines cannot produce raw materials and transport it to the industries that process the raw materials, the industries that handle raw materials cannot refine those raw materials into useful materials and transport them to the factories, the factories cannot turn those useful materials into consumer goods and products to sell, the shops cannot open and employ staff to sell those goods, the consumers cannot get to the shops to buy the goods and the people do not have jobs to give them an income to buy those goods on sale in the shops.

The true power of a nation is simply its own ability to produce and satisfy its own internal energy requirements. The GDP of a nation is not related to how many bits of paper it prints or how many lumps of useless shiny metal it possesses or what its people produce, spend and consume per year - it is simply how much energy the nation is capable of producing for itself in order to maintain and develop its own internal social complexity. A` nation that produces enough of its own energy to support its own internal development and that can export that energy is a nation which has growing GDP.

GDP should be replaced by EDP = Energy Domestically Produced.

Just 100 years ago the candle was the only light we had at night. The Oil Age has enlightened the earth and banished the dark. But the victory of light over darkness is about to see a dangerous reversal.

In 1916 in Great Britain their were over 500 power companies producing electricity for consumers each with their own different power supply voltage specifications and 23 different plug designs.

In 1916 Merz pointed out to Parliament that the UK could use its small size to its advantage, by creating a dense distribution grid to feed its industries electricity efficiently. His findings led to the Williamson Report of 1918, which in turn created the Electricity Supply Bill of 1919. The bill was the first step towards an integrated system.

These principles in the William Report from the 1904 paper "Power Station Design" became the template for power planning worldwide. They were embodied in the same year when the world's biggest power station opened near Newcastle upon Tyne. Using newly invented steam turbines, it generated power for the world's first electric commuter railway between the city and its seaside suburbs, also engineered by Merz and McLellan. At the same time Local shipbuilding, mining and heavy engineering industries began using electrically driven tools too.

Under Merz's direction, power stations across north-east England were connected using higher voltages over longer distances. By the start of the First World War it was the largest integrated power system in Europe supplying the cheapest and most reliable power in Britain.

Charles Merz sat on the Weir Committee, which produced the more significant Electricity (Supply) Act of 1926, leading to the setting up of the National Grid.
The Electricity Supply Act 1926 which recommended that a 'National Gridiron' was enacted in order to create an integrated national energy supply network for Britain. The act also established the Central Electricity Board that began operating in 1933. By 1938 the National Grid was operating as a national system.

Once the National Grid was established in 1938 with a standardised power supply network in operation and a standardised plug design created to use on electrical appliances connected to the electrical system, the birth of the mass production era had occurred. Mass production of consumer goods was made possible as a process only through the standardisation of the electrical power supply network and the standardisation of the plugs that allowed those electrical goods to be plugged into the main supply.

The National Grid was nationalised in 1947 by the Electricity Act 1947. The seven year plan for the creation of the National Grid with its 30,000 electricity mast network was a pivotal moment in human history.

It was not Henry Ford who is the architect of mass production, it was Charles Merz. It was the vision of Merz who created the integrated electricity generation and supply networks that allowed the creation of the basis of the consumer society.

An irregular and unreliable energy supply network, and a non-standardised specification for consumer products, meant that the process of manufacturing consumer goods could not be undertaken easily. An electric radio bought in one area with one plug design would not work in another area on another voltage with a different plug design. It was Charles Merz who saw that both had to be integrated nationally in order for demand for consumer goods to be created. The National Grid ensured that the consumer society could be created. Electrification created the advanced society we live in today.

Pioneers like Nikolai Tesla, Thomas Edison and Charles Merz were the visionaries who created the modern world. It was their technological advances, and visionary national engineering plans, that allowed the Oil Age to become the epoch of human culture.

The anthropologist Leslie White depicts human history as a progression of 'Power Shifts' whereby a country or civilisation undergoes a technological and social transformation based on its unlocking of a new energy source to power social complexity. White stated that " Culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting energy to work is increased ". Culture, when measured in relation to its ability to unlock energy, evolves every time it unlocks a new source of power. All Human Cultures are dependent upon energy.

All national cultures are manifestations of the prevalent Energy Culture which power that nations internal social complexity.

Political power increases when energy supply is increased. A nation is diminished socially, politically, internationally and culturally when it suffers a cut in national energy production. As the light begins to fade away, then the power of the nation begins to fade.

Peak Oil threatens to make our nation dependent upon the Islamic theocracies of the Middle East for our oil supplies, the Russian Empire for our gas supplies and any other foreign source of energy we can beg for.

Unless the Green Revolution is enacted then we will have surrendered our national independence just in order to keep our lights on.

Charles Hesterman Merz (5 October 1874 - 14 or 15 October 1940), is one of the greatest forgotten Britons.

It was his vision and drive that brought Britain out of the 19th century and dependence on coal, and into the 21st century and electrification.

He was the architect of a human Power Shift like no other in human history.

Today we stand at the brink of the crisis of Peak Oil and unless we begin the process of creating the Green Revolution and create the 100 % Renewable Energy Economy based on total national energy independence from renewable energy sources then we face a civilisational collapse like no other seen before in human history.

Today we need a new Charles Merz to step forward, a man with a new vision and the financial means to put it in place, before the nightmare of Peak Oil begins and Britain enters a new perpetual Dark Ages.

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