Fossil Fuels Were A One-Time Inheritance And We Blew ‘Em

What a textbook shows about peak everything
6 min readMar 28


The great German apocalypse artist George Grosz

Fossil fuels are—by popular definition—not renewable. We don’t have 100 million years and 100 trillion plants to bury solar energy in liquid batteries under solid rock. Fossil fuels were a one-time inheritance from our dead ancestors, and we’ve blown them all in a few generations, on coke and Ferraris. It was a good run, but there’s no way around it. We’re running out.

As Tom Murphy, whose textbook I reference, says, “The current state of apparent success cannot be taken as a meaningful proof-of-concept, because it was achieved at the expense of finite resources in a shockingly short time: an extravagant party funded by the great one-time inheritance. The aftermath is only beginning to appear.”

Last Call

Table 8.6: Proven reserves and amount used, in energy terms. T. W. Murphy, Jr.;

We are nearly half done with coal, 80% done with oil, and 50% with natural gas. The last bits of these resources will be so difficult to obtain, it’ll be like William S. Burroughs looking for a vein. We’ll be shooting up between our planetary toes. By the end, it won’t even be worth it. The last 10% of fossil fuels will cost more to extract than they’re worth.

You could say that there are unproven reserves, but these are again expensive to A) find and B) extract. They are by definition not obvious and easy, or we would have found them. Peak oil happens not when you completely run out, but when you economically run out. When it costs more energy to find the shit than you get from burning it. So the last bit gets left in the ground.

What are fossil fuels and why aren’t they renewable? Fossil fuels are trillions of dead plants and animals that have been compressed for millions of years. We don’t have trillions of plants and animals (killed 95% of them) and we don’t have millions of years. We are thus facing a math problem we can’t win. The amount of fossil fuels that get renewed are only enough to power one university campus. And we obviously have higher ambitions than this. We want to get high motherfucker, not study. That’s how we’re blowing our inheritance.



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at