The Peak Oil Side of Volcanoes

This Icelandic volcano is not just a quaint story about some faraway place. We need to keep an eye on Iceland and its grumpy volcanoes. The historic record is filled with Icelandic volcano blasts that wrecked European civilization. It goes back at least to the days of the Roman Empire. There’s evidence that an Icelandic eruption in A.D. 405 led to a harsh winter the next year, in which the Rhine River froze. This allowed the barbarians cross in numbers sufficient to defeat the Roman Legions. In A.D. 934, there was a massive lava flow from Iceland’s Eldgja fissure system. It unleashed the largest basalt flood in recorded history. An ash cloud blanketed Northern Europe and weakened many political structures. This eruption helped keep the Dark Ages dark, and in particular harmed the English political system. It’s no coincidence that William, Duke of Normandy, conquered England a century or so later, in 1066. Then there was the Laki eruption in 1783, with another immense outpouring of lava in Iceland. This eruption emitted large volumes of poisonous gas, including fluoride and sulfur dioxide chemicals that poisoned half of Iceland’s livestock. The gas cloud blew over Scandinavia as well, causing many deaths and hardships that included a long famine. There were many deaths further south in Western Europe, as well, in 1783. Then came several years of extreme weather. Among other problems was a shortfall in farm output. This led to a drop in tax receipts for governments across the continent. In France, King Louis XVI eventually had to summon the Estates General to ask for new taxes. Instead, he wound up with the French Revolution. Do not discount the immediate or long-term human, economic and social effects of natural phenomena. I hope that the Icelandic volcano goes back to being dormant. But it’s nothing that anyone can control. One way or the other, the Icelandic volcano is important to you as an investor. …

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The Peak Oil Side of Volcanoes

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