Have we peaked?

I doubt many of you are aware of peak oil and it’s consequences, but here is a link to another blog that you have to read, if not for the subject matter, but for the humor and sarcasm.  It really is a caustic view of the American way of life and how it will all come to a sudden and tragic end in the very near future.  Don’t Panic!


Here is an excerpt if you don’t want to go there directly….

February 28, 2005
     America is, after all, the world’s most powerful nation.
     This sentiment has been boinging around the major media lately, especially in stories and columns about the health of the dollar. But what does it really mean?
     We have the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal for sure. We could vaporize every world city if it came to that. But Russia has enough nuclear warheads and ICBMs to stop the world’s clock, too (while standards of living and life expectancy there continue to decline). For that matter, Britain, France, Israel, and China have enough atomic military juice
to seriously fuck up the current order of things.
     What America definitely doesn’t have is enough oil and natural gas to run the nation’s economy as it currently exists — as a chain of realtors driving SUVs to tanning booths to impress house-buyers borrowing money from lenders who flip the mortgages to government sponsored entities who can’t add up a column of figures, even with the help of computers.
     Speaking of math,  I did the oil figures a couple of weeks ago, and it’s worth repeating. Of the the 80 million barrels a day the world burns, we burn one quarter of that, or 20 million barrels a day. Every five days we burn a hundred million barrels. Every fifty days America burns one billion barrels of oil. Every year we burn seven billion barrels. The US has 28 billion barrels of oil left. If we burned every last drop of our own oil, and somehow lost access to foreign imports, our oil would last four more years.
     Four more years of easy motoring, bargain shopping, RV vacations, and trading up to bigger houses farther out in the rural gloaming.
     If I was a young economist, I would reflect on this situation and perhaps conclude that the American economy doesn’t have great long-term prospects. In fact, I’d have to imagine the American standard of living falling of a cliff within the lifetime of a TV sitcom. I’d have to wonder about American "power" and the actual value of the dollar.
     It’s a good thing that friendly nations like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela are willing to sell us oil. That way, we don’t have to use up all our remaining oil in four years. And its a good thing we can pay for that oil in dollars. What else could we trade for it? Tanning booth hours? Back episodes of "Sex in the City?" Free day passes to Six Flags?
     Of course, the global oil peak implies that all the nations of the world will have less total energy to divvy up. I just don’t see where the United States is in a particularly favorable position on this. Have you heard of any plans to reduce our extreme dependence on cars? I don’t think our supreme leader has even uttered the world "railroad" since he came on the national scene. Are we going to subcontract the Jolly Green Giant to go around America moving things closer together so we don’t have to burn so much gasoline?
       Excuse me for saying this, but I don’t think we have any idea what we’re going to do. It causes me to wonder how powerful we really are, apart from our ability to blow things up.

February 21, 2005
       Last month m
edia elder statesman Bill Moyers made a speech after receiving an award at Harvard in which he said that "born again" members of the Bush regime couldn’t possibly believe in the future if they truly subscribed to the doctrines of Pentecostal Christianity — since its theology includes the notion that the world has entered an "end times" scenario as described in the the Book of Revelations. Moyers went further, implying that people who explicitly and programmatically don’t believe in the future have no business running a government, the chief task of which is safeguarding the future.
     Friends of mine are alarmed about the rise of the Pentecostals and evangelicals. Personally, I think there is going to be a hearty backlash against them. It is beginning to look too obvious that they don’t care about several crucial aspects of the human project in its current form. They don’t care about global warming. They don’t care about the gathering world energy crisis. They don’t care about America’s phony economy based on ever more suburban development. At the secondary level, they don’t care about basic medical research, they don’t care about protecting the nation’s borders, they don’t care about corporate depradations against communities and workers, they don’t care about the growing obscene gap between the rich and the poor.
      This apocalyptic religion has risen out of the Sunbelt, out of those very parts of the country that have most enjoyed hyper-turbo-mega prosperity during the high tide of the cheap oil era. Perhaps their dark vision is an apprehension that the things they have benefited from so hugely are indeed coming to an end — easy motoring and cheap air conditioning, to name two biggies. But are they so dumb that no other way of life is even conceivable to them?
      One of the dirty secrets of our time is that a large group of relatively stupid people were able to thrive in the growth medium of a cheap energy economy. People who had emerged blinking from agricultural serfdom in the 1950s found themselves, within a generation, making millions whacking together suburban houses and selling Chevrolets to other people like them. It is no accident that the main activity of televangelism is, literally, money-grubbing, or that so many of the branches of this degraded Christianity are preoccupied with unearned riches. It is also not an accident that no major spokesperson of the "born again" sector has made a peep about Las Vegas, or against legalized gambling anywhere in the country — in fact, this New Christianity represents the Las Vegas-ization of religion per se, faith in the idea that it is possible to get something for nothing, an idea which is generally only believed in by stupid people or little children, an idea that is deeply pernicious to the human project.
As the post-war economy uprooted so many southerners from rural places, and traditional ways of life, and plunked them in alienating, lonely, disconnected suburban nowheres ruled by consumerist ways of life, religion became ever more important as the only remaining place of social enactment. Church membership across this arid suburban social landscape increasingly compensated for the absence of real communities based on networks of local economic relations. In a way, fundamentalist religion made the predations of the corporate community-destroyers easier. It made secular community seem optional, dispensable, provisional, something easily replaced by WalMart. It squared nicely with the ethos of hyper-individualism, in which bargain shopping trumped any aspect of civic amenity. The churches, meanwhile, sought to benefit from the same economies of scale as those enjoyed by the giant retail chains. Increasingly, the churches were organized on a mass basis and housed in buildings that looked like WalMart with gigantic parking facilities. In fact, evangelical churches were renowned for taking over the leases of dead chain stores in dying malls because the rents were so cheap. Sunbelt evangelicalism became a kind of WalMart of the spirit. Political leaders went bargain shopping in them for voting souls.
     Since it is a religion essentially based on extreme selfishness, luxury, comfort, and self-satisfaction, it will probably become most virulent when the goodies its members have enjoyed grow scarce. In other words, when the folks in Phoenix and Atlanta find themselves on line waiting for gasoline, duck and cover. It is unfortunate that the very real hardships of the global oil crisis will appear to jibe with their stupid fantasies about the "end times," because the end of cheap fossil fuel does not have to be the end of civilization, and certainly not of the human race. But this stupidity and selfishness go hand-in-hand, so the nation as a whole has not been able to face the most obvious tasks of preparation, like reviving the railroad system.
      The non-stupid, non-born again part of the nation has been cowed into submission for decades by the Sunbelt evangelicals. The Democratic party could not formulate a coherent opposition to that culture of self-satisfaction. The Democrats nominated a paragon of unearned riches as its most recent presidential candidate, a man who didn’t even have the moral fiber to make his fortune selling cars or building strip malls.
     Soon, the problems this nation faces will be so obvious and grave that George W. Bush and the Republicans and the WalMartians, and all the moneygrubbing TV preachers, and the people who can’t imagine an hour of leisure without engines ringing in their ears, and the offspring of all the bug-eyed lynch-mob cretins of yore will stand naked in discredit. The rest of the nation, the non-stupid, non-selfish, non-childish, non-believers in the idea that it is possible to get something for nothing will take a stand. It won’t be the end of the world, but it will be a political convulsion against a background of fire, proving that the future belongs to those who believe in the future.

This is some of the best writing on the subject of Peak Oil and The End Of Suburbia.  I have no doubt many of you will be skeptical, but take it from me, 10 years from now things are going to be very different around here, and those differences will not be on the positive side.



About rjbirkett

Part time photographer, full time geek, motorcycle zealot, avid reader, and most importantly, unbiased. Unless politics is the subject of discussion.
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