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No platform in author’s gloomy forecast of life without oil

Rick Malwitz, Home News Tribune (Central New Jersey)
When the applause died down, and guest lecturer James Howard Kunstler completed his talk Thursday night at Rutgers, a man had a question: Why don’t you run for office?

Kunstler said he was content to be an author. What’s more, he confessed, “I inhaled too recently.”

Left unsaid was that his message is far too gloomy. His lecture at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy was drawn from his most recent book: “The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century.”

Sorry you missed it.

Kunstler resurrects the thesis of Thomas Malthus, the “much abused author,” whose essay in 1798 warned that population growth would soon choke the earth. It didn’t. What happened, said Kunstler, was that oil was discovered. In his book, Kunstler writes: “Fossil fuels had the effect of temporarily raising the carrying capacity of the earth.”

The key word is temporarily.

The ability to grow food was enhanced by petroleum-based fertilizers, irrigation and mammoth machinery, all made possible by an adequate supply of oil. But there’s a needle on the amount of oil inside the earth, and the needle is heading to empty, says Kunstler.

No society benefited more from abundant oil than we did. It gave birth to Kunstler’s three horsemen of the apocalypse: Disney World, the Interstate Highway System and Wal-Mart, which can purchase and market cheap goods because cheap oil allows imports from China, and cheap gas gives us access to its stores.

His biggest applause line came when he showed a slide of a Wal-Mart and said, “These things are going to dry up and go away.” We made a bargain with the devil when we allowed Wal-Mart to rule the world, he said. “We save $9 on a hair dryer and throw out the mercantile middle class.”
(19 Nov 2006)
Vintage Kunstler – the master of the outrageous quote.

James Howard Kunstler interview (2006)

David Misialowski, Galilean Library
…JHK: The failure of the mainstream media is pretty impressive. The author of that NY Times article, Peter Maass, was on NPR’s “Fresh Air” show the day after his piece came out in the Sunday Magazine. Terri Gross asked him the inevitable question — “what can we do” — and Maass answered, pretty lamely in my opinion, that we should work on making cars that get better mileage.

This is typical of the collective failure of imagination. There are, in fact, many intelligent things we could do, from restoring the US railroad system — which would have the greatest impact on our oil consumption, and quickly, than any project we could do right away — to reforming our planning-and-zoning codes comprehensively, to commencing a high level public debate on the need to re-launch a nuclear power program. We could promote walkable communities and public transit on the fine-grained scale. Unfortunately, we are talking about none of these things.

Another example: a few weeks ago the NY Times Sunday book Review ran a cover story on Francis Fukuyama’s new book concerning his disappointment with the Neo-cons and their foreign policy in particular. The review was by Paul Berman who has written extensively about Islamic terrorism. The word “oil” was never mentioned in the essay. Weird.

Just in the past two months CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” show has run two major pieces filled with gross misstatements about the extent of the Canadian tar sands and the value of coal liquifaction. CNN ran an equally misleading piece about ethanol on a recent Sunday night. All three shows declared that these various “alternative” resources would rescue us from the problems of the global oil predicament. They were a terrible disservice to the public, and will only promote more delusional thinking.

…JHK: Well, I think Malthus was essentially right. And I think Joseph Tainter has described the mechanisms of cyclical human failure very accurately in his phrase “over-investments in complexity with diminishing returns.” The oil age was very special. Malthus wrote his famous essay about fifty years before the oil extravaganza started. His basic idea is sound. Oil postponed the Malthusian reckoning with our numbers. It’s coming around again at a far greater scale, now, and it is liable to be a gnarly spectacle.

…JHK: I am in the middle of a post-oil novel — since that is a world that can only be imagined, not reported upon directly. I think people will be interested to receive a detailed, imagined picture of this future.
(no date 2006)

Peak Oil Update – November 2006: Production Forecasts and EIA Oil Production Number

Khebab, The Oil Drum
An update on the last production numbers from the EIA along with different oil production forecasts.

New forecasts added:
* The shock model (Crude oil + NGL, 2004)
* The GBM model (Crude oil + NGL, 2006)
* Deffeyes (Crude oil + condensate, 2004)
* Jean Lahèrrere (All liquids, 2006)
* Forecasts from CERA (All liquids, 2006)
(20 Nov 2006)

Fort Lewis College disdains diversity of thought on energy

Roger Cohen, Durango Herald (Colorado)
The current high price of oil and gas, along with concerns over national security and environmental issues, has stimulated a healthy national debate. Fort Lewis College, however, has shown little interest in fostering diversity of thought on the energy question.

So far in 2006, FLC has sponsored the showing of the film, “The End of Suburbia – Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream” and offers a four-credit course, “The End of Oil,” in its regular curriculum. Both promote an agenda on energy issues that is extreme in its desire for swift major change and needlessly alarmist in its message. Both ignore a host of factual material, leading to inaccurate conclusions about energy – present and future.

For example, both give great support to the so-called “Peak Oil” hypothesis: the idea that world oil production is set for imminent decline due to a vanishing resource base, with disastrous economic and societal consequences for the industrialized world. The hypothesis ignores contradictory assessments by knowledgeable individuals and agencies around the world, including the International Energy Agency and Cambridge Energy Research Associates (headed by Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize , the Pulitzer Prize-winning oil industry history).

…I am a former strategic planner for a large international energy company, with an extensive technical background and more than 25 years experience in the industry. I contacted the college administration and offered to present alternative views on the issues, based on the latest scientific research, information from government and intergovernmental agencies, and studies by expert consulting firms. After seven months of correspondence, during which we reached a mutual agreement on venue and lecture time, college representatives retracted the agreement by withdrawing sufficient lecture time to communicate these perspectives. There was no stated reason for this retraction, though it came coincidentally just after I provided summary material for the lectures.

… The difficulties of working with FLC over the past seven months have revealed its reluctance to expose alternative points of view. By offering only a narrow, one-sided view, FLC neglects its duty to responsibly educate its students and promote diversity of thought on important issues affecting our world. To address this bias, I call on the college administration to convene an independent panel of individuals, not associated with the college, to:

1. Study the college’s record of activities on issues of high societal importance assessing the level of evenhandedness in those activities;

2. Make recommendations for mechanisms to achieve more evenly balanced activities concerning these issues;

3. Report the findings and recommendations to the administration and the FLC board of trustees by the end of the first quarter, 2007.
(20 Nov 2006)
This item seems to be listed as an editorial, showing the approval of the newspaper, rather than just a letter to the editor.

It’s hard to tell whether the article is the product of one individual or part of an emerging strategy. It’s probably indicative of the state of mind in some of the energy corporations. It’s rather chilling that the thrust of Cohen’s proposal is a McCarthy-like investigation of the university. This is the way to promote open debate? My experience has been that colleges and universities are one of the few places in our society that are eager to hear opposing sides.

On the plus side, Roger Cohen was straightforward about his affiliations; he clearly identifies himself as formerly with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.

Peak Oil: Even If The Optimists Are Right, Time Is Getting Tight

Mike Byfield, Daily Oil Bulletin
Peak oil proponents and skeptics agree that world production will eventually crest. Also, both sides of this debate accept that the decline curve will be gradual rather than sudden (with a little luck). Their common ground, although limited and easily obscured by emotional intensity, is slowly growing.

Aptly illustrating this blend of acrimony and agreement was a report issued last week by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) – Why the Peak Oil Theory Falls Down: Myths, Legends, and the Future of Oil Resources – and the rebuttal from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO).

Peter Jackson, CERA’s director of oil industry activity, remarks acidly that the “peakist argument is not grounded in a credible systematic evaluation of available data.” Randy Udall, a co-founder of ASPO, retorts that CERA is peddling “PetroProzac” which lulls attention away from urgently needed actions.

Even so, CERA and ASPO agree on a great deal. For example, they both think the world may very well wind up more dependent on oil from the Middle East. And they agree that available data on global oil and gas reserves remains incomplete, most worryingly for those massive but ageing oilfields of the Middle East.
(20 Nov 2006)