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American Conservative on peak oil: Mayberry, not Mad Max

Brian Kaller, American Conservative
Future Perfect: Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Expensive Oil

[Describes peak oil]

… We need a common vision that avoids post-apocalypse yarns as well as “Star Trek” fantasies in favor of something both realistic and hopeful. Handled right, peak oil could bring a revival of small-town America, local farming, small businesses, and an economy that centers around Main Street rather than Wall Street. It wouldn’t require us suddenly to turn Amish. With solar, wind, and nuclear power, we can maintain the Internet, commuter rail, and other technologies and continue the global exchange of ideas.

So for our new vision during this national crisis, I nominate “The Andy Griffith Show.” No, really, I’m serious.

Many Americans hold up Mayberry as a symbol of everything they miss, but after watching episodes for the first time in 30 yerars recently on DVD, it seems to me an idealized, broadly comic picture of the society to which we might return. No one has much money, but extended family helps raise the kids, neighbors pass the hat around for each otheer, and the town functions just fine.

If Andy Griffith is too corny, pick your favorite portrayal of a simpler American life. It may not exactly map the future, but it is likely to be more accurate and hopeful than the images we’ve been given for generations and would be familiar, popular, and attainable. It would serve to remind us that just a few generations ago Americans lived, and often lived well, before everything was cheap and fast and thrown away. We, with far more wealth and power than they had, are capable of walking into the Long Emergency unafraid and with a plam.

Brian Kaller is a journalist in County Kildare, Ireland, who has written and lectured about peak oil for several years. He blogs at
(25 August 2008)
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My kind of conservative. Much common ground with communitarians and with liberals and leftists. (Much disagreement too – but least we are all in the same universe.)

Pointed out by Rod Dreher (“Crunchy Conservative”) under the title: Peak oil: Mayberry, not Mad Max.

Home page for The American Conservative. Their philosophy (About Us):

We are of course in considerable part Buchananite-well disposed to the web of ideas that drew millions of voters during three Buchanan presidential bids. … [Pat Buchanan]

We believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God. We believe that true conservatism has a predisposition for the institutions and mores that exist. So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism-fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world’s peoples, a hyperglobal economy. In combination with an increasingly unveiled contempt for America’s long-standing allies, this is more a recipe for disaster.

Against it, we take our stand.


A failure to prepare for the what should have been expected

Roger Blanchard, ASPO-USA
I occasionally read the Detroit newspapers and based upon some of their articles and commentaries it appears the present oil crisis came as a surprise to the U.S. auto industry. My impression is that many U.S. industries that are heavily dependent on cheap oil were taken by surprise, as well as most Americans.

In the last few decades, the U.S. auto industry has relied heavily on SUVs and light trucks to make their profits. They assumed that cheap oil would last forever. Unfortunately cheap oil is now history and the U.S. auto industry is scrambling to catch up to foreign auto companies, particularly Japanese, in the manufacture of fuel efficient vehicles.

… An unbiased analysis of oil production data over the years should have made it obvious that there was a coming problem. Unfortunately most people believe their beliefs rather than believing data. I’ve been warning about a coming oil crisis for 15 years or longer. To make people aware of the problem, I wrote a book which was published in 2005. Below is an excerpt from the final chapter.

There are no dramatic revelations in what I wrote below, but it’s worth pointing out that it should have been clear that an oil crisis was coming that would create major problems for the American and world economy. If major industries that rely heavily on cheap oil didn’t see a coming problem, it suggests a desire not to see the obvious.

Roger Blanchard is Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Roger is the author of “The Future of Global Oil Production: Facts, Figures, Trends and Projections by Region” published by McFarland & Company (2005).
(18 August 2008)

How to burn the speculators

James K. Galbraith, Mother Jones
Why is the price of oil so high? Because the Bush administration did to the commodities market what it did to housing.

Whenever economies sour, politicians blame speculators. But on occasion, they are right to do so. Speculators did wreak havoc in 1630s Holland, 1720s France, and in the American stock market in 1929. That crash led to the Great Depression and 60 years of tight controls on speculation. Now, thanks to our 30-year infatuation with free markets, the controls are off, and the mad gamblers are at it again. Yesterday’s burst bubble was housing; today’s expanding ones are energy and food.

True, we have major long-term energy problems that cannot be laid at the feet of speculators. To avoid catastrophic global warming, we will be obliged to reengineer the country, from housing to transport to forests, and also to develop and export the technologies required for the rest of the world to do likewise. Eight years of George W. Bush’s policies have made this much harder, and during that time the world may have passed “peak oil”-that moment when half the recoverable reserves of conventional oil have been drained and burned-so that from now on short supplies will be endemic. Meanwhile, demand grows, notably from China and India, which account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s population.

But do supply and demand explain oil prices at $140 per barrel, with voices from Goldman Sachs projecting $200 for next year (a figure that would push gas prices above $5 per gallon) and Russia’s Gazprom saying $250, despite a likely US recession? Do they explain the historic price hikes in rice, corn, and wheat, leading to hunger in the developing world? Do they explain the absolutely stratospheric price of copper? No they do not
(September/October 2008 issue)

Unraveling the unraveling

Bob Brannigan, Critical Thought
Within the relatively small community of “Peakists”, they divide roughly into three groups; Cornucopians, Doomers and the largest group, that I will simply call Moderates. I would describe the Moderates as a group of very concerned, but cautiously optimistic, or not so optimistic people. I’m undecided where I fit in, but it is somewhere between the latter two.

Right up front I’ll confess to some hubris in the title, as there are many things which are simply unknowable, but a useful starting point for predicting the future is to examine the past.

Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain said:” History doesn’t repeat itself; at best it sometimes rhymes”

… As significant as M.King Hubbert’s work was, using it as a basis for planning is a gross oversimplification. It assumes, or at least implies (unintentionally) that future distribution of oil will be uniform based on demand. Factoring supplies being cut or rerouted instantly and perhaps permanently was beyond the scope of the study.

In simpler terms, when the world is producing at 50% of peak oil, it would be folly to infer that each country will receive 50% of what they were receiving at the peak.

Thus, a smooth shift away from fossil fuels will require a global effort involving commitment, cooperation and consistency. That said, history shows me that we do not play well with others when we are threatened. The watered-down shambles that became The Kyoto Protocol is a testament to this.

So, will we rhyme with history? Considering an unstable economy and major geopolitics with self-serving interests, I don’t think we are even singing the same song.

In light of this, I find the idea of a gradual decline over a century or two to be highly optimistic. As has been said, this is a whole new ballgame.

I think I just took a step towards the Doomer camp.
(18 August 2008)