A New Day Dawning

"The next President must set the nation on a radically altered course if catastrophe is to be avoided." From crisispapers.org: Ernest Partridge sets the stage for an epic political campaign season.

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
— William Butler Yeats

June 4, 2008 (crisispapers.org) – The Partridges are feeling insufferably smug these days.

Halfway through the Bush regime, we cashed in our stocks, bought our house outright and tore up our mortgage. Though declining in value in this housing market crash, our modest home is our castle and now the bank cannot take it from us. We are completely free of debts. The Toyota Tundra truck, which twice took us to Alaska and on numerous camping trips, is now confined to necessary short hauls. An $85 fill-up last week convinced us that those long trips in the Tundra are luxuries that we can now do without. Last August we bought a Prius and, because we work at home, we have managed to drive it less than 800 miles a month. That amounts to about twenty gallons of gas or, coincidentally, another $85 a month. We can handle that. We are led to believe that in a couple of years, we might convert the Prius to “plug-in” electric power, and cut our gas consumption by two-thirds. We are also contemplating solar panels on our roof which might supply all our home electricity needs, with juice to spare to power the electric Prius and to sell back to So. Cal Edison.

Does that mean that we are well-prepared for the rocky times ahead?  Unfortunately, we are not.

Those same soaring fuel costs, made manageable to us by the Toyota engineers, are also borne by the trucks and railroads, etc., that bring food to our table. Also by the farmers who require petroleum to fuel their machinery and to produce their fertilizers. Add to all that, the cost of home heating, of petrochemicals (notably plastics), of the movement of all goods and services, and it soon becomes clear that petroleum is the primary indispensable commodity of our industrial civilization. When oil prices rise, so to does everything else. Whatever we might save at the pump, we pay more at the marketplace. . (See my “The Oil Trap”)

It is becoming increasingly obvious that with the extraordinary expansion of the economies of China, India and Southeast Asia, the demand for petroleum has outstripped the global supply which, for the first time, posted a slight decline from 2006 to 2007.  Don’t expect a significant post-summer decline in the price at the pump. Minus $4 gas is but a memory. “Peak oil” may at last be upon us.

If oil extractions decline from now on, so too must the global economy, absent a massive worldwide investment in alternative energy sources and a thoroughgoing reconstruction in personal life styles. (I prefer the term “oil extraction” to the usual “oil production.” The earth, not Exxon-Mobil, etc., “produces” oil and on a time scale of millions of years). But few governments are proposing such investments to a degree that will significantly offset the energy losses from declining oil extraction.  (Iceland and the Scandinavian countries are worthy exceptions).  And still worse none of the remaining presidential candidates dares even to suggest a commitment to alternative development sufficient to adequately deal with the oncoming emergency.

The good news is that we could conceivably avoid disaster. The far worse news is that we almost certainly will not. There are just too many wealthy and powerful corporate interests invested in denial and in business as usual, and these interests control our government and our media.

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