Coming soon: the end of the world as we know it

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We turn our attention briefly away from the CEI controversy to a more pleasant topic: the imminent destruction of civilization.

Columnist Dan Neil jumps into the peak oil story with a set of hair-rising predictions from James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.”

According to Niel, Kunstler makes Al Gore look like a “candy-assed optimist” on issues related to fossil fuel usage. Kunstler isn’t worried so much about global warming, but rather about the economic ravages that will occur when oil reaches $200 a barrel. The food production system will collapse. Famine and disease will result in a massive die off. Suburbia will become even bleaker than it is today.

At one point, Neil holds out TerraPass as a potential savior of the universe, only to get viciously smacked down:

When I ask him about the TerraPass program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (drivers pay a fee proportional to the size of their cars to offset their cars’ carbon impact), he goes bananas. “What do I think? I think it’s [colorful intensifier here] stupid!” he fairly shouts. “There’s not going to be a [ditto] Wharton School!”

That’s a shame, too, because they just moved into a really nice new building.

Kidding aside, we’ve written extensively about peak oil on this blog. Personally, I think the peak oil story is very real, and press mentions of the issue should track nicely with oil prices.

I don’t, however, share Kunstler’s apocalyptic view. I suspect that the market will do what it’s supposed to do: oil prices will rise, demand will drop, substitutes will flood in, and we’ll weather the transition to a post-peak economy largely intact. Mind you, the transition could be very painful, but we should be talking about ways to soften the landing through greater efficiency and heavier reliance on renewable energy, not stocking up on canned food and fortifying our basements.

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1 Comment

  1. obewan

    I don’t see classical supply and demand as having any saving grace in this problem. The demand is supposed to go up 53% in the next 10-20 years, and the supply is declining at 2-3% per year. A shortage of 3% in the 70’s caused the price to triple or something like that. True we may not run out soon, but we can not escape the economic consequences. Our lifestyle will for sure have to change. Still with gas at $3.29, SUV sales went UP 6% this month. We have not demonstrated intelligence in the past, so why should the immediate future change things?