Thursday, January 22, 2009

Perestroika 2.0 Beta

Congratulations, everyone, we have a new president: a fresh new face, a capable, optimistic, inspiring figure, ushering in a new era of responsibility, ready to confront the many serious challenges that face the nation; in short, we have us a Gorbachev. I don't know about you, but I find the parallel rather obvious.

Obama wishes to save the economy, and to inspire us with words such as "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories." [Inauguration speech] At the same time, he cautions us that "We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense" -- an echo of Dick Cheney's "The American way of life is non-negotiable." And so we descend from the nonexistent but wonderfully evocative "clean coal" to the more pedestrian "Put a little dirt in your gas tank!"

But these are all euphemisms: the reality is that it is either fossil fuels, which are running out while simultaneously destabilizing the planet's climate and poisoning the biosphere, or the end of industrial civilization, or (most likely) both, happening in that order. According to the latest International Energy Agency projections, the half-life of industrial civilization can be capped at about 17 years: it's all downhill from here. All industrial countries will be forced to rapidly deindustrialize on this time scale, but the one that has spent the last century building an infrastructure that has no future -- based on little houses interconnected by cars, with all of its associated moribund, unmaintainable systems -- is virtually guaranteed to fall the hardest. An American's two greatest enemies are his house and his car. But try telling that to most Americans, and you will get ridicule, consternation, and disbelief. Thus, the problem has no political solution. Tragically, Obama happens to be a politician.

"Whenever we confront a problem for which no political solution exists, the inevitable result is an uncomfortable impasse filled with awkward, self-censored chatter. During the Soviet establishment’s fast slide toward dissolution, Gorbachev’s glasnost campaign unleashed a torrent of words. In a sort of nation-wide talking cure, many previously taboo subjects could be broached in public, and many important problems could suddenly be discussed. An important caveat still applied: the problems always had to be cast as “specific difficulties,” or “singular problems” and never as a small piece within the larger mosaic of obvious system-wide failure. The spell was really only broken by Yeltsin, when, in the aftermath of the failed putsch, he forcefully affixed the prefix “former” to the term “Soviet Union.” At that point, old, pro-Soviet, now irrelevant standards of patriotic thought and behavior suddenly became ridiculous — the domain of half-crazed, destitute pensioners, parading with portraits of Lenin and Stalin. By then, fear of political reprisals had already faded into history, but old habits die hard, and it took years for people’s thinking to catch up with the new, post-imperial reality. It was not an easy transition, and many remained embittered for life.

"In today’s America, it is also quite possible to talk about separate difficulties and singular problems, provided they are kept separate and singular and served up under a patriotic sauce with a dash of optimism on top. It is quite possible to refer to depressed areas, to the growing underclass and even to human rights abuses. It is, however, not allowable to refer to America as a chronically depressed country, an increasingly lower-class and impoverished country or a country that fails to take care of its citizens and often abuses them. Yes, there are prisons where heroin addicts are strapped to a chair while they go through withdrawal, a treatment so effective that some of them have to be carried out in body bags later, but that, you see, is a specific difficulty, a singular problem, if you will. But, no no no, we are a decent, freedom-loving country in spite of such little problems. We just have a slight problem with the way we all treat each other... and others. We did recently invade a country that had posed no threat to us and caused about a half a million civilian deaths there, but no no no, we are a freedom-loving country! That is just a specific difficulty with our foreign policy, not a true reflection of our national character (which is to squirm when presented with unpleasant facts and to roll our eyes when someone draws general conclusions from them based on a preponderance of evidence).

"When it comes to collapse mitigation, there is no one who will undertake an organized effort to make the collapse survivable, to save what can be saved and to avert the catastrophes that can still be averted. We will all do our best to delay or avert the collapse, possibly bringing it on sooner and making it worse. Constitutionally incapable of conceiving of a future that does not include the system that sustains our public personae, we will prattle on about a bright future for the country for as long as there is enough electricity to power the video camera that is pointed at us. Gorbachev’s perestroika is an example of just such an effort at self-delusion: he gave speeches that ran to several hours, devoted to mystical entities such as the “socialist marketplace.” He only paused to drink water — copious amounts of it, it seemed — causing people to wonder whether there was a chamber pot inside his podium.

"There are few grounds for optimism when it comes to organizing a timely and successful effort at collapse mitigation. Nevertheless, miracles do happen. For instance, in spite of inadequate preparation, in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, none of the high-grade nuclear fissile material has ended up in the hands of terrorists, and although there were a few reports of radiation leaks, nothing happened that approached the scale of the Chernobyl catastrophe. In other ways, the miserable experience had by all was mitigated by the very nature of the Soviet system, as I described in Chapter 3. No such automatic windfalls are due the United States; here, collapse preparation, if any, is likely to be the result of an overdue, haphazardly organized and hasty effort." [Reinventing Collapse, pp. 108-110]

I sincerely hope that Obama manages to do better for himself than Gorbachev. History can be mean to do-gooders. On that fateful day when Gorbachev lost his job, his wife suffered a stroke, and he, since that day, hasn't been able to wipe that deer-in-the-headlights look off his face. Trying to solve problems that have no solution is a fine thing to try to do. Even if it is utterly futile, it makes for great drama. But I hope, for his sake, that Obama doesn't give up any of his hobbies. should he still have any.


Anonymous said...

I don't get the impression that Obama is going to be talking too much. He has one advantage: since he never said anything specific, he could turn out to do some good things. The slogan "change" is infinitely flexible. I would give him six months and see how serious he is about restoring the Constitution. That will be an indicator of character outside the fantasy world of campaigns made for television. About fixing things... very hard, probably too late, and the comment about the lifestyle not being negotiable does not bode well . It suggests that he will perpetuate the illusion that things can continue as they are, structurally. The opposite is transparently true.

In any case, if at the end of his four years, things have improved by 10 percent, he will be considered a hero.

I wish him well, but the problems he has in front of him are too big for anyone to solve. And you can't necessarily attack them one at a time. The only easy one, which can be handled separately, is ending the wars and cutting the defense budget very deeply. However, that will create unemployment, a lot of it. Just ask around Northern Virgina... Defense and security are two of the few industries that have created jobs in recent times.

Anyway, good luck to him. He is going to need it.

Anonymous said...

The mean spiritedness of Americans is really striking once you've fallen off the rail a bit - Through some accidents of personal fate I find myself without a reliable social niche (ie., a reliable profession, trade or what they refer to especially in Europe as a "position". ) as middle age advances.

People, let me tell you, if you've been middle class all you life and find yourself tumbling down the ladder, you start to get that that most people have internalized hiarchical relationships to such a degree that they have little sympathy for the down and out in their community, even while they live in fear of being dispossessed themselves via job loss or illness or business predation, and play at charity by, for example, contributing to the UW. (The United Way has more reliabily lifted their legions of paid staff and consultants out of poverty than anyone in their service population, I imagine - nice work if you can get it...)

Basically, its "the less you make, the more you're to blame," and rather than shrinking our incredibly large and expensive penal system, I expect you'll see the pattern accentuated of jailing people for what are essentially economic crimes.

For example, not being able to pay child support, or not having the money to pay "gotcha" kind of fines, like failing to have tags on your dogs, which in my city has been raised to $150 per instance - 3 dogs without tags would equal $450 plus court costs. Can't pay? Bench warrant for your arresT

Anonymous said...

I recently read your book, and Dmitry, I applaud you for summarizing the predicament so well and so succinctly. I've read a good many ponderous books that summarize a fifth of the issue, and I think I learned more from your book than any of them.

As for the dual enemies of the American people, I would argue that they are not the car and the home, but rather the car company that refuses to build real efficient vehicles (i.e. a high school in NJ and Aptera can build a 300 mpg car, why can't any major automaker?) and the self perpetuating moneychangers that have first driven up the cost of houses to ridiculous levels, then convinced us all to invest our savings in them (all while selling us crap stick houses through their other interests), only to loose control and have it all come crashing down. After all, men need both transport and shelter, and I would argue that my corner of eden is less harm to nature than any number of city lots filled with trash and twisted, barely grown grass. A distributed energy grid, connected via a wireless network to reduce the need to travel, and (perhaps kept between a few neighbors) high efficiency transport can make America work in a far less energy intensive and sustainable manner. But I've seen such technology (and I have seen it, and held it in my hands) get suppressed time and again. To which I say, all Obama has to do is to get all that out of the way and release our technology from the chains we keep it in. Hell, I can't even put up solar panels around here without the electric company buying my power for .25 and selling it back to me for a dollar!

The vested interests have rigged the market to bring them vast sums of money rather than for it to maximize efficiency, which certainly does not involve such INCREDIBLE IDIOCY as sending power hundreds of miles through lines (and loosing 30% on the trip), trucking food across the country (when the garden is a footwalk away), and restricting healing to concentrated centers of disease and sleepless workers. The problem with capitalism is that it seeks to maximize profit rather than maximize efficiency. But central planning doesn't accomplish this either, because it's too ponderous to ever -be- efficient. So, Dmitry, perhaps what we should do is come up with a new economics. Let us call it the path of least resistance, and work to practice it henceforth, lest mankind choke on their failed ideologies. ;)

Best of luck, my friend.

Dmitry Orlov said...

Li makes an argument that the same technology we have (well, quantitatively better) can produce a qualitatively different result. I am all for better technology, of course. But can it make a qualitative difference? Anyone care to formulate a rebuttal? I'm tired.

Max von Schuler-Kobayashi said...

I think that Barack Obama does seriously understand the problems facing the US. The fact is, the American people do not. They think he is going to make it all better, and return things to where they were before.

That is no longer possible. In fact, I think we are at a point where triage is necessary for some areas of the nation to survive.

There is no longer enough time left to electrify the entire US rail system. So some areas will have to be chosen over others with regard to long term survivability.

Americans continue in a stubborn refusal to consider either Peak Oil or Climate Change. They are worried more about terrorism, which is a not existent threat.

I have lived in Japan for 35 years, and this American ignorance astounds Japanese people. The Japanese media is quite open in talking about only 40 yeas of oil left in the world at present usage rates. And Climate Change is visible here and now and well covered in the Japanese media.

I think that Barack Obama is certainly better than the other choice, John McCain would have started nuclear war with Russia. He certainly tried hard enough by encouraging Georgia to attack Russia, and then blaming Russia as the bully, and trying to send US sailors eyeball to eyeball with Russian soldiers.

One misstep in a situation like that and it is nuclear KABLOOM all over the world.

But of course, John McCain would have probably been shot by some crazed Bible thumping follower of Sarah Palin, who would have established a Christian Fascist State, and started a nuclear war in the Mid East so Jesus could come back. Her thinking was "Hey if you are a true believer, you will go to heaven, so why worry?"

So with alternatives like that, Obama was the only choice.

I think he does understand. All I can say to people in America is that, if you personally understand what is coming, it improves your survival chances immensely.

Wiglaf said...

I wouldn't call this Perestroika.

For any public official a great many things are still taboo. Under Obama they will continue saying the Iraq invasion was a strategic mistake, but not criminal — the same thing was being said three years ago under Bush.

As far as anything of this sort can be (almost jokingly) quantified, I predict that the next four years of American government will be 10% less fantasy-based than the last four. No more than that.

Matthew Cone said...

When you look at the big picture (which is admittedly hard to do), you start seeing patterns in history. At first there were only a few sporadic and seemingly harmless inventions -- fire, cooking meat, etc. But then, approximately 10,000 years ago, a major breakthrough: large scale agriculture and private property! This was the birth of a new worldview, a worldview that cherished and valued domination and subjugation, exploitation and homogenization. Everything that couldn't be bent to the will of this new worldview was destroyed. The survivors were those who submitted to this new tyranny and captivity -- the new slaves, farmers, miners, et al -- and everyone else was killed.

That was only the beginning, of course. Invention is the mother of necessity. Once you have invented the idea of, say, the wheel, there is no going back. People do not forget the idea of the wheel. Therefore, a "return" to the time before the wheel is not possible. Such is the case with all ideas and inventions. And so one event inevitably led to the next, just as one invention led to the next invention, and eventually, voila! Causation (not fate) brought us to the world we now live in. Has the worldview changed? Not at all. If anything, the metaphorical chains that bind us have become even stronger. The beauty of the current "system" is that it is mostly transparent. People believe themselves to be free when they are anything but.

But I digress. All of this is to say that I believe our problem is primarily philosophical. Natural resources are depleted, politicians come and go, hierarchical and technological systems fail, but the worldview remains. Life remains cheap, and people and nature remain enslaved.

This is the problem.

This problem -- and this worldview -- will not go away until we start accepting our condition and draw a line in the sand. The change we wish to see in the world starts with each of us, individually. We cannot rely on others to solve these problems. We must attempt to solve these problems ourselves, even if it costs us our lives.

Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul. Moreover, ignorance and denial do not excuse the complicity inherent in doing nothing. M. King Hubbert once told us that our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know. Let us use what we know, and use it quickly.

Russ said...

For me the funniest part of Reinventing Collapse (which, BTW, is the best peak Oil book I've read yet) is the part about boondoggles.

And now, sure enough, in the face of the above-ground financial-cum-economic crisis, and the fundamental energy and environmental crises, all we see around the globe is boondoggling, and the prospect of more of the same.

It's a veritable ideology of boondogglism.

I wonder how long it'll take for the delusion to work itself out, before people start to get serious.

Admin said...

Mr. Orlov,

You said it all. The comparison with Gorbachev's Perestroika is too hard to resist, as is the comparison with Gorbachev himself ("talk, talk, talk", "change", "hope", ...). Hence, the following nickname for Obama: "Gorbama". Here's a curious collage that illustrates this comparison:

Cheers, Russian President (a.k.a. "False Dmitry")

Anonymous said...

If Obama is Gorbi, then who will play Yeltsin and when, perhaps after real PO / ELM collapse (yearly 5-10% less energy available) in latter part of Obama's administration?

Perhaps an even younger more radical type of guy now early 30s, perceived in current atmopsphere as crazy doomer will get into house and senate in the meantime and then like Obama get elected Prez on the winds of change idea for whatever party, as Obama and the rest become irrelevant with their moderate BAU message borrowed from FDR.

I think looking at it like that, that people are now ignoring an obvious reality, which will later seem obvious in retrospect is pretty good. It is like denying cancer to yourself and not telling the family. Only most people don't really know about the cancer as most doctors (economists, professional petroleum engineers, etc.) deny it as well, wishing collapse not to be true.

Dima, Do you write in Russian perhaps, your books or whatever? I can paraphrase this for my wife of course but she would probably agree with it having lived through those horrible long speeches of Gorbi. God save us all from the metaphors, I read the other day "like fixing an airplane in midflight" from some economics editorial about US economy and this comparison brought back the metaphor from Gorbi I believe "like moving a cemetery over the highway during rush hour". That perestroika phase was an endless blather that brought nothing although at first it seemed hopeful.

Lots of people now say that the Japanese 90s type solution will stretch this story out forever in USA/UK and that banks and companies should be allowed to go broke, causing perhaps a Russian 90s wild-west type chaos instead. Japanese culture could not stand for such collapse nonsense of course as cultural stability is a serious matter there. America might tolerate it as people are used to a sort of constant cultural flux anyway so that a bit more general chaos might just be like being between jobs or careers with a patchwork family or moving to a new state or being a new immigrant, just a typical American experience.

So maybe we should expect something in between the two, unplanned collapse of a very centralized system and totally culturally controlled slowdown.

So American improvisation at local level depending on local culture, geography with less attention to Washington might be a little like semi sort of breaking up , loosening grip and regulating less, people just ignoring irrelevancies from Washington or state and local governments.

In Holland I hear that people do things differently over time and then the government changes the laws to adapt to this change in general behaviour. In Germany "what is not allowed is "verboten"". In America maybe the Holland model could be more applicable post PO crash. At any rate applying Russia or Japan to USA 100% is not right.

Americans were underestimated, as I understood, by the Japanese in WWII as being undisciplined, dumb, whatever but I know that American flexibility and creativity, probably due to cultural youth and mixing of cultures allowed getting a grip on the crisis back then. The prejudices against Americans as being spoiled and wasteful, undereducated, "mutts" on the part of say Europeans and Japanese underestimates the flexibility of a mutt to find its way through unique and dangerous terrain intuitively that a purebreed might not be able to navigate due to a lack of will to survive or simply missing a large picture from outside the closed type cultural system existing in Japan or elsewhere. Certainly USA comes last in getting its act together nowadays and carries massive denial as its industry invented the basis of the current system (oil, auto industry).

However the genetic and cultural mix of a still relatively new country could mean that collapse could be mastered locally and the answers would be radiated back to the center creatively and then exported globally as "American" ideas (although actually originating elsewhere and brought in with immigrants).

Anonymous said...

I do agree that the American people do not understand their predicament. I guess I do, and I've lived my life in anticipation of the rude awakening that is coming, but I'm one of the rare few that realized that the 'education' provided around these parts is no such thing, and that I would have to teach myself how the world works. I praise God daily that I came to this realization at such a young age. But, bear in mind, that for decades what has been told to the American people had one pre-requisite; how can we make money off their ignorance? Since an enlightened, knowledgeable and independent American people doesn't make money for the vested interests (though it would enrich the people themselves greatly) creating such a condition has been studiously avoided. And so, we've created a land where 'convenience is king' (more like the paper towel and TV dinner manufacturers are king) and even the so called science channels spend their time on home decorating shows and other useless crap. Once again, greed stands behind the problems that the US has manifested, just as central planning stood behind so many of the problems that the SU manifested. But of course, we also have the problem of central planning supporting greed over common sense (i.e. my unfavorable relationship with the electric company is by law), and I doubt that even the most corrupt leaders of the old SU wouldn't have thought of. This is what I would make the first priority to save the US; get rid of all of the myriad ways that central planning has come to support greed over efficiency, and resolutely correct these inefficiencies wherever we find them.

But, I have the unfortunate burden of family here that I can't convince to leave, so I admit that I have a vested interest in the matter that may be clouding my judgement. Anyone care to shoot me down?

Anonymous said...

Matthew says"

"The beauty of the current "system" is that it is mostly transparent. People believe themselves to be free when they are anything but."

I guess you mean "opaque", not transparent... The last century has been the century of Edward Bernays as much as the century of fossil fuels. Not that propaganda is new, but the Bernays model relies ostensibly on freedom, and that was new. As far as I can see, the model still works.

Anonymous said...

Li, what you hint at is escape not only from central planning but from organized society. One could argue that it is modern organized society, described picturesquely in some book called "Organization Man", that is both at risk (because it will run out of fuel) and to blame (because it has disabled people and made them totally dependent on experts, bureaucrats and planners).

Remember that the shackles are in the mind, too.

forbes said...

Hello all-

I used to work in the media, and I currently work at an elite institution (where I am low on the totem pole).

What I noticed when I worked in the media (at a local newspaper) is that the tone is set by the owners (and to a lesser extent the editors). This tone is obvious the minute you walk in the door. You simply cannot buck it.

I approach what Dmitry has to say with an open mind. I don't necessary know how right he is, but I'm willing to listen. Most Americans are not on the same tip. They have a certain collective attitude that is resistant to these ideas. The tone is obvious the minute you walk in the door.

I don't have a lot of hope that Obama will get it. I don't think he'll save us, and honestly I really hope he doesn't. We need to "save" ourselves.

If Americans got it, they would be changing ahead of time to get ready. Most aren't.

I don't know, sorry to post more doom and gloom. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the American attitude. I'm not saying that to beat up on Americans, because I've been one my whole life and I like my country.

Anonymous said...

Oh Galactic the myths of american exceptionalism die hard no...We won world war ii by outgunning our opponents but 4 to 1--how we won and even lost some. We got this far not becuase of the benefits of being mutts but by the benefits of geography--we had no effective enemies next door. Read some history or a chronicler such as Mencken the French lost more men in one week during world war i that the U.S. in the entire civl war. The russions lost 20 million world war II the U.S. 240 thousand. Not our superior anything just good fortune. Anybody who has spend time in a room with a history book should know this--toss the propaganda aside kiddies....

Anonymous said...

I like very much the observations on what will survive in the wake of collapse. But...

Obama as do-gooder?

Uh, nope. Please examine his background and his rise to power. The only person he does "good" for is himself.

I'm not sure how to get this point across to you, Mr Orlov. So I'm going to try to relate it to a principle you rely upon when you speak of collapse.

Pinning hopes on Obama is as silly as pretending that we're not going to run out of oil.

Anonymous said...

How about Obama as Kerensky? He was a tragic figure who took over in the midst of a crisis and, beholden to banking interests, tried to maintain an unwinable war. While Obama intends to withdraw from Iraq, he plans to expand the Afghanistan war. At least Gorbachev had the good sense to withdraw from Afghanistan. The effort to maintain the war lead to an even greater crisis which in turn lead to a great civil war.

Remember Obama's great hero is Lincoln whose great goal was not to end slavery but to preserve the Union at all costs. Gorbachev did not use his army to prevent states from succeeding from his union. How would Obama face a disintegration of his union?

Anonymous said...

Um, I think it should be "Ameristroika", Dmitry.

Anonymous said...

M. Pyre said about Obama:

The only person he does "good" for is himself.

First of all it does not depict him as a bad person.

Secondly, his first steps are in the right directions.

And finally: He can not reverse the peak oil curve, he can not change American's state of mind or the sense of entitlement which is in the blood and the bones of almost all Americans.

Let’s just hope that the nation will survive the inevitable with as few losses as possible, and hope is all we have now.

Dmitry Orlov said...

No, let's stick with "Perestroika." Brought to you by President Gorbamachev.

For those of you wondering where I got the 17-year half-life of industrial civilization out of the IEA report - I didn't. I calculated it based on the depletion rates they give. Do your own math; this isn't a class and I don't "show all work."

Anonymous said...

On the sense of entitlement: my prediction is that this is a mere varnish, that it will disappear quickly. Hunger and deprivation are very powerful, primordial forces.

On unity, that is is a very 19th century concept, good for armies but not necessarily good (or lasting) for huge nations. Size is at the root of many of the problems that afflict us.

Wiglaf said...

Matthew Cone wrote: Life remains cheap, and people and nature remain enslaved.

[...] this worldview -- will not go away until we start accepting our condition and draw a line in the sand.

Butlerian Jihad, anyone? Not against thinking machines so much as internal combustion engines, plastics ...

Morgan Emrich said...

To Li-

Jeavons Paradox. The more efficient we are at using a resource the more we use. I hate cars and driving, but if I could get 300 mpg the first thing I would do is pack the kids in the Sienna and get out of the Oregon rain by driving to Southern California to visit family.

Also, optimizing systems (being more efficient is a form of optimizing) is the quickest route to fragility and catrastophe. Redundancy is always preferable. Witness our financial/banking system. Highly optimized, not at all redundant. More and more control going to fewer and fewer, becoming more efficient at making idiotic choices. See Nassim Taleb and The Black Swan.

Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of New Hampshire said...

Right you are, there is no solution to this.

Global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

Then in August and September of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of "Oil Watch Monthly," December 2008, page 1)

Peak Oil is now.

Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

* Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

* Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

* Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst; Samuel Foucher, oil analyst; and Stuart Staniford, Physicist [Wikipedia Oil Megaprojects] (2008)

* Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

* T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

* U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

* Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

* Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

* Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

* Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

* Fredrik Robelius, Oil analyst and author of "Giant Oil Fields" (2008 to 2018)

Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

"By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."

With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

Documented here:

Dmitry Orlov said...

Thanks, Emrich! Short and sweet, nicely done. Take that, Li!

Anonymous said...

I've read Dmitry Orlov's book and was very impressed with his knack for connecting, in lucid detail, what he witnessed in the Soviet Union and Juxtaposing it with the future collapse of the U.S. The cliche "history repeats itself," and Mark Twain's rebuttal that it doesn't repeat but it "rhymes," are a lot more profound than most care to appreciate. Orlov gets it . Or as Otto Rank called our dilemma, in his brilliant book BEYOND PSYCHOLOGY (1939), "This eternal conflict of humanity's striving for volitional control of uncontrollable circumstances." The link to this book is,M1

Here goes my favorite lines of wisdom from Rank, "Times of social crisis, such as we are now going through, do not permit of much reflection but call for quick action. The high tide of nineteenth century intellectualism, receding during the World War, has since given place to a period of hectic activity in which we are discovering, not without embarrassment, that our mind, despite its proverbial quickness, is failing to keep up with the torrent of onrushing events. Bound by the ideas of a better past gone by and brighter future to come, we feel helpless in the present because we cannot even for a moment stop its movement so as to direct it more intelligently. We STILL have to learn, it seems, that life, in order to maintain itself, must revolt every so often against man's ceaseless attempts to master its irrational forces with his mind. No matter in what terms this presumtuous aim is attempted, sooner or later a reaction sets in, be it in the form of intellectual skepticism and pessimism-through which, for example, the Greek perished-or in the actual rebellion of our frustrated human NATURE." The conceited intellectuals who thought they could control nature with their minds need a bailout too. The Long Emergency by Kuntsler is very sobering as well.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Just by chance, I have a photo of Obama as Gorbi.

Just click here to see it:

Anonymous said...


I know all that on the history side and am not too romatic about USA but am just trying to distinguish the differences in how different countries adapt to crises. Culture is a critical facotr in Japan vs. russia say and USA has no fixed culture due to continuous immigration so that we can only guess how people will react, 10% immigrants, and th various mixed bag of ethnic groups in USA. The isolation from rest of wolrd helps to give USA more tim to get its act together before invasion as compared to more careful Germans say. So USA can experiment and take its time to stumble along without fearing the worst immediately. So thy have become dulled to the risks.

Anonymous said...

On cultural differences: unfortunately, the US has managed to destroy family to a degree that would have been unthinkable even fifty years ago. That may be one of the most critical mistakes ever made by a nation. Meanwhile, so-called "backward" societies have their family structures intact, a huge asset, even if it cannot be easily assigned a monetary value.

One would wish to blame the government for the destruction of family but no, government and "the system" had little to do with it.

Anyone care to explore this?

Anonymous said...

@ Li

The main way car miles-per-gallon improves is: (1) lighter weight, (2) better aerodynamics, (3) thinner higher pressure tires, and (4) a smaller engine (hybrids are actually at a disadvantage during highway cruising because of the extra weight of the battery and electric motor).

However, all of these factors have limits that are reasonably well understood and explored (if not in the USA). If you define a 'car' as something that 4 people can sit upright in, along with some stuff, and that can cruise at 60 mph, I think it is very unlikely that such a vehicle will ever achieve 100 mpg (e.g., upright single-person scooters don't even get 100 mpg).

Don't say a "300 mpg car" if you mean one that includes a battery charged from a wall socket. The extra kilowatts have to come from somewhere.

Of course, maybe a 'car' will be redefined as a low-slung roach-like vehicle (like the 1980's caltech solar car) that a single person reclines in with road bike tires and that tops out at 40 mph...

I think that bicycles, tricycles, low speed electric scooters, and tiny cars *are* the future. Even heavy loads can be transported, slowly, by a human-powered tricycle (though a battery assist sure helps with hills and wind).

My point is only to inject some physical reality into the idea that "they're holding back all this great stuff".

A 15 mph one-person bicycle is a 100 watt device but a 60 mph standard car is a 100,000 watt device. A small car needs only 10,000 watts to cruise at highway speeds, but it needs a lot more to accelerate reasonably. To put this in context, a laptop battery can put out 50 watts for a few hours. Then you have to recharge it. As we all know, it has a finite lifetime, and it's expensive.

fpteditors said...

Don't mend the auto, end it. In 1920, Philadelphia streetcars carried 900 million rides in one year.
FPT Blog

Anonymous said...

@ fpteditors

Of course I am behind a huge increase in free public transit. But there is the need for goods and people deliveries into and around cities that can't be borne by public transit or walking.

That's why we need a whole raft of new small scooters and delivery carts.

Here in London, the pedicabs started adding batteries. When this came to the attention of the authorities, they immediately outlawed them because they were 'unsafe'.

Will we be able to retool in time before easy energy ends? Probably not, but we should carry on with style anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ahh Dimitry you rascal,
Just when I was getting to "Yes we can" you stick me with the perfect analogy. Thanks I guess.
I still hold out some hope; the boondoggle phase of the economic meltdown is clearly in full swing, as the bankers ate up $300 billion and didn't even have the decency to crap out some fertilizer for us. I'm quite literal here, my colleges in agriculture are wondering where the operating loans are going to come from. Now they want the rest of the meal for nothing, Rubani is talking about Zombie banks, they should be dead but they don't know it yet. They stagger about eating unspeakable meals and leaving leprous chunks of offal to fester in the daylight. The green energy stuff seems to be taking second place at best as the old solutions are repackaged as change, and the old guard gives the wheel another spin. Perhaps after the second round of boondoggle we can get serious about trying to save the sheeple before we have to start making Hobson's choices. Some of then seen to be getting it. Gardens will be big again this year, and once you reconnect with the soil the flow of consciousness alters for the better. Home grown tomatoes have some magic I think. I always picture the ole Zendik Farm zine drawings of folks pulling giant electrical plugs out of their heads.
Anyhow, hope for a hard landing and total failure of the next round of bail out. That might shock the system enough to make real change possible. When depressed or troubled start seeds or buy ammo; always works for me.
Farmer Mark
Fennville, MI

Boris Epstein said...


I think it was George Bush Sr, not Cheney, who gets the credit for the famous "American way of life is not negotiable" quote.

That little remark aside, I do have to say that I find your perspective very well thought-out and interesting. Thanks for bringing it to us.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"The mean spiritedness of Americans is really striking once you've fallen off the rail a bit...."

Quite true! I had the same experience in the '90s. I've sort of solved my problem by becoming an English teacher in China. I don't know if that's a permanent solution (a US collapse will definitely hurt the new industrial economy in China) but it's made my last 10 years happy.

Lots of people here in China still think that imitating the US' bad habits is the way to go, and car ownership continues to balloon. Still, the majority still raise their own food without gas-powered vehicles. I observed wheat harvest/rice planting in Yunnan, mid-summer, and it looks sustainable. Probably the peasants would have to go back to threshing with flails instead of tossing the wheat onto the road for cars to drive on, but that's not impossible. Plowing means taking your hoe out to the terrace.

Zhu Bajie
alive in the bitter sea

Anonymous said...

This is, at the beginning, a repeat of the 1930's and now that the corrupt Bush has played the part of Coolidge, Obama gets to play the part of Hoover.

In 4 years aftger the economy has completely imploded we will get a Roosevelt-type who will eventually drag us into the Resource Wars.

History rhymes - it's called the 80 year saeculum - and ALL of this, 911, Bush, the economic collapse was predicted with good accuracy by Struss & Howe's Fourth Turning book in 1997.

No will listen though.

Obama is Gorby/Hoover - you can just see it. He hires the same schmucks that got us into this mess in the first place and rolls out the same idiotic ideas that created this implosion as well.

Spend some time reading about Obama's tie as a law professor - Obama has spent his whole life letting other people project their opinions on him while he stands there and soaks it up, making absolutely no decisions of his own that could rock the boat.

Who can blame him - it got him the Presidency and all the sheep have projected their love onto him.

Unfortunately what we need is someone willing to step forward and make the tough decisions, triage to get us back on our feet. Instead we got the mulatto Good Humor Man.

The sheep are suicidal. They will have to be in incredibly severe pain before they wake up. Only this time around, we get to add Peak Oil in the mix.

Gonna be a fun decade till the big war.


Anonymous said...

In case anyone is interested, this Wikipedia article gives information on the use of wind power in Spain (wind produces 10% of all installed power):

alvega said...

I'm sorry, I shall not adress the subject...

I'll speak from my heart, and I know it's obvious limitations.

I'm 55, and I gave for that 'thing' politics from 1969 till 1975, and then I kind of 'retired' myself out.
My sense is that others can go in my stead.

Nevertheless, as an old anarchist, liberal, and what have you, I despise Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Reagan, Thatcher, etc. and all their friggin' comrades, and, contrary to all the russians I know, I do appreciate Gorbachev.
As I do Obama.

I'm old, I just hope this isn't all for nothing. :-)