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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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7/04/2005

The Long Emergency - Not

I am in the middle of writing a short review of James Kunstler's new book, The Long Emergency. Basically Kustler, who last had his knickers in a knot over Y2K and publishes the wonderfully annoyed blog, clusterfucknation has strung together the more dire predictions of the peak oil folks, tossed in a bit of panic on the resource war classh of cultures front, seasoned with a dash of pandemic and concluded we're going to be dead or Amish in the foreseeably near future.

There is a good discussion of Kunstler over at Worldchanging which, if you are not reading already you should be. My own reaction, which is going to be severely truncated in the 400 words that I have for the review, oscillates between being delighted that someone is willing to write with a deft pen about the possible ramifications of peak oil, and annoyed that Kunster seems to feel he had to be quite so either economically illiterate or deliberately dishonest.

Here's the problem: I have no doubt at all that the world is at or has passsed the peak of its total oil production. From which it follows that cheap oil is over and that expensive oil is beginning. A fact re-inforced by the $60.00 a barrel oil touched last week. I would be utterly unsurprised to see oil hit $100.00 a barrel this year and $200.00 next year or the year after.

Along with making Alberta Canada's own little Kuwait, this is going to have some profound effects on our society and the West in general.

But where Kunstler goes off the rails is that he seems to believe that the long tail of the oil age is going to last for all of a few years and that the market will not serve to allocate the remaining oil very efficiently indeed. There is no evidence for either of these propositions and Kunstler seems too lazy to go and find any.

Which is too bad as the subject of the looming oil transition is worth book length treatment. It is going to change every bit of the world we live in, spur the development of serious alternative and nuclear engergy, change the way we build our cities, drop the value of suburban real estate like the proverbial rock in a sock and meet the carbon emmission targets without Rick Mercer having to do another commercial for the pretend solutions of Kyoto. It will alter the terms of trade in the world and, though it may be a bit scary for Canadians to consider this, make Canada one of the richest nations on earth assuming Alberta sticks around.

And those are just the obvious changes.

But we are not all going to have to become Amish.