Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it.
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The upshot of all this is that we are entering a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical maneuvering around the world's richest energy regions has already led to war and promises more international military conflict. Since the Middle East contains two-thirds of the world's remaining oil supplies, the U.S. has attempted desperately to stabilize the region by, in effect, opening a big police station in Iraq. The intent was not just to secure Iraq's oil but to modify and influence the behavior of neighboring states around the Persian Gulf, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. The results have been far from entirely positive, and our future prospects in that part of the world are not something we can feel altogether confident about.
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The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class.
Link. Kunstler's complete doomsday scenario is outlined in his book, The Long Emergency.
The writing's on the wall this morning in a piece from The Christian Science Monitor noting that, thanks to rising oil prices, it's not just gas that's getting more expensive, but everything:
"The true cost of energy is now being felt more broadly through the entire economy," says Mark Routt, a senior consultant at Energy Security Analysis, Inc., in Wakefield, Mass.
The reason, according to Mr. Routt, is what he calls the "tale of two economies." Most consumers focus on gas prices and the impact on their wallets. But diesel, which fuels truckers and some manufacturers, has gone up just as fast, and in some cases, gone higher. Thanks to that competition for consumers, combined with the concurrent growth of cheap imports, most people have so far been sheltered from that impact.
Link. Well, um, this should be interesting.