Your Turn

I hope you've enjoyed the introductory material below and that it's made you THINK!

Now it's YOUR turn to comment on these columns, and suggest where this blog should be focussing its attention.

One Year Later

Please read the WELCOME post, LAYING THE GROUNDWORK, parts 1 and 2, and 2020 HINDSIGHT, parts 1 and 2, below, first.


June 19, 2008

Public Domain
by Steve Krulick, Ellenville Journal Senior Civics Columnist

(Probable) Odds & Ends

“There it is, that’s a straw, you see? You watching? And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake!” – Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

It was one year ago I concluded my series on Peak Oil with a fanciful “look backwards” from the year 2020. You may recall I posited a winning 2008 Gore/Obama ticket (something Time columnist Joe Klein “stole” from me nearly a year later). So my hypothetical parallel universe is already diverging from our mundane one – though last week Clinton Consigliari James Carville suggested an Obama/Gore ticket, which, if it happens, might allow for an eerie mirror image of my scenario of 2010. Still, I feel that even having “gotten” Obama into the next administration, at a time when Hillary was “inevitable,” keeps my Nostradomic credentials alive.
I also said gas would have hit $4.00 per gallon, and never turned back, in late 2007; OK, so I was off by a few months. And though I said gas prices this year would go to $5, $6, and $7, I’m going to backpedal a bit and predict that it will flirt with $5 before Labor Day and will be solidly in $5-plus territory by year’s end, pushing European-level prices off into 2009.
I just came back from two weeks in Russia, an oil exporter. Russians, too, were now paying the equivalent of $4.00 per gallon. Alexey Miller, head of Kremlin-owned Gazprom, the world’s largest energy company, has, according to Britain’s The Independent, issued the most dire warning yet about the soaring price of oil, predicting that it will hit $250 per barrel by the end of 2009. “Mr. Miller… said that the primary reason is simple supply and demand, driven by the rapidly expanding countries of the developing world, principally China and India.” Although it’s too soon to confirm, my “prediction” that “daily global demand exceeded daily production in mid-2008, exhausting buffer stockpiles by year’s end,” is quite possible, although being even a few months (or even one year) off, wouldn’t be any reason for celebration.
In the opening to my series, I predicted: “oil spirals up to $100, $200, $300 or more per barrel… possibly within five years,” so I see Miller’s bombshell as somewhat of a confirmation from an expert. With oil hitting nearly $140 per barrel last month, more than double where it was last year (100% inflation!), the rate of increase makes all that quite plausible.
And, though there was one minor uptick in production this year that matched it, my looking-backward “prediction” that 2007 would indeed be confirmed as the year of peak oil production, has so far stood correct; we are plateauing and will descend.
I also alluded to “commercial aviation, already decimated by high fuel prices” before 2010; that decimation was in full force this year, as 24 airlines have been effectively grounded or gone into bankruptcy since January alone, with more shake-outs, mergers, cut-backs, and price hikes coming. According to Business Week: “To fully appreciate the impact that soaring oil prices have had on the nation’s beleaguered airline industry, consider that U.S. carriers will likely spend $60 billion on jet fuel this year – nearly four times what they paid in 2000. Because of the spike in fuel costs, airlines now lose roughly $60 on every round-trip passenger, a slow bleed that puts the industry on pace to lose $7.2 billion this year, the largest yearly loss ever. Not surprisingly, Wall Street has become so dour about the industry’s prospects, the combined market capitalization for the six major legacy carriers and Southwest Airlines has fallen to just over $17 billion. ‘The U.S. airline industry, as it is constituted today, was not built for $125-per-barrel oil,’ Gerard Arpey, the chief executive of American Airlines parent AMR told shareholders.” BW suggests that European and other cash-rich foreign airlines may simply buy out and take over the US fleets. Meanwhile, BW says, expect an end to cheap fares and coast-to-coast flights: “With roughly 30% of the weight of any transcontinental flight consisting of the fuel alone, meaning airlines are burning fuel just to carry fuel, carriers can be expected to replace many of those longer nonstops with one-stop flights, intended largely for refueling.” Expect more charges for extras, even for seating choices; expect smaller planes and airports to fade. “The fee changes and higher fares are likely to cull millions of poor and middle-class travelers from the ranks of regular fliers,” says BW. On top of flying now being a major-pain-in-the-butt-unpleasant experience (don’t ask me about what is was like dealing with JFK, Heathrow, or deGaulle airports! Feh!), I still don’t see the airlines or air travel, as we’ve known it, making it past 2010, if even that far.
I predicted “drought, fires, power blackouts, and food shortages [leading] to massive riots in Arizona and California.” These shortages and riots are already happening today in: Britain (The British government was urging motorists not to panic-buy gas in anticipation of a strike on Friday by truck drivers who deliver petrol.); Spain (According to The Independent: “the regional government of Catalonia enacted an emergency action plan to bring in fresh food and fuel supplies after nearly half of its forecourts ran dry and supermarkets shelves were left bare. The situation was the result of the second day of an ‘indefinite’ nationwide strike staged by lorry drivers in Spain seeking their government’s help to contain the effects of expensive petrol.” All of Spain’s 18 car factories, which produce 13,000 vehicles a day and account for about 5% of Spain’s GDP, would be out of action.); Haiti (Demonstrators recently tried to storm the presidential palace after prices of staple foods leaped 50%.); the Philippines (Hundreds of trucks and minibuses blocked roads in Manila leading to the presidential palace to demand lifting a 12% sales tax on fuel; gas prices there have risen about 24% this year.); Thailand (Fishermen burned their boats); Argentina (The shortage of fuel forced several bus lines in Buenos Aires to suspend or reduce their service while the lack of diesel hampered industrial and agricultural activity elsewhere. Hundreds of buses were affected by the move, and there was chaos at bus-stops, as commuters tried to squeeze into full vehicles.); and Bangladesh (In Dhaka, 10,000 textile workers clashed with police; dozens were injured in a protest triggered by food costs that was eventually quelled by baton charges and tear gas). Scattered protests by drivers and fisherman in France and Portugal also continued. In Egypt, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique, Senegal, and Cameroon there have been demonstrations, and fatalities, as starving, desperate people have taken to the streets. And much of this chaos is due to oil peaking.
According to The Guardian (UK), “Across the world, a food crisis is now unfolding with frightening speed. Hundreds of millions of men and women who, only a few months ago, were able to provide food for their families have found rocketing prices of wheat, rice and cooking oil have left them facing the imminent prospect of starvation. The spectre of catastrophe now looms over much of the planet.” Tick… tick… tick.
Coming sooner than you think to a village near you.


2020 Hindsight (Part 2)

Please read the WELCOME post, LAYING THE GROUNDWORK, parts 1 and 2, and 2020 HINDSIGHT, part 1, below, first.

June 14, 2007

Public Domain
by Steve Krulick, Coordinator
Rondout Priorities & Allocations Department

2020 Hindsight (Part 2)

"Through mutual suffering and dread, we have finally come to realize that, truly, we are all in this together. Our future remains perilous, but we must try to… What the…? Oh, my G…!" – President Al Gore’s Last Words, Riyadh Summit, 0 Spring 0 NE (March 21, 2010 CE)

FORT NAPANOCH, Rondout Cooperative Authority, 10 Spring 85 NE (June 14, 2020 CE) – In the latter half of the 20th century, two extreme visions of “the future” predominated. First (riding post-WWII optimism), was a pristine, pastel techno-paradise, a Jetson Futurama of personal flying cars, meals-in-a-pill, servile (if sarcastic) robots, and jobs that involved nothing more stressful than putting feet up on a desk. Followed (in post-Vietnam/Watergate cynicism) by dark, gritty techno-dystopias in which soulless machines get the upper hand, or threaten to (The Terminator, The Matrix, Blade Runner). Neither view came remotely close. Even the brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey (which was semi-plausible when filmed in 1968) got little right in retrospect: no moon bases, no Pan Am shuttles to orbiting Hiltons and Howard Johnsons, no Ma Bell, no BBC12, no HAL.
Which confirms the old jape, “The future ain’t what it used to be!” Except, ironically, our present is, for most people in many ways, more like “what it used to be” in 1850 (or, alas, 1250, or even 12,500 BCE, depending on where you live!) than even how “it used to be” just a mere 20 years ago. The isolated and defensive enclaves of Mad Max and Kostner’s The Postman actually seem to have come closest to hitting our mark: when a complex network of critical resources unravels, larger formal structures wither, and smaller, self-contained ad-hoc social units form and evolve to match local carrying capacity.
We, in our Valley, were relatively lucky – we’ve avoided the worst of the ever-rising coastal floodings and their ensuing infections and rot; our warmer winters and less humid summers have reduced heating/cooling needs (and we had enough trees for heating and power generation to get us over the transitional hump); our abundant water resources have been well-rationed and efficiently used; we had ramped up our local organic agriculture before oil-and-gas-based fertilizers and pesticides became scarce; we were able to harness sufficient wind, water, and solar energies with lower-tech “home-grown” devices (when the hi-tech systems became unavailable) to keep a viable, albeit down-scaled, infrastructure operating. Today’s air is even cleaner!
We patched together a new and eclectic system of economics and social organization that still doesn’t have a name, because it is still evolving, although cooperative comes closest. Terms like capitalism or communism just seem meaningless, given our new realities. The whole concept of profit, or endless growth (what was once called economic development) seems alien and absurd now; we can only support a certain amount of people and livestock in our immediate community or bio-region, so our goal is a stable and sustainable balance, rather than a manic striving for more! We aim for just enough surplus to trade some with neighboring regions, or to get the few available specialty needs that come from further afar.
After we gathered up all the useful books and data and transferred them to the Fort, we set our best researchers (many of whom no longer had their old jobs to go to!) to scour them for the practical skills and wisdom we had jettisoned in our oil-soaked addiction to “modernity.” We had to relearn pre-petroleum farming, animal husbandry, health care, architecture, transportation, sanitation, even simple excavation and lifting without cheap oil-power.
We drew on a variety of historical self-sufficient community models: monasteries, Amerindian tribes, Israeli Kibbutzim, 19th and 20th century communes, Western frontier towns, Greek city-states. Re-enactors from Plimouth Plantation and Colonial Williamsburg, and others well-versed in pre-oil living, became our mentors. The federal government – greatly reduced in size and power, becoming, mostly, a maintainer of post/parcel services, internet and telecommunications, essential resource allocation, and critical production – sent Amish and Cuban trainers to qualifying triaged communities like ours. (After Hurricane Fidel – the world’s first Category 6 storm, ironically striking a week after Castro died – forced final evacuation of Guantanamo, then leveled Havana and Miami, the US embargo was lifted, expat Cubans returned home to help rebuild, and relations finally normalized. Years of isolation, then the Soviet collapse, had forced the Cubans to learn how to make-do without medicines and McDonalds, and to keep 50-year-old cars and machines running; now, we were begging to have an army of “peoples’ doctors,” mechanics, farmers, and community organizers, help us cope with less.)
In 1900, over 30% of Americans were engaged in farming; in 2000, it was under 2%. Today, everyone here farms to some degree, by need and mandate; after security, water, and sanitation, it’s our greatest concern. Our most valuable medicinal herbs and crops are cultivated within Fort Napanoch’s gardens, though individuals with special needs usually grow their own supplies. Greenhouses and rooftop/sunroom gardens allow for some year-round production. Since all pitch in, it’s only 15 hours/week of productive, low-stress labor that connects us more with the earth, leaving more time for homegrown art, music, and study.
All land has been re-allocated for best community use, primarily for growing basic greens, beans, grains, herbs, and fruits; some land is set aside for sorghum, hemp, kenaf, bamboo, switchgrass, flax, papyrus, etc., for essential fibers, or oils and alcohols for vehicles and heating (although our few non-electric or non-pedal vehicles mostly run on ammonia produced by windmills; geo-thermal retrofits do most heating/ cooling). We use far less paper and cloth than before, and the above plants, plus fast-growing trees, suffice.
Chicory and beechnut brews have replaced coffee, though a variety of locally-grown herbal or root teas are the beverages of choice. Who’d imagine we now actually cultivate dandelions for low-maintenance greens and wine?!! And the huckleberries are back!
All in all, we are leaner, healthier, and less prone to heart disease and cancers than our 1990’s selves! And, with fewer things to buy, or places to go to, we spend less time at empty jobs, and more time enjoying and helping our community and neighbors. Having just reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, I plan to do even more biking, writing, and enjoying!

2020 Hindsight (Part 1)

Please read the WELCOME post and LAYING THE GROUNDWORK, parts 1 and 2, below, first.


May 31, 2007

Public Domain
by Steve Krulick, Coordinator
Rondout Priorities & Allocations Department

2020 Hindsight (Part 1)

"Mercy, mercy me. Things ain’t what they used to be" – Marvin Gaye

FORT NAPANOCH, Rondout Cooperative Authority, 10 Spring 71 NE (May 31, 2020 CE) – It’s hard to believe it’s been only 13 years since I first wrote about peak oil and energy descent in the old Ellenville Journal; that life now seems as remote as, say, the Roman Empire. And, indeed, since the New Era kicked-off officially in the NE year “Zero” with the Nuclear Exchange in 2010, those of us still hanging in have been participants in (or at least witnesses to) the greatest and most concentrated global changes to human society in recorded history.
Gasoline prices in 2007 were inexorably rising past 3.00 Old Dollars through the spring, and never dropped below 4.00 OD after the fall. Of course, the governments and the media knew all about the coming crisis, and had for years, but didn’t want to cause a panic that would trigger a loss of confidence in the "free market” system and their own privileged positions. Finger-pointing at the “evil and greedy” oil companies was just a way to deflect anger away from their own failures to have planned for this unspoken but inevitable reality (as later inquiries confirmed, global oil production peaked in 2007 and daily global demand exceeded daily production in mid-2008, exhausting buffer stockpiles by year’s end).
As tough as 2008 was (when North American gas prices rapidly rose to 5.00 OD, 6.00 OD, and finally 7.00 OD), it was only prelude to the Big Crash of 2009, followed by a year so momentous as to have ushered in a new calendar. Like the first moon walk or 9/11, anyone who was watching TV as President Gore was addressing the Riyadh Summit, only to see him vanish, along with the rest of that Saudi city, in a flash of nuclear light, has that “Zero Day” moment seared in the memory.
Only Vice-President Obama’s refusal to unleash an all-out reprisal against the assumed Iranian culprit and Chinese allies (still never proven; whether it was actually radical Saudi anti-monarchists or rogue CIA globalists who felt Gore was yielding American supremacy for voluntary “powerdown” and resource sharing, is still debated), kept the Nuclear Exchange limited to Pakistan, India, China, and Israel.
Even without this cataclysm, there were enough milestones to justify acknowledging things were never going to be the same: the Great Flu of that year wiped out 200 million worldwide; AIDS took another 20 million, mostly in Africa and Asia; commercial aviation, already decimated by high fuel prices, was mostly stopped to limit spread of those and other infectious diseases; simultaneous breakoffs of ice-shelves from Antarctica and Greenland raised sea-levels over a meter, flooding 50% of Bangladesh and over 300 Indian Ocean islands and coastal villages, while shifting the Gulf Stream enough to plunge the British Isles into a mini-Ice-Age. Drought, fires, power blackouts, and food shortages led to massive riots in Arizona and California; the impotence of the Federal and state governments under these new circumstances was revealed, and led to even more riots and marauding on the one hand, and greater local autonomy and proactive initiatives on the other.
Fortunately, my 2008 recommendations for the town and county to follow Portland, Oregon’s 2006 Peak Oil Briefing Book model were taken seriously enough that a variety of measures and infrastructures were in place when the spit hit the fan. Although events seemed to happen faster than anyone might have anticipated, at least the essentials – water, food, security – were covered enough to maintain a sense of some hopefulness, preventing total social collapse.
Re-instituting the Ulster Militia in 2009, with conscripted Town Brigades trained by former Army officers, was instrumental in preventing the breakdowns of order that convulsed the rest of the continent. After Wawarsing confiscated the prison complex in Napanoch under eminent domain (Albany was too distracted with more pressing downstate matters to respond), and bussed all the prisoners in the middle of the night to New York City, it established “Fort Napanoch”; all critical valuables were stored there (medicines, seeds, emergency rations, weapons, fuel, emergency vehicles, books and documents on survival agriculture and technology, etc.), along with a permanent militia presence and communication grid.
The Battle of Fort Napanoch in 0 NE (2010 CE) was the seminal event of our region. Angry and disillusioned hordes from the NYC suburbs, lacking food, fuel, and electricity, stormed up the Hudson Valley, seeking an outlet for their rage and frustration as much as to find immediate sources of food and water. After placing nearly 5,000 women/children/ seniors from Ellenville and Wawarsing within the former prison’s walls for safekeeping, the Wawarsing Brigade of the Ulster Militia, backed by support from neighboring town brigades, police departments, and state troopers, protected the populace and its critical resources until NYS National Guard units were able to rout the invaders. Mobile units kept the looting and burning of Ellenville to a minimum.
This wake-up call led to the creation of the Rondout Cooperative Authority, which assumed many of the critical tasks we could no longer count on the state or national governments to deal with, as well as to take responsibility for securing basic local needs for the contiguous Rondout Valley bio-region. Three super-PADs (Priorities & Allocations Departments) were created – for Resources, Land, and Labor – which became the new model for local and regional governments. Unless one wanted to tough it out as a “rugged individualist” hermit, one signed-on to a new community social contract, which guaranteed personal protection and basic necessities, while requiring allegiance, public service (militia, farm labor, landfill mining, etc.), and a new mode of thinking that realizes “We’re all in this together” rather than focussing on individual aggrandizement and personal hoarding.
Although we truly stand guilty of using up much of our future generations’ inheritance through the 1900s, and many lived in denial even as the world we knew was vanishing around us, life is simpler in so many ways now, and, dare I say, richer. That might be hard to accept for those who lived through the American Golden Age, and puzzling to those few born since, but, next column, I will elaborate, and compare the two lifestyles to prove my claim.

Laying the Groundwork (Part 2)

Please read the WELCOME post and Part 1 of this series below, first.


May 17, 2007

Public Domain
by Steve Krulick, Village of Ellenville Trustee

Pre-Oil Past as our Future? (Part 2)

“Peak Oil and Climate Change are two closely coupled forces that will shape future realities more than any other factors.”
– David Holmgren, co-originator of the Permaculture concept

Suggestion: We should be preparing now for the potential impacts of peak oil, critical resource shortages, global climate chaos, and more people than the Earth can support.

To recap: one evening this decade (and it may have happened already… as early as 2005), one-half of the two trillion barrels of oil that have ever existed on Earth will have been extracted and consumed by humanity. From then on, nothing we can do will ever let us again extract and refine more than that peak amount (80-85 million barrels of oil on that one day), even as daily demand reaches and exceeds that figure. Production will then rapidly fall off from this “peak oil” zenith, as the remaining half – being the least-accessible, lowest-quality, and hardest-to-extract-and-process gunk – will become ever more expensive and less profitable to obtain (even as prices of crude and refined products skyrocket). When it requires more fossil energy to find, extract, transport, and refine new oil than the new oil itself can provide, it simply becomes pointless madness to even bother trying.
So, even before every potential drop of remaining oil could be wrung out of the planet (about 35 years from today, theoretically, to absolute post-oil), at some point before then it will cost more to get it out of the ground than to leave it (ten to twenty years from now, perhaps, to post-available-oil). And long before that, as oil spirals up to $100, $200, $300 or more per barrel ($5, $8, $10 per gallon of gasoline, or post-cheap-oil), and demand is even a smidgen over supply, whole economies and nations addicted to this liquid gold will be prostrate, paralyzed, and panicked, possibly within five years. And it won’t be pretty.
Indeed, with the exception of an asteroid impact, extra-terrestrial invasion, attack by brain-eating zombies, or the apocalyptic appearance of a vengeful (or pitying) deity or avatar, ALL mundane Doomsday scenarios (lack of drinkable water, famines, plagues, nuclear or biological war over scarce resources, civic collapse, etc.) could be precipitated or greatly aggravated by Peak Oil and Climate Chaos. Alas.
If you think the gas lines of the 1970s were tough (and that was with just a temporary 4% downturn in production; what we are facing is a PERMANENT annual decrease in production as crude becomes harder to get out of the ground, and isn’t the light, sweet variety that is easiest to refine), wait until an 85-million-plus-barrel-per-day demand (with China and India rushing to catch up to the US) faces a 75- million-bpd production cap that begins plummeting 3-8% (or more) each year. This will likely happen within the decade... and shoot downhill from there.
Even flagrant militarism – like the ironically first-named Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL!) – to secure our petroleum (inconveniently buried under other peoples’ lands!), will only forestall the inevitable, and set us up for scary and less-one-sided conflicts with newer oil-addicts, like China or India. Our military – already spending more than the rest of the world’s armies combined, and stretched to the breaking point to protect profits for ExxonMobil and Halliburton – is also heavily dependent on oil to function, which makes this particular strategy self-defeating and only hastens the final reckoning.
I see three phases to this scenario: first, the one we are now entering (and lasting 5-10 years), is the fading of cheap fossil fuels. Oil will still be available, but at a rapidly rising price that will impact every aspect of our oil-dependent society. What will $300 per barrel oil mean to heating, agriculture, plastics, commuting, air travel, trucking, or shipping cheap goods from Asia? When China (which could send us into instant bankruptcy if it ever called-in its trade-imbalance notes) becomes our chief rival for oil, and stops being the manufacturing arm of Wal-Mart (whose own 12,000+ mile shipping costs, and fleet of “warehouses on wheels,” with “just-in-time” truck deliveries to un-electrified big boxes, will become rapidly unsustainable; indeed, most hyperlarge corporations will likely go bust, to ultimately have their resources appropriated by those governments still functioning), we will find that all those US factories we let close over the last half-century will not be there to make up the difference.
The second phase will overlap the first, as oil becomes simply unavailable to certain countries, or regions within countries. The poorest and least powerful will be hit first, as usual, and this will likely coincide with the first large-scale effects of global climate chaos, exacerbating their sad condition.
Economics and politics will quickly become very different in just a few years as normalcy breaks down. Talk of economic development and growth and wealth will become meaningless as emergency meetings become focussed on scaling-down for simple survival, rationing all resources, and the forced allocation of land and labor… assuming governments are still in place to implement their will and enforce civil order. State and national governments will begin to shrink and crumble into feudal realms, struggling to maintain essential goods, and basic public needs such as roads, sanitation, electric grids, communications, healthcare, or even security to deal with the suddenly bereft hordes who realized too late that food doesn’t grow in urban skyscrapers or suburban shopping malls.
At best, local governments may take over the bulk of civic functions, with county-sized entities (the distance a bicycle, horse, or electric car could traverse in a day) being the largest practical polity. Indeed, small, compact, walkable towns and villages – with reliable sources of pure water; arable land; capacity to generate electricity from solar, wind, or hydro; wood/peat/coal for heating; the foresight to prepare for the coming “long emergency” by developing the skills and resources needed to become more self-reliant; plus a commitment to remain civilized and trustful of the community as a whole (Kibbutznik cooperation rather than hyper-individualistic “me-firstism”) – may fare better. And the Amish here, and some traditional cultures globally, may barely notice the change (to the extent they are already practicing a mostly pre-oil lifestyle) into which a much-reduced world population will stabilize, being the third phase.
Next, in Part 3: While the rest of the world is going to Hell, Ellenville/Wawarsing/Ulster (if we plan wisely) may only go to Heck! Life here in 2020, and what we can do now to minimize the pain.

Laying the Groundwork (Part 1)

Please read the WELCOME post below first!


I want to begin my posting with a series of columns I wrote for the Ellenville Journal in 2007 on the subject of peak oil. Much of what I wrote and predicted then has already come to pass (I will also post a 2008 update on the series written one year later).

This will be followed by a two-part column that is written AS IF from the year 2020, showing what MIGHT have happened between 2007 and 2020, based on the assumptions in the previous columns coming to pass within the plausible time frames outlined. Consider this "sci-fi" approach as ONE possible future we might have before us, IF we are wise enough NOW to plan for these likely possibilities. Sure, some of the specifics may not come to pass ("President Al Gore" being least likely, but "President Obama," barely conceivable last May, is now quite likely.), but the BIG PICTURE is very much in the realm of the plausible and possible.


April 26, 2007

Public Domain

by Steve Krulick, Village of Ellenville Trustee

A Pre-Oil Past as our Future?

This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.
– T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men,” 1925

Suggestion: We should be preparing now for the potential impacts of peak oil, critical resource shortages, global climate chaos, and more people than the Earth can support.
Scope: Everybody, everywhere. Local to global.
Necessity: Level 1 / Highest (Apocolyptically broken.)

This past Sunday, April 22nd, marked the 38th year
Earth Day was celebrated. Observed might be more accurate, as there seems to be less to celebrate each passing year. Sticklers will note that John McConnell, – designer in 1969 of the Earth Flag, which shows the whole planet from space – called for a vernal equinox global holiday at a 1969 UNESCO conference; San Francisco issued the first Earth Day proclamation on March 21, 1970. Since then, the UN continues to recognize the first day of each spring as Earth Day. (As it is also my birthday, I tend to concur.)
Without that first-ever photo image of Earth as a singular blue marble of land and water (liquid ocean, vaporous clouds, solid ice) instantly in everyone’s consciousness, Earth Day likely would never have happened, or inspired individuals and nations to work for environmental protection. Indeed, as a response, the US passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, among others.
Little noted in 1970 was that the US also reached
peak oil that year… meaning conventional oil from the lower 48 states grew in production from the 1880s as a bell curve, exponentially increasing due to rising demand and more efficient discovery, extraction, and refining capacity, until peak output was reached; then, production began declining, also exponentially. After peaking, less and less oil from any given field or country is found, extracted, and produced, and usually at a rate that fails to meet ever-increasing demand; had it not been for OPEC, Alaska, and North Sea discoveries, the US would have had to face the brick wall of that reality during the 70s. (It’s not that there will never be any oil or gas left in the US or elsewhere; peak oil simply means that it becomes increasingly more expensive than it’s worth to extract and refine the lesser-quality fossil fuel remaining.)
This pattern was first described by American geophysicist M. K. Hubbert, who created a method of modeling a peak rate of production given an assumed ultimate recovery volume for a finite resource (hence, it’s also known as
Hubbert's Peak or Hubbert’s Curve). In 1956, Hubbert predicted that production of oil from conventional sources would peak in the continental US around 1965-1970 (the actual peak was 1970). Hubbert further predicted a worldwide peak at “about half a century” from publication. That, folks, means 2006, give or take a very few years. Although we won’t know for certain until several years after the fact, preliminary numbers are in, and many independent analysts say Earth went peak in 2005; some say 2007, or hold out for as late as 2012. (Centuries ago, the Mayan calendar predicted the end of this age arriving December 2012. Hmmm.)
Four reigning supergiant oilfields, discovered decades ago – the Burgan field of Kuwait, the Daqing of China, Cantarell of Mexico, and Ghawar of Saudi Arabia – were responsible for 14% of the world’s oil production, and are now in decline. All but Ghawar have been officially declared past peak by their own governments, and Ghawar (60% of Saudi Arabia’s production) is showing clear signs of trouble. Saudi total production is
down 8% this past year. Britain, which floated on a raft of North Sea oil for a few decades, has peaked and is again an oil importer, as is Indonesia. Russia peaked in the 80s. Venezuela and Iran have peaked. Iraq and Nigeria may not peak until next decade, but they are both failed states in turmoil.
Except for a few tree-huggers, visionaries, maverick scientists, and energy entrepreneurs like myself, most people assumed things could continue forever as they were going, or that technology would solve any problems down the road.
The American Way of Life, which Dick Cheney has said is “not negotiable,” was about endless growth and expansion, made possible by cheap fossil fuels, more roads and cars, and cheap foreign labor and shipping.
When we should have – and could have – been re-directing our talents and capital towards weaning ourselves from our oil addiction while there was still enough time, we willfully engaged in
more suburban sprawl as the entitlement American Dream (and watched as more nations emulated us), in what James Howard Kunstler called “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” Why? “Because it is a living arrangement with no future… because it was designed to run on cheap oil and gas, and in just a few years we won’t have those things anymore.”
Sorry, but we’d better accept now that our blithe world of endless
Happy Motoring, Flying the Friendly Skies and Always Low Prices is about to end, abruptly and painfully. For most people, each coming year will be worse than the previous year; for some – perhaps many or most – it will be gruesome and/or terminal.
In a race to see whether
The End of the World As We Know It will more likely be caused by energy descent (what happens when fossil fuel and other energy demands keep outstripping supply), global climate chaos (a more accurate term than “global warming”), pure water shortages, sea-levels rising, overpopulation, nuclear or biological war over scarce resources, pandemic diseases (AIDS, or new super-strains of influenza, or other viruses), or the mysterious loss of bees, coral reefs, or plankton… we may find ourselves facing a “perfect storm” in which many or all of the above hit simultaneously, or in rapid cascade – what Kunstler calls a “clusterf**k.”
Next, in Part 2: Just how bad could it get, and is there anything we can do to make it less bad? And, if this is the biggest story of the 21st century, why isn’t the media or government alerting and preparing us?

Steve Krulick, sk@krulick.com
or PO Box 467, Ellenville NY 12428


Time for a serious new blog!

What will Ulster be like in the year 2020 if current trends continue? (Peak oil, peak resources, peak money, peak... everything! Oh, and global climate chaos, too!)

The writing is on the wall. Time is running out. Business as usual won't cut it.

The trivial must yield to what's critical. Plans need to be made. Priorities need to be set. Resources need to be allocated.

This blog is a forum to discuss what's REALLY important about how our local communities -- from hamlet-level to the entire county -- will deal with the coming economic, energy, environmental, and civic crises already knocking at our door.

Serious, non-partisan, enlightened contributions welcome; petty politics, trolling, and ad hominem attacks NOT welcome.

Reflective thinking, relevant historical data, cutting-edge science and technologies (and useful PRE-oil technologies we may have to re-learn!), practical examples from current and historical societies who've dealt with critical resource crises... all these will be presented and discussed, with the goal of creating and implementing viable solutions to address expected resource shortfalls and their diverse consequences.