Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Kinder, Gentler Holocaust

Peak Oil and the Rebuilding (Or Not) of Ground Zero

Jenna Orkin


"The consequences of Peak Oil - a cascade of bankruptcies including trucking companies which will cease delivering food to the supermarket; riots and looting; every man for himself - are unprecedented. 9/11 was unprecedented, too, until it happened. History repeats itself, but never verbatim.

The match has been struck for the burning of 'Rome' but this time Nero isn't playing the fiddle; he's talking about A-Rod and Madonna. Fascism is on its way only this time with more polish, at least so far; instead of goose-stepping in jackboots, it walks softly and wears a nicely cut suit. The gas chambers are subtler too: The fires that burned the toxic debris at Ground Zero for over three months; the formaldehyde-contaminated trailers that were provided for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, are doing the same job only over a more extended time. And we 'Jews' are swallowing the sweet pablum that the nice man on T.V. is offering (uptick in the stock market today!) Because this new kind of Holocaust 'could never happen.'"

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Battles to publicize unpopular issues such as the lethal air quality following 9/11 or the arrival of Peak Oil in 2006 have two phases. The first consists of sailing against the wind. The mainstream press ignore the issue or repeat the government's lies. This is unpleasant but after the arrival of Phase Two, one looks back at it with some nostalgia. For the second phase occurs when the problem has grown so big and ugly, it can no longer be ignored.

Legend has it that Joseph Kennedy knew the stock market was about to crash in 1929 when his shoeshine boy gave him a tip on what to buy. Kennedy sold. The story is no doubt apocryphal (Kennedy was surely planning to sell anyway; the shoeshine boy, if there was one, was just the last straw) but it makes the point: When everyone knows something, it's too late.

So it's with some ambivalence that we note the growing acceptance of earth-changing upheavals ahead. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the "Shock and Awe" campaign that morphed into a living example of "the war that will not end in our lifetimes..." One disaster after another has ended not in abatement but in simply being supplanted by a new disaster. Obama's catchword is Change and many will vote for it but how many really expect it? When AOL, not normally considered a tinfoil hat website, publishes a story on people preparing for Apocalypse in 2012, you know The Powers That Be are psyching you for something even if the story, with its Nostradamus-like allusions to the Mayan calendar, has a New Agey tinge, (or should I say "aura?")

The fact that oil plays into our bleak zeitgeist is also accepted even as people sputter in protest, "But what about wind/geothermal/solar/Brazil/hybrids/algae/electricity/bikes/some-genius-coming-along-with-something?" Pick your 'solution' which may be a wonderful thing in itself but will not replace oil in our autophagous economy that depends on infinite growth in a finite world. Nor will it replace those oil and gas products, pesticides and fertilizers, which account for the astronomical spike in population since oil's discovery in 1859 to 6.5 billion.

However, the worst is yet to come. Despite Congress' clueless scolding of "speculators," those speculators are not the main source of the current oil dilemma. Unlike the Hunt brothers in the seventies, oil speculators do not take delivery of, much less horde, oil. Few speculators have tankers of the stuff in the back yard. But when did reality ever trump a populist, vote-gleaning stand?

The country's fast heading into what we'll euphemistically call a 'recession,' interrupted only by speed bumps like the "economic stimulus package" of a few hundred dollars that many of us received several months ago. The Bush administration's Energy Advisor Matthew Simmons maintains that oil could easily hit $300 p.b. On the financial front, we have the collapse of stalwart institutions like Bear Stearns Bank, sold off at a fire sale price to J.P. Morgan/Chase via a "non-recourse loan," aka "gift," of 30 billion dollars courtesy of the American public. And that was just for starters. Now Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seem to be following suit.

Yet everyone's still going about their business, if they can afford the gas to get there. And here in New York City, the rebuilding of Ground Zero has been moving right along.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when the Port Authority's Christopher Ward took a deep breath, quoted the philosopher George Santayana (the thinking man's equivalent of saying a prayer) and announced that the goal of a grand opening by the tenth anniversary of the attacks was... fuggedaboudit.

Maybe all the squabbling parties downtown should just learn to play better together. Or maybe someone with his/her ear to the ground is getting, if we may mix metaphors, cold feet.

For ignore it or not, Peak Oil is here and about those gas prices, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.
Writing for The Energy Bulletin, Jerome a Paris informs us that the relentlessly upbeat International Energy Agency has sobering data it's anxious to release. But they have been told by the Bush administration to withhold the bitter truth until after the election.

The Powers That Be at Ground Zero may not know that precise fact. But they probably have a more acute sense than most of where things are heading. And while it's in their interest to keep up the front as long as possible, they must surely recognize that it's not in their interest to invest in a project whose future is iffy.

The consequences of Peak Oil - a cascade of bankruptcies including trucking companies which will cease delivering food to the supermarket; riots and looting; every man for himself - are unprecedented. 9/11 was unprecedented, too, until it happened. History repeats itself, but never verbatim.

The match has been struck for the burning of "Rome" but this time Nero isn't playing the fiddle; he's talking about A-Rod and Madonna. Fascism is on its way only this time with more polish, at least so far; instead of goose-stepping in jackboots it walks softly and wears a nicely cut suit. The gas chambers are subtler too: The fires that burned the toxic debris at Ground Zero for over three months; the formaldehyde-contaminated trailers provided to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, are doing the same job, only over a more extended time. And we "Jews" are swallowing the sweet pablum that the nice man on T.V. is offering (uptick in the stock market today!) Because this new kind of Holocaust "could never happen."

11 comments:

Rice Farmer said...

Nice job of capturing the zeitgeist.

It's a sunny Sunday, and I have a lot of firewood to buck and split...

AL said...

I'm new here, a 52 yr old male with kids and grandkids. I've decided I want to research the issues of peak oil. Until now, I've usually just jumped from one to another mostly left wing blogs and it sure is frustrating to be getting completely different opinions from seemingly good sources. For example, I read an article today on Global Research that argued there is no oil shortage, the prices are based on speculation (July 10, Ismael Hosseim-zedah). So can someone tell me some good places to research (besides here - I am new but I will start reading your stuff). Thanks much!

FTW admin said...

al

www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net
www.oilempire.us
www.fromthewilderness.com (site connected to this blog)
www.dieoff.org

Pandabonium said...

Al -

www.theoildrum.com
www.globalpublicmedia.com

Dino said...

hey Al,

don`t forget to read "Crossing The Rubicon" by Michael Ruppert...in your spare time.

Rice Farmer said...

Oil Found in Zimbabwe - UK and US to Invade Next Week
http://www.dailysquib.co.uk/?c=117&a=1407

Satire? You be the judge.

Hi Al. You'll get a lot of different opinions on peak oil even on the left, that's true. You can learn a lot by reading over previous posts on this blog, and the comments.

We've had a lot of discussion on the claims that crude is expensive because of (1) speculation and (2) the cheap dollar. I think it's been established that they are relatively minor influences.

Speculators are just betting on the price of oil, not actually taking delivery and removing oil from the market. In fact, in a recent CNBC appearance, Matt Simmons pointed out that speculators have had a downward effect on oil prices because they were shorting it (in the mistaken assumption that it would get cheaper again).

Then there is the dollar. The claim is that you can buy the same amount of oil for the same amount of gold as you could some years ago, and therefore the depreciating dollar is the cause of higher oil prices. There are two pitfalls (maybe more) with this reasoning. (1) The dollar's decline is small relative to the huge climb in the price of oil, and (2) comparing apples and oranges: the dollar is a fiat currency, while gold is a commodity, like oil, and since all commodities are going up across the board, the price of gold likewise goes up. So of course you can, roughly, buy the same amount of oil for the same amount of gold. HTH

Isis said...

Rice Farmer - my previous two comments did not get posted for some reason. I do not disagree that supply and demand fundatmentals are behind the price rise of oil. The US money supply however, has in fact doubled under the Bush administration and this is why oil price rise in dollars is higher than it is in Euros , Australian Dollars , etc.

Oil has also been rising relative to gold (proving it is due to supply and demand) but not as fast as against the dollar.

I don't see an argument here.

businessman said...

I've known that at sometime these rising energy prices would impact our water supply. Most of us take for granted the amount of energy involved in bringing us usable water from great distances...especially those of us who live in naturally dry areas.

Normally we don't get warned of water shortages here unless we've had less rain than normal, and this year we had a little more than average rainfall. But the TV reports have been telling us that we may experience water shortages.

Then I just got this announcement along with my water bill that we may experience 20-30% water shortages because of a recent Federal ruling aimed at protecting one species of fish.

I had to laugh at this as I'm sure many people will just believe it, and I'm sure the real reason for the potential water shortage has more to do with Peak Oil and other energy shortages.

Rice Farmer said...

Isis -- You're right, it seems we have no basic disagreement.

Businessman -- Indeed, except for a few places which can take advantage of gravity, public water supplies are dependent on pumps to keep the water flowing. Combine that with the lower rainfall in many regions. It's a recipe for disaster. No running water, toilets don't flush...

Rice Farmer said...

How many times have I heard that we can use crop residue to make biofuels? Besides the energy and logistical problems, I have always said that crop residue must be left on the fields. And here is an article that says exactly that.

http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/542626/

Rice Farmer said...

All that bluster and saber-rattling over Iran, and now we're gonna have diplomacy, we're gonna send diplomats. Chalk another one up for MCR?

I took the local newspaper to task for their story on high crude prices without mentioning peak oil, and today they published my letter in the coveted top right corner (this is the order in which Japanese is read).