Because I Lack REM Sleep

I had hoped to get my head completely around this subject before writing about it, but I finally realized that I most likely will not be able to reach some definitive point with it, so, at the risk of sounding self important, here are my thoughts.  It goes by many names, for simplicity I will use the term Peak Oil.  I have been talking with family and friends a little about it, hoping, I think, that someone else will feel my sense of urgency.  What prompted me to write this morning was this post by Southern Beale.  She was reacting to various news reports and opinions that she feels seek to scare us all into thinking Armageddon  is just around the corner. It was kinda funny to me that she referenced the Mad Max movies, since she was the second person in just a week that brought them up.  I should also say that I really like and admire Beale, we used to hang out years ago on a National blog, and she was smarter than most of the regulars, and always came across as “real.”  I also liked her views on Christianity.

But dang it, Sister, you got this one wrong!

I kid.  A little.  (I know what you drive)  Ok, so in the comment thread (burn in Hell, Haloscan)  she admits that she believes that we are running out of this precious resource, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world.  She mentioned having faith that this country has a record of pulling together during a crisis and solving seemingly unsolvable problems.  Since I’m pretty sure I’m a Humanist, I happen to agree that we can “fix” this together, I think humans are capable of anything, particularly when the collective consciousness reaches a critical mass.  Whew. (Exador is going to have kittens over that phrase) But here’s the thing…this is where I part ways with just having faith, or Faith.  Our brains are amazing tools, capable of processing more information more quickly than any computer, and yet even when we experience that awesome power day in and day out, we somehow manage to minimize what we can do as human beings.

This was about Peak Oil, right?  I’ll get there.  But I feel compelled to address what I see as a major stumbling block for me with regard to applying faith where we need to apply thought. I WANT to have faith that it will “all work out.”  I have children, after all, and I want them to be happy and healthy and have a bright future.  I struggle daily to find balance with respect to making their childhood memorable, and preparing them to be ready for what life might hold for them.  And so I seek balance in my own life as well, though I’ll admit that I fall somewhat short most of the time.  (But at least we are journeying together, right?)  My point here is that I’d love to just have faith, but like that popular story about the man stranded on a rooftop, I’m gettin on the helocopter, pronto.

So, for a minute, lets imagine a blip in the availability of gasoline.  I remember sleeping in my car so that I wouldn’t lose my place in line at the gas station not that long ago.  Most of my current friends don’t remember that because they weren’t born or were small children at the time.  But it stayed with me for a very long time, that feeling of helplessness because I couldn’t get anywhere until I filled my tank.  (At the time, I didn’t know how dependent I was on oil and all of it’s by-products. ) Ok, so something causes a temporary disruption in fuel delivery to our gas stations.  Like I said, just a blip.  A few days.  A week.   Those with fuel already in their cars go about their business, and head to the grocery store, only to find it almost barren.  (Food moves on trucks, trucks use fuel).  Think back to any news broadcast on Dec 26th of almost any year, and I bet you remember some riot at  Walmart over the scarcity of some new toy.  Imagine the fun if there was a scarcity of food.  Most people I know shop week to week, few people stock much beyond that.

All of us felt pretty helpless watching the events following hurricane Katrina.  To me, the thing that scared me the most,  and I mean scared me, was the fact that one town, just across the bridge , dispatched it’s police officers to point their weapons at the refugees fleeing the horror that was New Orleans.  Part of me understands that an order like that might be given by some stupid politician, but no part of me understands how these guys obeyed it.  What part of them was so disconnected from those people seeking safety that they would point loaded guns at them to keep them out even if it meant their jobs?  Could you do it?

To me, the warning signs are everywhere.  I tend to be good at logistics, so I always look for ways to minimize wasted time or effort, and I am worried that most people have no plan in place to deal with even a short-lived oil shortage.  In fact, I’ll bet most people have no clue as to how much of their lives depend not only on a supply of oil, but a cheap supply.

I fear this is getting to long to read, so I will post more about this in the days and weeks to come, but for now I have to say that I don’t think it will take much more than a temporary gasoline crisis to provide a glimpse of what Armageddon might look like.  Boy do I want to be proven wrong.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Because I Lack REM Sleep

  1. Stock up on shotgun shells and canned goods.

    Our lives are so dependent on oil, as it is the lifeblood of not only our economy, but our daily survival.

    The only good reason to go to war is for oil. Anything else is just pretense.

  2. Well, I’m of the belief that oil is a terrible reason to go to war. A little planning, and a huge investment in our infrastructure could move us away from an oil based economy, and society. Even the way we plan cities will have to be re, um, thunk. But we have to get moving….NOW.

  3. nm

    Now, see, I have faith that people can often solve problems that seemed insoluble until the solution was found. I’m not sure that the exhaustion of any natural resource is one of them, but it might be. But I think it’s going to be solved by people who have the greatest impetus to do so. And in the case of oil shortages/expense, that won’t be anyone in the US. As a society, we have been cushioned for so long against the effects of fluctuations in the price of oil that we don’t take the problem seriously.

    You know who takes it seriously? The Chinese. And, I hope, the Indians. Two high-population, rapidly industrializing and wealth-building societies. One of them will have the world’s richest and strongest state in the not too distant future, probably within your lifetime and mine, Mack. And right now I think that it’s possible that the question of which of them it is will be determined by which of them develops a cheap alternative to petrochemicals first. I’m hoping for the Indians, myself, but it’s out of our hands.

    And either way, the solution will be cheap, even enriching, for them, but expensive for us. Not necessarily devastatingly expensive, but we’ll feel it. I don’t anticipate some final collapse the way you seem to. But no state remains at the top forever.

    Of course, if I’m wrong and there is no solution, we’ll just walk on up to your place and live with you on the farm.

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  5. Two things come to mind in this whole ‘problem-solving thing’

    First, is that there is huge amounts of oil right here in the US, soaked into shale. From what I’ve read, everybody (read oil companies) know how to extract it, but the cost is currently too high to be feasible.

    If we run out of oil, that cost will suddenly seem reasonable.

    Second, I remember, years ago, when oil prices were creeping up and there was a lot of talk about alternative fuels. Suddenly OPEC dropped oil prices, and (again) it wasn’t feasible to invest in alternatives with oil so cheap.
    That was when OPEC was more of a monopoly, but you can see how they mess with the market for alternatives to keep us buying oil.

    (As for your phrasing, if that means that liberals have big heads, I’m with you.)

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  7. Welllll …….. thanks a lot Mack! Did you get tired of being in the hot seat today?
    :-)

    I keed, I keed.

    What prompted my post was the raging hyseria in the e-mails I get from my Peak Oil Movement friends, who insist on passing on URLs to The Oil Drum, etc. and don’t undersetand why this is not the all consuming issue of my life like it is theirs. These e-mails just look awfully familiar to me, why yes, they look exactly like the Tim LaHaye/Left Behind stuff, which is a lot like the stuff about the Millennium which was a lot like the Harmonic Convergence, etc.

    I absolutely agree that we are way too dependent on cheap foreign oil, and I’ve also believed that the Europeans got it right when they taxed the shit out of the stuff because nothing short of $10/gallon gasoline will get people to change their habits. But there is a tinge of the looney tunes to the Peak Oil messaging that turns off a lot of people (like me). I also hate that it’s completely devoid of hope. One friend actually told me we’re all gonna die in some horrible resource riot, and just deal with it.

    Gee, pardon me while I slit my wrists now rather than wait for the inevitable torture and gang rape over a gallon of gasoline.

    Nope, I don’t buy it. I’m just capitalist enough to think there will be a market solution, that as oil prices climb it will buy time for a transition, that humans are adaptible more than they are violent.

  8. Sorry for the absence, yesterday velly busy!

    NM, I hope you are right. But to me, either way, no matter who “invents” our way out of this, our whole infrastructure is based on affordable oil. We seem to lack the ability to agree on anything as a country, I don’t like our odds at all of agreeing to a massive investment in changing that. Why, we’d have to point guns at people to make them pitch in for it!

    EX, there aren’t “huge” amounts of oil anywhere. If there were, somebody would be building refineries for it. Even if we can extract and use that oil, my guess is that will be used to heat homes and provide electricity, not for use in passenger cars.

  9. nm

    Well, “our infrastructure” meaning here in the US, sure. Meaning that of all humanity, no. But once some chemist or whatever in India or wherever comes up with a cheap source of fuel, and a cheap enough way to distribute it, and has saturated the home market with it, the Indian (or whichever) fuel distribution companies will start selling over here, too. Probably sooner than that, since they’ll know we’re a big market and too spoiled or disorganized to do it ourselves. Economically speaking, they’ll colonize us. Will our standard of living plummet? Of course; but it’s plummeting already so we’ll hardly notice any change in the trend. We’ll just notice after a while that all the new stuff is coming out of India.

    I really hope it’s going to be India. I think that will be better for the world at large than if it turns out to be China or even Indonesia.

  10. I don’t think there will be a “magic bullet” that will suddenly save our asses, but I do think there will be a lot of transitional technologies developed and these will be adaptable to the present infrastructures. And people will adapt as it becomes less affordable and less socially acceptable to run around in the Hummer.

    Canada is doing some amazing things with fuel cell technology: companies like Ballard Power Systems.

    I think we’re going to see a lot of technological avenues open up to us and we may not see just one that replaces fossils. Remember too that fossils aren’t going completely away … there will always be oil, it’s just as supplies dwindle it becomes cost prohibitive to run the global economy on it. There will still be uses for it.

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