Get Your Conservative On

The August 25 issue of American Conservative randomly ended up in my hands the other day, and a perusal revealed two riffs worth a read. You have to subscribe to see the content online, but oddly, both articles are available for free at findarticles.com.

In a piece entitled Future Perfect, Brian Kaller posits that yes, peak oil will change everything, but finds some hope in that:

“…Take one of the more pessimistic projections of the future, from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and assume that by 2030 the world will have only two-thirds as much energy per person. Little breakdowns can feed on each other, so crudely double that estimate. Say that, for some reason, solar power, wind turbines, nuclear plants, tidal power, hydroelectric dams, biofuels, and new technologies never take off. Say that Americans make only a third as much money, cut driving by two-thirds. Assume that extended families have to move in together to conserve resources and that we must cut our flying by 98 percent.

“Many would consider that a fairly clear picture of collapse. But we have been there before, and recently. Those are the statistics of the 1950s–not remembered as a big time for cannibalism.”

“… We need a common vision that avoids post-apocalypse yarns as well as “Star Trek” fantasies in favor of something both realistic and hopeful. Handled right, peak oil could bring a revival of small-town America, local farming, small businesses, and an economy that centers around Main Street rather than Wall Street. It wouldn’t require us suddenly to turn Amish. With solar, wind, and nuclear power, we can maintain the Internet, commuter rail, and other technologies and continue the global exchange of ideas.

“…If Andy Griffith is too corny, pick your favorite portrayal of a simpler American life. It may not exactly map the future, but it is likely to be more accurate and hopeful than the images we’ve been given for generations and would be familiar, popular, and attainable. It would serve to remind us that just a few generations ago Americans lived, and often lived well, before everything was cheap and fast and thrown away. We, with far more wealth and power than they had, are capable of walking into the Long Emergency unafraid and with a plan.”

The second piece — The End of Democracy by Pat Buchanan — considers the ascendancy of autocratic capitalism in China and Russia:

“…In a survey of 24 countries by Pew Research Center, the nation that emerged as far and away first on earth in the satisfaction of its people was China. No other nation even came close.

“…And what nation is it whose people rank as third most satisfied? Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“… Of the largest nations on earth, the two that today most satisfy the desires of their peoples are the most authoritarian.

“…Liberal democracy is in a bear market. Is it a systemic crisis as well?

“In his 1989 essay, ‘The End of History?’ Francis Fukuyama wrote of the ultimate world triumph of democratic capitalism. All other systems had fallen, or would fall by the wayside. The future belonged to us.

“Democratic capitalism, it would appear, now has a great new rival–autocratic capitalism. In Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, nations are beginning to imitate the autocrats of China and Russia, as some in the 1930s sought to ape fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.”

20 Responses to “Get Your Conservative On”

  1. Andrew

    The conversation about “peak oil” always misses the fact that there is coal for centuries. It’s not as cheap to run a car on coal as it is on oil, but it can be done, and will be done if we don’t find an alternative.

  2. Matt the Engineer

    Australia is already selling China the technology to do this. (sigh)

    link
    //The project would also provide feedstock for a gas-to-liquids facility that would in turn supply the Dushanzi oil refinery.//

  3. JoshMahar

    We DO need a better dialogue! Every time I go off on small, local farms and less energy consumption people always ask why I want to live in the Middle Ages! Perhaps I need to work on subtleties as well.

  4. Dan Staley

    The conversation about “peak oil” always misses the fact that there is coal for centuries. It’s not as cheap to run a car on coal as it is on oil, but it can be done, and will be done if we don’t find an alternative.

    No.

    First, oil is oil. Coal is not oil.

    Second, when the discussion turns to CO2 emissions, coal always comes up.

  5. Andrew

    First, oil is oil. Coal is not oil.

    ???
    Are you saying that coal is not a substitute for oil?

    Or that oil is just so damned special, that we absolutely need it and can’t handle coal?

  6. Dan Staley

    Are you saying that coal is not a substitute for oil?

    No. I’m saying peak oil is peak oil.

    Injecting coal as a substitute into the discussion means that if you want to expend additional energy and money converting coal to an oil product, great.

    Just don’t confuse depletion of one resource with substitution of another.

    The other issue is that CO2 emissions will make substitutions with fossil fool less likely.

  7. Andrew

    The other issue is that CO2 emissions will make substitutions with fossil fool less likely.

    ???
    Except that we see that every single day all across the world. Even electric cars means switching from oil to coal in most places in America, and much of the world.

  8. Andrew

    Just don’t confuse depletion of one resource with substitution of another.

    But the depletion doesn’t mean much when there is a good substitute. We’ve depleted the supply of old AT&T phones but guess what, there’s a great substitute: new phones!

    The other issue is that CO2 emissions will make substitutions with fossil fool less likely.

    This is an extraordinarily lazy argument. Why is it less likely? Five huge coal plants are built on earth each week.

    The “end of oil” is almost meaningless because the end of oil does not mean the end of fossil fuels.

  9. Dan Staley

    Andrew, we will be cutting carbon emissions very soon. Coal emits lots of carbon. Unless something happens and coal CO2 emissions can be captured at the stack, coal will be a poor substitute for oil.

    That is: it is less likely, as most (but apparently not all) know, because of man-made climate change.

    HTH.

  10. Andrew

    You are very optismistic, I wish I could share in it. Both Presidential candidates are talking about drilling and digging and China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and every other emergining market seems to have no problem burning fossil fuel.

    No one yet, including you, has made the choice to be much poorer to save the environment. I don’t see anyone making that decision soon.

    Either way, if CO2 emissions are what is important, than peak oil isn’t because we would regulate all emissions, not just those from coal or gas but from oil as well. If CO2 emissions are not important, still peak oil isn’t important because we still have coal and gas. So either way… Peak oil is not important at all.

  11. Dan Staley

    No one yet, including you, has made the choice to be much poorer to save the environment. I don’t see anyone making that decision soon.

    Myth and/or strawman.

    The environment isn’t going anywhere – it doesn’t need ’saving’. It’s ability to absorb our wastes is becoming more impaired, and if you don’t want to stop fouling your nest, there isn’t much to say to that is there?

    Nonetheless, I have made many choices to reduce my environmental footprint, none of them has sent me into poverty. In fact, being child-free ensures I have less chance of being in poverty, biking ~1500-2000 mi/yr ensures better overall health, reducing waste to the landfill means my garden soil is more productive, living close to work ensures the atmosphere has less pollutants, living in an efficient house ensures…everyone else gets the idea.

    And I’d like to address your last paragraph but cannot, as it is not understandable.

  12. joshuadf

    Maybe it’s just because I have kids myself, but to me “child-free” doesn’t seem to belong in that list. I respect those who choose not to have children (my brother is another example), but no one is having children to get rich or poor. Children are a rough and challenging way to invest in the future of our world, not CO2-emitting chattel.

  13. dan cortland

    Thanks for adopting, then.

  14. Dan Staley

    The key issue with respect to sustainability is expressed in the terms I = PxAxT, where Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology.

    All three factors on the right side contribute to impact, and depending upon where the population resides defines the impact; that is: more affluent nations have a larger impact. That is not to say – as some anti-environment people assert – that we should reduce population [rather, the rate of growth should be reduced] or we should live in Medieval times. Technology can ameliorate impacts by allowing us to increase efficiencies, reduce waste, close industrial loops, etc.

    There are an increasing number of studies out that detail how a small percentage of GDP (that is, choosing to grow less quickly now) can be expended to implement efficiency gains and change inputs and waste loops.

    Sadly, some choose to mischaracterize small behavior changes as [making] the choice to be much poorer to save the environment. It is binary argumentation such as this that prevents us from moving forward.

  15. Andrew

    Sadly, some choose to mischaracterize small behavior changes as [making] the choice to be much poorer to save the environment. It is binary argumentation such as this that prevents us from moving forward.

    You’ve mischaracterized my argument as I have articulated it. I am saying that oil doesn’t matter, fossil fuels do. Unless we can create alternatives to burning fossil fuels through a combination energy efficiency and emissions-free energy sources, we’ll continue to burn fossil fuel.

    Whether that fuels is oil or gas or coal is essentially irrelevant.

  16. Andrew

    When I say poorer, I don’t mean less money, I mean a lower quality of life, money is a means to an end. For example, if you don’t have a car, you can save money. If you have no transit options, no walkability and no car, you have a lower quality of life than you would if you have a car and live in a drivable area, or you have no car and live in a walkable area or have transit options.

    Some of the solutions to CO2 emissions are as simple as providing alternatives not to oil but to suburban sprawl and driving. Light Rail, density, etc.

  17. Dan Staley

    Andrew, some of your phrases in earlier comments in this thread seemingly were cut-pasted from Republican phrasebooks; the most recent two are much better argued and understandable. I see your point now and thank you.

  18. Dan Staley

    test

  19. Andrew

    Yeah I am a big scary republican spending all my time fighting for light rail

  20. Andrew

    Actually, ultimately that’s your problem. Anyone who disagrees with you must be a republican, and those guys are all idiots to a person, therefore wrong about everything.

    You can be wrong, people disagreeing with you may not be republicans, and not every republican is an idiot, though anyone still voting republican these days probably is an idiot.

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