Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Nice graphs

Economist Dr. Atrios weighs in on peak oil. His views are more sober than peak oil wild man Jim Kunstler's (Clusterfuck Nation blog and the Long Emergency book) but not much less unsettling. Atrios:
Either way, serious energy market problems are more than possible even if there's still plenty of hot tasty oil just waiting for the taking if that demand curve is flirting with the production capacity level. It's hard to comprehend the impact on the world economy if even a temporary massive oil price spike combined with some supply disruptions occurs. It's also hard to imagine that such an event won't occur at some point. Long run, however, the future depends on how much oil is out there, how fast worlwide demand is increasing, and how fast new substitutes for oil come into being, either by using existing technologies (wind,nuclear, etc...) or finding new ones.

Atrios says much more, and there's nice graphs.

As for Kunstler, in the latest (6/12) clusterfuck entry he channels Hunter Thompson in a fear and loathing description of his west coast book signing trip.

I’m vulnerable to Kunstler’s world view. Truth be told I’m a sucker for catastrophe theories. In the late 70’s I had a dentist friend who believed the end was in sight. In the basement of his tract home he had sealed plastic barrels of beans and rice; large amounts of .22 caliber bullets which he believed would be the currency of the realm after the collapse of order and its currencies. Upstairs, hidden in the rafters above the garage, my dentist had a crossbow, rifles and pistols. He had batteries, generators, stashes of gasoline and whatever else caught his eye as survival material. Knowing about his stuff made me want to have my own beans, my own rice and guns and a crossbow too. At the time of our friendship my dentist was in his sixties, around the age I am today. Needless to say,he died before facing the need to deploy his stash and where it went after his death I cannot say.

When I read Kunstler, I get the urge to buy a small farm, add to the guns in the closet, buy a generator and put in another wood stove. What helps rescue me from this excessive nuttiness are thoughts of my dentist not living nearly long enough to put all that shit to use. What helps me put Kunstler in perspective is that I know he is a professional shit slinger, a stylist, and, at times a Hunter Thompson wannabe. He has no special credentials other than a successful writing career and has no more information than any of us. He may be right. He may not be. But any of us can look around, read about oil and put together our own equally accurate vision.

One engineer I know who has years of experience in the power plant industry says, after reading the shorter Kunstler in Rolling Stone, he agrees with the diagnosis but not the prognosis. He's confident the collapse will be less dramatic and challenges Kunstler's bleak view of the feasibility of new energy generating technologies.

My other problem with Kunstler is that I don’t agree that living in a small town in (frequently frigid) upstate New York (see his bio, or the Long Emergency) is the place to be when we wake up one morning and the oil is gone and the electricity is off. Personally, I'd rather be squatting by a well stocked pond or salt water inlet and a fertile garden in some moderately climated place like Virginia or North Carolina. You could freeze to death or starve in a New York state winter.

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