Monday, February 5, 2007

Button Down Doomsaying

Matthew Simmons is an oil investment banker, analyst, very wealthy businessman, and was an advisor on Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force in 2001 (the one everyone thinks was packed with oil men. Well...). He lives in Texas. He is about as red meat, red state, and grey suited an oil man as you could find.

His thoughts: world production of oil has peaked. . He thinks we face some very rocky times ahead - even at one point mentioning the possibility of $300/barrel oil. He is not a techno-optimist: he doesn't think it's going to be easy to scale any alternative energy source to the same level at which we currently consume energy. His counsel: prepare for the end of globalization. He mentions, as an aside, "that this view is not so popular." He's right: neither the Right nor the Left wants to hear this, a fact that reveals something very deep about the fundamentally shared liberal worldviews of both our major "parties." The Right doesn't want limits on its march to increase "commodious living"; the Left doesn't want to stall the creation of our cosmopolitan paradise. However, nature is a funny thing: it has its own guidelines and its own limits, its demands and its sanctions. And, it is about to put a halt to our collective party. This is, in a very real sense, a profoundly good thing. The problem is, we have created a world in which the end of this party is likely to be very unpleasant. Too many people have created lives that depend on an ever-growing bubble of purported prosperity (prosperity that is built on the back of our energy slaves, oil barrels). Conservatives should be calling for a return to a conception of conservation. However, so-called conservatives are the worst of our "consumers" (the word is significant), while liberals - claiming to be interested in conserving - are the worst kind of self-deluded techno-optimists, thinking that we can suspend the second law of thermodynamics in our post-modern fantasy land. The next century is going to be very awful, I think, but perhaps the one after this will represent a return to post-modernism rightly understood. That is, if we survive.

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