Friday, August 22, 2008

Looking at it rationally

I recommended an article a couple of days ago. In "Peak Oil: Mayberry, not Mad Max". Rod Dreher pointed me to an article by Brian Kaller in the "American Conservative". At first, I thought that it was an article worthy of reading. I still do, however, my reasons have changed.

Kaller points us back to the 50's, pointing out that the world oil production there was only 10-25 mbpd ( million barrels per day). He extolled the virtues of the 1950's. Reminding us of those golden-hued days is a sure thing for feeling good. We have the 1950's as the halcyon days of the US. The 50's are the period of time we are always trying to get back to.

So I got caught up in the dream. We weren't going down, we were returning to the good old days. I saw a world where cheerleaders will all be blonde and compliant, American know-how will again rule. Our homes will be worth something.

But let us look at this dream a little closer. In 1960, the world produced around 21 mbpd. The US used 10mbpd (or 2.34 gallons of oil per capita per day) of the total. We produced 7 mbpd of this ourselves. Now the world oil production is 73mbpd. The US now uses 20.7 mbpd. (or 3.1 gallons of oil per capita per day)

So here is the deal as I see it. We have went from using 50% of the world oil in 1960 to using 28% today and I see no reason to believe that our cut of the supply will stop falling. In the 1950's we produced 70% of what we used. We have gone from producing 70% of what we use to producing 25% of what we use (I love the way that the oil propaganda points out that 50% of our oil comes from North America, well folks, Mexico is in a serious production decline and Canada ain't looking much better).

The real tickler is that in the 1950's we were the only rich country in the world. The US Army Air Corps had done a bang up job of demolishing every major industrial infrastructure in the world during the 1940's. For those infrastructures that we did not destroy, the Luftwaffe did the courtesy.

We don't have a near monopoly on money anymore. There are countries out there who actually have the temerity to buy oil we wish to buy and pay higher prices than we are willing to pay.

So, taking all this into consideration, my final take home lesson is this. We will be getting through this OK, but we sure as hell ain't going to be going back to Mayberry. The 1950's were the days of an ascendent empire, flush with money, confident in our strength, and self reliant for our natural resources. In other words, we were in our prime. We were lean and growing, Our average house was around 1250 square feet and our average family was >2 children. We saved ferociously because everyone remembered the Depression.

Those days are gone and replaced by a world of families having one or no children living in McMansions that they really can't afford. The physical description of our culture is that of aging prima donnas and no longer fits our self image as young stud muffins. So it is time to mature. We will have to become a country among many, not the first citizen on the world stage. We will have to rebuild our culture around less consumption, saving money and living within our means. A lot of where we need to be is in the description of the 1950's, but we are not the culture we were in the 1950's.

We are still a good people, and I don't think that the country that produced the Federalist Papers will devolve into a mutant biker zombie wasteland, but we cannot go back to the 1950's, Andy and Aunt Bea. Because you can never go home again.

We have to become adults.


Wildflower said...

I agree we're going to have to change profoundly.

What I'm not sure about is if we are still such good people. Our culture has degenerated to heiresses flashing their private parts and songs for youth that denigrate women in the foulest ways possible.

We're not putting intelligent people who care about us in office--if we even could anymore.

We're all so dumb.

We either vote for mean, selfish, lying men who work against our best interests and pander to our basest instincts of ethnocentricity (almost any Republican) or mindless, dumb reflex votes for puppets who pander to our basest instincts of ethnocentricity (almost any Democratic mayor)


PKS said...

Uh, Canadian Oil production is in a 'profound state of decline'?

What have you been smoking? There's as much oil in the Alberta tar sands as there is in Saudi, just a lot harder to get out. But even the pessimists in the industry expect it to double production by 2020.

Us Canadians have a stereotype of Americans being able to barely find Canada on a map. Nice work reinforcing that.

Degringolade said...


I know precisely where Canada is located.

As for the Canadian Tar sands, well, if Canada is stupid enough to burn through their water and natural gas to provide gasoline for American SUV's then maybe your government is not that intelligent.

The tar sands and oil shale have a negative EROEI. If that is what you are counting as reserves, then...hell, I don't know what to tell you.