Saturday, June 04, 2005


We need to delay the collapse (what I call D day ) that will come some years after Peak Oil, as long as possible. This would give us more time to prepare the population, both practically and ideologically, for the event. Though many people will eventually come to see environmentalists and radicals as prophets, there is a need to point out the real culprit right now. People must realize that corporate capitalism and the state are responsible for the mess we are in. The mass media will attempt to deflect this criticism on to other targets such as the Arabs, OPEC and environmentalists. There is a danger of fascism, but most likely only in the US. The American authoritarian right will start pressuring to seize any remaining oil fields, such as in Alberta (should Klein not have pumped them dry for his masters) Mexico and Venezuela.

Canada and Europe won't suffer as much as the US. (Which, of course, isn't saying too much) The reasons include: 1. urban areas less-car dependent and better public transit 2. smaller or different type of suburbs (Parisian burbs are high-density and connected by rail) 3. Europe less dependent upon chemical agriculture and is rapidly going organic 4. A more cooperative mind-set and public consciousness is more developed. 5. Alternative energy sources are more developed.

Peak Oil (and the environment in general) will not allow the US style suburban lifestyle to exist any longer, let alone proliferate. But having less does not need to mean misery. Most Europeans already have a smaller energy footprint than North Americans due to a greater emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Food is more expensive, but better. Houses are smaller but well built. Europe points in the direction we must go, that of quality not quantity. And if goods were made to last - like they once were - and people acquired only what they really needed, quality was emphasized over quantity and equality emphasized over greed, everyone could have a decent life, even though consuming a lot less than now.

In the US, according to Micheal Klare, 70% of petroleum is used for vehicle fuel. This means the automobile is THE major problem and if oil was used only for other purposes, not for vehicle fuel, we would have enough for the next 50 - 100 years. Of course this is impossible, but if all gasoline contained 50% alcohol and 50% of diesel was made from renewable sources, it would still be a significant saving, one large enough to push D day well into the future. It wouldn't be too much problem to do this. They once had a gasohol program in the US, but it was scrapped at the behest of the oil companies.

Discussion of alternative energy sources is not just a practical matter, but is part of the radicalization process. Many alternatives were suppressed by the oil-auto interests. It was insane to destroy the trams and electric trains. It was insane for coal-rich, but oil poor countries to switch to diesel locomotives. It was insane to replace trains with trucks for long-hauls. It was insane to build suburbs that split living, working and consuming into different distant sections. It may have been insane socially and ecologically, but made great sense for corporate profits. Imagine how angry people will be when they discover the truth about what has been done to them.

While it is true that petroleum is used in many processes, it doesn't mean that when the price goes sky-high, at least some substitutes can't be used. Another aspect is that while petroleum is used in many manufactured items, the important factor is how much. If say, 10% of the cost of a $100 item is the cost of the petroleum used in it and petroleum costs rise 4 times, the item will end up costing $130. This price rise is annoying but is not prohibitive.

We didn't exactly live in the Stone Age before petroleum took everything over. I am old enough to remember linseed oil-based paint with turpentine for thinner, wood cabinets for radios, TVs, record players, metal and glass for shelving and accouterments in fridges, cellophane wrapping on cookies, and plastics made of celluloid and bakelite. There is no reason we can't return to these and thus use far less oil.

Only 20% of the population in Montreal 1940 had cars. Urban workers were not car owners, period. All this changed in the 1960's, but up till then, no one found being without a car a great hardship. One can even live in the suburbs without a car, I have done it, and thousands of recent immigrants do so. Even though suburban transit is not very good in most Canadian cities, you can still get to work and back and do your shopping.

Automobiles helped lessen class consciousness. Automobiles were an Edwardian bourgeois status symbol, and possessing them made workers think they were no longer workers. The car gave "freedom of the road" as substitute for real freedom. In the days when the bosses drove by in cars and the workers peddled their bicycles, the class structure was evident. With PO only the rich will have private cars. The proles will be forced to see themselves as proles again and this will be a very good thing.

For Information On:

Wood gas, methanol, hemp oil /
The destruction of trams see
For both trams and trains see
For advanced steam propulsion


Blogger RossK said...


Very good piece.

Do you ever spend time at

There a couple of European experts on this subject there and there often very lively discussions.

Regardless, the site is interesting and eclectic because it arose like a phoenix from the ashes when Billmon closed his comments.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Great post.

On the insanity of suburban monocultures, I recently came across Kirk Sale's spin on it while rereading Human Scale. He said that suburban bedroom communities and the commuter lifestyle amounted to having two cities, each of which was vacant half the day, and each of which had to be served with its own independent power and sewer system.

8:41 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Oh man, don't even get me started on suburban insanity! I consider myself lucky to have gotten out of such environs with at least some semblance of sanity left.

I don't plan on ever returning, except to occasionally visit the 'rents.

3:07 PM  

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