Peter Maass: Why Americans look the other way

Peter Maass has a short but poignant piece in the New York Times magazine this week. In the article, he points out how being oil-rich has often been a curse to those third world countries that are supposed to be "blessed" with having such a precious resource.  He also dissects why Americans appear to be so inured to the horrendous situations that occur around the world (but not at home) in the name of this most precious of all resources:

We demand clean beaches and untouched wildernesses at home but live in an energy-intensive fashion that leads other countries to sacrifice their waters and forests. This disconnect is easily explained. You don't need to alter your lifestyle much to help protect baby seals or punish Kathie Lee for supporting sweatshops, but you might need to suffer inconveniences - like higher gas prices, energy-conservation efforts and new taxes for alternative-fuels research - if better energy policies were adopted. In the end, the only red line that Americans insist upon, in terms of unacceptable ways for gasoline to be supplied to our cars, is that it must not come from ANWR or the waters off California and Florida.

Go read the whole thing.

"Third, oil and other natural resources, while perhaps a source of wealth, do not create jobs by themselves, and often crowd out other economic sectors. For example, an inflow of oil money often leads to currency appreciation - a phenomenon called the Dutch disease".

Also see Dutch Disease: Too much wealth managed unwisely. Ironically this article is from the IMF which through structural adjustment, has promoted poverty all over the world.
We export our environmental problems everywhere you look. Replace baby seals with windmills and you can see how basing environmental causes on aesthetics may help win small battles, but it is not a blueprint for sustainability.

So I renew my challenge to relocalize:

What if every community (County, zip code, congressional district, whatever) needed to deal with its own (let's say at least 50%) energy production (or at least electrical power generation), waste disposal, food production, etc. In one swift move this would eliminate all those stupid NIMBY fights and political deals which exports pollution and the true environmental costs our modern lifestyle to the poorest communities of this and other countries.
Sounds great as long as I can move first.  A city like Tucson could probably do well with solar power but attempting to grow food for 500,000....  Desert soil's covered with suburban housing and enough water only if it's pumped 2400 vertical feet and 300 miles.

Just had a conversation with a co-worker about how Tucson without electricity is a death by dehydration machine in a matter of weeks.  When choosing a place to ride out the major disaster that some here believe is comming the Desert would be near the bottom of the list

I think just pondering how to implement something that drastic exposes how many areas of this country are unsustainable without huge fossil fuel energy inputs. But I'm just talking about the siting of electrical production and waste disposal areas. If we were forced to live nearby the source of our energy production or the site of our waste disposal, I think we would be more open to cleaner renewable sources and more recycling.
Sorry I missed your point, one that I commpletely agree with.  The whole idea of I want <fill with favorite consumable> but don't make it here it might ruin the view drives me up the wall.
Agree with the 4 who have posted before me...

The US exports many of it's problems, one that comes home soonest is inflation, but more on that anon (it's a bit complex for this time of day and I should provide explanatory links).

We in the developed countries actually do a great deal to suppress the profitability of less developed countries, we (in the guise of our governments) know what we do and persist in our 'national interests'.

Call it 'proxy slavery' if you like, it's a fair label.

On the internal US front I would say there is a case for taxing cross state border energy use. That might free up planning hurdles a bit. I haven't thought that one through but it seems to make intuitive sense.

Call it 'proxy slavery' ... it's a fair label.

Excellent phraseology, and perhaps only half of an "uncomfortable" truth for us here in the "Free, Democratic" American nation because more truthfully it is:

'Proxy slavery' ... at the tip of a 'proxy gun barrel' --an extraordinary rendition-wise aimed gun.

You see, "We" don't directly do the bad bad thing of pointing a gun at the head of slave labor camp inmate and saying, "Work like a dog or you die like one."

No. We have WalMart lawyers who write up WalMart-speak contracts that indirectly tell the bossmen 'over there' to aim the gun and say the nasty words. It's called "free trade" --free slave trade.

The global economy is a pyramid scheme just as surely as the Roman Empire with its phalynxes of slaves, gladiators, soldiers, plebes and noble men was a pyramid scheme.

We use happy words to hide the hideous truth. Democracy is not in "retreat" here in the homeland as armies of spies are secretly raised right under our noses for turning American son against his very own American father and mother (the ones who think they'll be getting Social Security checks ... ha ha) all in the name of the Father Land and its "Home territory defense". No. We fight "them" over there so we don't have to fight them here. How convenient is this proxy war in a far far away galaxy fought by faceless storm troopers in the name of an unamed empire.

And the Dying of Dafur, the oil-drenched henchmen of Nigeria, the crazed Islamics of Saudia, the "decapitated" leadership of Iraq, ... they are all minor and inconvenient side shows to our "non-negotiable way of life".

Regretfully, the American Sheepperson of our free and prosperous nation sees this not because it's Christams all over again and good cheer and merriment are splattered everywhere across our blood red TV tubes encouraging us yet again to consume stuff and consume energy like there is no tomorrow because, that is the truth ... there will be no tomorrow if we keep going like this today.

Stay the course brothers.
The edge of the ledge is near.
Only cowards cut and run.
Heroes make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the Father Homeland.

Between this site and my own, I've said many times that one of the big multipliers in our energy future is market psychology.  No matter how much sense it makes to convert to wind power, for example, if people are dead set against erecting them, then it won't happen.

I think we're right on the brink of a major change in the collective mindset about energy.  The current prices are just starting to get through to a minority of people that we need to re-think a lot of how we live in the industrialized world.  Higher prices and some (possibly terrible) shortages will really do the trick.  Once voters start insisting that "someone do something", politicians will have to tell them that there are no easy answers--you build wind turbines or nuclear plants or burn more coal or you figure out how to use less energy.

People will NOT like it, and they'll whine about it for a while, but eventually they'll realize that many of the changes others tell them they "should" make are actually in their own best interest, right here and now, let alone worrying about longer term environmental and economic impacts.

I've started collecting brochures for humongous SUV's.  I figure in about 10 years they'll be worth a laugh, and someone on e-bay might want to buy them.

In the same vein, I wish I had collected 1960s muscle cars during that bleak periods of the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s.  While very popular just a few years earlier, they soon became very 'not with it' and could have been gotten for a song, circa 1973 -1974.  Now, the better and more well-preserved examples command six-figure prices at the more prestigious old car auctions.

Who would have thunk it! But at the time, only a fool would have bought a full-blown 1960s muscle car during the oil embargo. It takes guts to buck the tide and to see something of value when everybody else is trying to dump the same.

So, the 1969 Dodge Charger with a 426 Hemi engine getting 8 mpg that I could have bought in 1973 for say $2,700 is now selling (in restored condition) for ove $250,000. Not a bad investment, if one had the guts to pursue it at the time.

Who would have known that these grotesque cars would have become period icons commanding huge prices. There's a lesson in here somewhere.

 Oh Boy!!! the 69 GTO (my fav), the 69 Camaro, and the Challenger R/T model. I adored those cars. Beautiful machines. The 2006 Auto Show in Detroit is expected to unvail next year a General Motors concept Camaro concept camaro

and Dodge will show a  concept of the Challenger concept Challenger to compete with the Ford Mustang

The point i was trying to make with this is that there appears to be no concern for energy conservation at GM or Dodge, and GM just announced they were laying off 30-40,000 workers this past summer. So they plan to re-invent themselves with muscle cars? I bet these new muscle cars will be just as thirsty as the Hummer.
They (GM, Ford and Dodge) just don't get it. Honda and Toyota are leading the way on Hybrid technology vehicles, and trying to  move away from gasoline based transportation in a hurry.

Rainwater was saying "most people buy an investment and wait for something to blow, I wait for something to blow and then buy".
 Had we all been visionary back and bought those cars, we'd all be laughing all the way to the bank.

As far as I can tell, Detroit hasn't learned a goddamn thing since the 1970s, when the Japanese started eating their lunch. In my environmental consulting work I have had a number of encounters with both GM and Chrysler, and I can say that I was not impressed... to put it mildly.  In both companies the only motivation appeared to be a negative motivation, i.e, don't make the higher-ups unhappy. Everything centered around that. Making good cars was a distant second to keeping the internal political machinery running smoothly.

I have absolutely no sympathy for Detroit, as they have continually shot themselves in the foot...over and over again. They seem to have a tremendous talent for consistently doing the wrong thing.

Just to add a little amusing historical perspective: as late as 1966 some high-level GM executive, commenting on the success of the VW Beetle, said something to the effect, "We know there is a hard-core bunch of weirdos out there who'll insist on buying a foreign car no matter what. Well, we don't particularly want their business."

He sure got his wish! So much for insightful forward thinking.

You're right- there is a lesson in there, and it's to do the opposite of what the herd is doing, especially if the herd is doing it almost unanimously. Bandwagons take time to form and pick up momentum. By the time almost everyone has jumped on (ie there's either an optimistic or pessimistic consensus) it's very late in the trend and time to get off.  Consensus reflects the past, not the future. The only real difference between positive and negative bandwagons, which are both positive feedback spirals, is that upward bandwagons are driven by hope/greed and downward badwagons are driven by fear. As hope is somewhat diffuse and fear is a sharper emotion, downward spirals of positive feedback (like market crashes)tend to unfold more quickly.

The right decision is not generally the easy one. The easy thing is to go along with the crowd, not to do the opposite while everyone is telling you you're crazy. It takes guts (as well as an ability to resist the inevitable cognitive dissonance) to be a contrarian. Go along with the crowd, and you'll end up buying high and selling low. Instead you should buy (low) when everyone else is selling and sell (high) when everyone else is buying.

I don't think our politicians will tell us the truth.  If they do, they won't be elected.  We only vote for people who tell us what we want to hear.  

Once the spit hits the fan, they're going to be spinning like world champion figure skaters.  "It's temporary.  Fuel prices will go back down, as soon as..."

Fill in the blank:

"...we eliminate those crippling environmental laws."

"...we re-instate the draft and 'pacify' Iraq/Iran/Venezuela."

"...we build more nuclear power plants/windmills/fuel efficient cars."

"...we pass tax credits for oil exploration/home insulation."

Etc.  As Bush said, the American way of life is non-negotiable.  We don't want to hear anything else.

windmills? efficient cars? home insulation?

Those are non-negotiable options because they fail to concentrate power in the hands of those who were annointed to hold power.

Oh, yes they do.  Or they could, anyway.  

Can the average Joe build his own wind turbine, or fuel-efficient car, or home insulation?  No.  It takes big corporations and global resources.  

Yes, there are possible "local" solutions.  Building a wooden windmill like in the old days, say, or building a home of straw bales instead of using commercial insulation.  But they aren't going to be offering tax breaks for those.  

Hi everyone!
  Second post here, I hope it's not too depressing, but hey, I didn't pick the topic, right?  

Most people in this country don't care about their fellow man "over there".  They don't even want to know.  Most do not have a clue where their gasoline comes from, they don't want to know, they can't know.  They want to feel safe.  They want low gasoline prices, period.  The wanton destruction that occurs as a result defies explanation even by wanton greed. It goes beyond not caring. The sense of it is difficult to explain, because it makes no sense. Abject stupidity seems to rule the world. Moreover, in the midst of the chaos that is developing, that I see so many people in such denial, makes it seem unreal. What a mess! The more I read, the more I want to cry. World wide eco-destruction. I have lost hope, I now feel things will only going to get worse from here. Sorry to be such a bummer.

Well, Pest, you have the key. And not just on this subject. Every action, every decision, every thought we have, needs to be aware: what is in the 'common good'?

If we gain 5 ourselves but, overall, others lose 6, then we need to change our thinking and act in balance at least. THAT is the most important thing I've said here.

Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating communism in any form it has ever taken, but I am saying that capitalism at others net expense must die.

Don't despair, Petropest, if you live long enough to be part of what hopefully works after the coming shakeout then most will think as you do, or they will die because their sickness will be too heavy a cost for society to bear.

> Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating communism in any form it has ever taken, but I am saying that capitalism at others net expense must die.

A market theorist will say that this happens when all trade is volutary on an open and free market.  That is people can sell to other people including not sell right now and both have knowledge about their options and the market at large.

If one part in an agreement have all the benefits of the deal it stops being a fairly just system.  The world trade will be fairer when or if most countries and regions are on the same economical level.

Agreed, but the market system must reflect all true costs and some of those are less tangible, perhaps beyond the market to fairly assess.

I believe that market based systems are generally best - when all aspects of the trade are properly valued. To date I would say that market systems have failed to do this.

I must decline to go down the road of discussing what is free and fair trade for tonight, that would take several evenings and many beers. But I see more unfair trade and wingeing from the US and EU than from those they exploit. Totally agree that if and when economic levels equalise then trade should be fairer, wonder who's stopping that, lol.

It is very hard to set up a political system that assess those hidden costs.

They are very easy to abuse as excuses for vielding power for other reasons or to get tax incomes that after a while has nothing to do with the real cost.

I have no solution for this.  A free market with a fair legal system to uphold just contracts and limit violence is so far the best way to run manny things.

One way to do good is to figure out what makes such markets work better and try to get more "social capital", just judges, power sharing within political systems, educated customers, etc.

The easiest part is usually the physical part. Build a railroad or a harbour or faster ships and get more people to trade with. That is often much easier then getting the local people to become more sensible or get bad laws rewritten. One problem with peak oil is that this solution will become harder and more expensive. This will make badly run areas worse off.

When we have the markets we can at least in some way incorporate some of the hidden costs valued in a currency, crude but it is hard to do anything better.

I do agree with your basic premise: free and fair markets are the most efficient way to run an economy.

But they fail to be so! Take fossil energy use - the developed nations have, in a sense, raped the cheap energy of undeveloped nations and polluted their planet. Something external to a 'free market' has to intervene to correct such imbalances. Should the US relocate the population of the Maldives and give them housing and work? How about most of Bangladesh?

Somehow there needs to be an external force on free markets that accounts for factors the market discounts. Can free markets be responsible in a real sense?

We did not get a global market at the same time as industrialisation.
We got small islands of more or less free markets that grew, inspired the start of new markets and sometimes merged.  Sometimes they were used by people who did absolutely terrible things.

Markets have no morals, they make both good and bad things more efficient.

What happens is allways up to people but few have lots of power and manny with power are carried away by what happens and feel unable to act in better ways.

The most potent way of correcting these imballances seems to be to start new free markets and merge them. Those who are outside of this system and can not get in are screwed. They are also probably raped by someone with local power who trades with a part of the free markets.

Fair comments. Do you then think that current markets should be abolished and reconstructed on a different basis? If so, how should that transition be managed and how do we devise the new, viable and 'aware' markets that would work fairly?
If it works dont touch it!

Or rather, try to make them better in small steps and in manny different ways.
This even gives a reasonable chance to see if some of this works better and if the changes are small it is likely that none will wreck the system if it was a realy bad idea.

One such experiment running in a direction I do not like is the US patent system. One running in another direction is the Swedish school voucher(Not realy a voucher) system. We still have a lot of bad schools but manny are getting better due to competition and new ideas. ( On the other hand Finland has overall better run schools since they did not let their system rot to begin with. )

I do not think markets can be torn down and rebuilt according to a plan. It would be like tearing down and rebuilding a language.

Markets will never ever be fair but they can become fairer.

I respect your views and feel they have some validity. However, markets, as they are currently construed, are maladaptive and causing more harm than good. If I were global dictator I would largely close current markets (actually I would wait 2 or 3 years for them to bottom out) and then enter into discussion about their re-introduction on a more fair and sustainable basis.

I think I have hinted that we need to undergo a major philosophical change, tearing down markets is no big thing in comparison. It will happen.

I have an odd, market based, maybe semi-'silver bullet' that I will drop on you sometime soon, you'll know when you see it.

What pink colored newspapers call "the market" while printing nonsens like "the market will" or "the market says" is only a part of each countries market or markets.  That is journalists using religious mumbo-jumbo to influence people or simply giving them what they want to hear so they buy the next paper.

For instance a stock crasch is not the end of the market.

Regardig philosophical changes I would be overjoyd with more humanism and a slower rotation of all kinds of fashion while people start to ask for quality and more company with other people.

I am looking forward to hearing about your ideas. My email adress is very easy to find but since it has been in public use since 1989 but you might be filtered by the spam filter.

Markets will never ever be fair but they can become fairer. ...  (I do not like .. the US patent system)

Talk about hypocrisy, wow !!
So you want a fair "market system" where innovators sweat their back sides off to come up with the next great thing for you to enjoy? And then someone else simply swipes for free the fruit of their toils? Is that what you mean by free markets, free for YOU while they (the innovators) get nothing in compensation for their work?

Exactly how long do you think a system like that can sustain itself?

Even the founding fathers of the USA, much as they abhored monopolies, realized that it was a necessary evil to have a patents and copyrights system. Go read your US Constitution. Article I, section 8, subclause 8; if I remember correctly.

Agric, whoops, just saw your face profile. You're a red coat, a Brit. Well guess what? Your House of Lords also saw the necessity of having a patent and copyrights sytem for the good of her majesty and her loyal subjects. We revolting Americans stole (err ...copied) that idea from you.
He specifically said he didn't like the US patent system.  That doesn't mean he's against intellectual property law altogether.  I don't like U.S. patent and copyright law, either.  Doesn't mean I want to eliminate it completely.

Though I do think intellectual property law may be one of the first things we toss by the wayside.  It's a relatively recent cultural development, and I suspect that without capitalism, intellectual property law will be much less of a concern.

Fair markets as in fairly equal sharing of the benefits of the deals made.  Not fair as in romatic ideas about brilliant innovators becomming rich on their good ideas benefiting society.

The brilliant innovators have very little benefit of a patent systems that accepts anything and then need very large ammount of money to pay for lawyers to have any use of the patent. In intellectual fields as computer programming there is a minefield of trivial patents and organisations looking for anybody earning any money that can be sucked into the legal process since you need a large staff to avoid reinventing trivial ideas.

Unlimited sharing of ideas gives exelent progress for intellectual work and even pirating seems to give a more active market with harder competition and more deals made. It might be so that a lot of the patent etc economical overhead in reality adds little to the ammount of services and goods produced but it might make certain sectors more valuble in easily counted currency. This do however make less money and workforce avalible for other sectors.

I suspect that especially the US patent systems is becoming too unfocused to realy be usefull for the economy. I do also regard copyright as more important for the day to day economy.

Total anarchy for intellectual works can probably sustain itself indefinately since people still can be paid for compiling useful subsets of knowledge  and manny add to it withouth any immediate benefit. I do not think this is the best situation but it is better then one where individuals and small companies in practice have no way of establishing themselves.

But how do we define fair? It occurred to me the other day that our economic and legal systems have the same basic principle at their core; namely, the idea that competing selfish interests will tend to result in the best possible common good (whether justice or an equitable distribution of resources). However, if the proposition is faulty, then the systems based thereon will be faulty. Comments?
I did define it: "If we gain 5 ourselves but, overall, others lose 6, then we need to change our thinking and act in balance at least. THAT is the most important thing I've said here."

It requires a shift in the basic philosophy of every human who does not hold to that view. The first consideration of everyone must be: I will act in my own interest only when it does not conflict with the common interest. Paraphrased: nothing I will do will cause net hurt. Getting a bit Wiccan there, sorry ;)

Being more bloody: those who fail to adapt to that view must die. And will, unless they win and it becomes a grab for what you can get. Those are the black and white alternatives: fight for it or cooperate for it. Grey is a non viable choice.

That is the philosophical playground we will be fighting in; politics, religion, nationalism and the like are just slogans to manipulate you. Is survival of the fittest at all cost the only way or are we evolved enough to find a maybe better way? I don't know. But I do know we have failed if we do not transcend raw Darwinism.

What I just wrote reminded me of something I said a couple of years ago. On 'The meaning of life':
"Is one of 2 things: to evolve a consciousness which transcends the physical universe (as you noe it), or to contribute our consciousness to an entity which does the same."

(noe = know on an intuitive rather than purely factual basis, german and french sortof recognise the distinction with different verbs)

I did a Faceparty profile over 3 years ago so some peeps could see a pic and know a bit more about me:

Fighting was a better way to make resources last when the winning tribe took ower the loosing tribes women and children and there were a lot less males to feed afterwards. In those stone age days the rawest darwinistic fight dident destroy the land.

It is worth it to fight for a just legal system and respect for people and for not being killed by people who has some crazy idea about your lifes worth. But it is not a decision to be take lightly.

I prefer to fight with ideas, this is a noble way since you can become wiser. You are not allways right, there is allways something where someone else have new information and a truer truth. I will not fight with a gun untill it is truly desperate and people with less respect for others lives force it.

Neatly maybe dodged, but I will pin you, if I may.

Cooperate to survive or fight to survive, that is the question and grey is not allowed. That is your, and all humans', choice.

You are a farmer, as is your neighbour. You both have 2 children. You can both just feed your families adequately. You could kill him and take his wife, children and land. But would one of them kill you and take your position? Should you kill them too? What is the market way?

What does Darwin say?

What do you say?

I must to bed, enjoyed the debate, take care and blessedbe

What I do is that I try to choose whom to cooperate with. Especially regarding survival and fighting. I am lucky to be born in benign democratic state where I can have a small bit of influence with good ideas and where I can volunteer to be part of the army. The army wont fight for me personally and the police force is far from perfect but they would most likely give the wicked neighbour some problems. If serious shit hits the common fan I will together with other volunteers try to protect vital infrastructure and help people as far as we can.

But you wanted a theoretical situation, Me and only one neighbour. I would definately try to encourage marriage betwen my children and my neighbours since the alternative is way to depressing and we will then also have common goals about happy children and grandchildren.

If there is a multitude of neighbours and a blank slate society I would immediately try to build a small state in the form of mutual cooperation and protection.

Darwin says that the most well adapted get to try to survive agin and again. What is well adapted depends on the surroundings and we build a lot of those with behavour, laws and infrastructure.

Thank you for answering, your answers are much like I would give, too. When it comes to practical reality it looks like we are closer than our more theoretical discussions indicate. Hopefully most other people will think like this and cooperate rather than fight, perhaps this species has a possible decent future :-)
I've been talking to the "average" lower middle class in my area about PO for some time and the only change is that they've heard of it.  These people aren't greedy, or particularly stupid.  They care about others and many help in local causes that they think they can affect.

What would we have them do about it?  They go to work and do their jobs or their family goes hungry and the power gets turned off.  If I convince them that the world is going to hell they're in the same position I am.  They know bad things are comming and can do nothing about it.

The "fellow man" over there is abstract, their gas bill is real.  When a disaster happens they cut back and give some money to Red Cross.  Frustration, Depression, that's what reading TOD is all about when the fruits of your labor are just passing through.

Not to go political but even at this level many are conflicted.  Do you vote for the guy that understands PO and quite correctly wants $500 in gas taxes out of your empty pocket to promote the bus system that doesn't go near your house.  Or maybe you should vote for the idot that will give "special" tax cuts to the company so they don't ship your job overseas.

How depressing....Teach me to read my own posts.

Practical things: fitting energy saving light bulbs, growing some of their own vegetables, buying more efficient appliances and cars when they do, turning their heating down when possible.

Voting, now there's a thing! Does voting for Democrat or Republican make much difference? Tax and spend vs. borrow and spend, lol. And in selfish interest rather than common interest. The US political system is well fucked so fuck it properly and get some alternatives. (sorry for my descent into technical language there).

Pretty close to my opinion, I have the bulbs, live in a 3 story condo so the garden is out but living on the middle floor in Arizona I don't even turn the heat on.  Replaced the A/C with the most efficient I could afford, (significant in Arizona).  Haven't bought a car since I heard about PO but I sometimes ride to work.

I'm all for voting even in a "technical" system...  the whole lesser of two evils thing.

I tend to subscribe to Stewart's slow fall and it will probably be worse for the working class types.  Inflation and Job losses that put you on the street before things really go south.  The system gets to put you on your back before going defunct.  

Voting for Democrats and Republicans helps only if the two parties had a different agenda. Since WWII, they've both operated - at least from a foreign policy perspective - towards a common goal first enunciated by George Kennan, head of U.S. State Department Policy Planning, in Document PPS23 dated 24th February 1948:

... we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. ... We should cease to talk about vague and--for the Far East--unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. We should recognize that our influence in the Far Eastern area in the coming period is going to be primarily military and economic. task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.
The U.S. has achieved the stated goal, and is now dealing in "straight power concepts" - aka war, having dispensed with sentimentality regarding the rule of law, prohibitions against torture, spying, corruption, treason, etc.
If it's a choice between laughing or crying you might as well laugh.
I might sound hopeless but I'm not, I think that if you get the masses informed they can collectively move mountains.  Unfortunatly the later the message gets out the larger the mountain.  

If we can just apply the 1st rule of holes and stop digging we can yet climb out.  Just look right here on the pages of the Oil Drum, Conservation, Nuclear, Wind, Bio, "Alternative Liquid Fuels".  There's a combo that will work.  Consumption and Standard of Living are not the same and happiness does not mean having the most toys.

Laugh, you bet, but the fact's are unpleasant and we need leadership now.

Fear drives much of this.  We don't want to know about those people over there - they aren't part of "us", and it's too scary to think about why we don't suffer that way.  National & religious borders are very handy for allowing us to see others as different, and therefore it is easier to ignore them.  There is a good deal of willful (and institutionalized) ignorance about the plight of others, especially in far off places.

And remember, they hate us for our freedoms, right?

How true. At the same time there are many things that could be done that aren't. Many could power down in so many ways with no (well almost) pain whatsoever. If we only used less stuff. If we had a president that would ask for voluntary conservation. If people were aware of what goes into the things they use, they might use less. That's bad for business though, so we don't hear it. We have a choice when make small decisions every day for a better tommorrow but we just don't make them.
Speaking of ANWR, the Congressional Republicans are bundling it in with a Pentagon appropriations bill along with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and Katrina aid.

Stevens and other supporters of opening ANWR to oil drilling have been trying for more than a decade to pass legislation, and     President Bush has made it an element of his energy policy, as well.

Environmentalists, backed by most Democrats, have waged an equally determined battle to block it.

After gaining seats in 2004, Republicans resolved to make the most of their opportunity.

The decision to add the oil legislation to the defense bill was designed to make it harder for lawmakers to oppose the measure. So, too, the decision to add $29 billion in new federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and other storms that hit the United States earlier this year.

The legislation also includes $2 billion in additional funds for the low-income home heating assistance program -- of particular concern in northeastern states represented by moderate Republicans and Democrats ordinarily unsympathetic to ANWR oil drilling.

While much of the attention focused on deficit reduction and ANWR, the fate of two other major bills remained unclear.

Read more here

This was a great article in that it addresses the problem of how the US manages large problems like energy supply. I think he is wrong in blaming the average person in that it is very difficult for average citizens to organize in order to effect changes in other countries or to effect change which is not supported by the government.

It could be done if we had national leadership to help accomplish this. If a bipartisan majority thought that this was in our national interest their would be a chance to lead the nation in the direction of responsible energy use and planning for future changes in energy supplies.

Not only is there a lack of such a consensus or such a caucus what we do have is an entrenched energy industry with vast amounts to spend on lobbying our government for their narrowly defined interests.

The author makes a few too many sweeping generalizations IMO. His heart is there, but come on...

The biggest resource exception is the USA, Don't we have an abundance of freshwater, aquifers, natural gas, oil (used up I know), coal, iron ore, bauxite, gold (at one time), cod/whale (at one time), thick rich soil, passenger pigeons (at one time), timber, etc?  Our resources allowed us a huge headstart.

California has plenty of oil rigs and I don't see any prohibitions of adding new ones.

Resources are a curse to third world countries these days because we use dependency schemes and economic colonialism to take their resources from them, without regard to the other effects these policies have.

If the first world were not so hellbent on intervening and bullying into getting its own way then the resources would not likely be such a problem. I'm not so sure the US is much of an exception, anyway. One can't forget the displacement (a bit of a euphemism, perhaps genocide would be a better word) of those who were already living here. In this light America's resources were definitely a curse to the natives.

We were a democracy before oil was discovered.  So was Norway, and they are doing fine.

It's the Third World nations that are dependent on a single natural resource (not necessarily oil) that suffer.  Before the Iraq War, a couple of ex-CIA analysts warned that the chances were that Iraq would never be a democracy, for the reasons this article indicates.  The oil wealth that Bush claimed would help was actually a strike against them.  

Peter Maass seems to blame consumers.  Most consumers don't realize there's a problem with crude because this administration doesn't talk about it, if they did someone might think that we're in Iraq for oil or the security of oil.  There's been but rare mention by government that we need to embrace conservation and efficiency.  We only hear about the supply side...more oil, more oil.  Why should we go into ANWR if we're going to squander that too?
Peter Maass seems to blame consumers.  Most consumers don't realize there's a problem with crude because this administration doesn't talk about it, if they did someone might think that we're in Iraq for oil or the security of oil.  There's been but rare mention by government that we need to embrace conservation and efficiency.  We only hear about the supply side...more oil, more oil.  Why should we go into ANWR if we're going to squander that too?
Repetition is a primitive form of emphasis used by one and all .  Way to go beaded lizard !  
Ignoreance is bliss, but knowledge is power.

I've been lurking this board on and off for a while, but this thread is so good I finally registered.
Previous posts convey what I feel myself: the end of the world (as we know it) is at hand, so what to do? Is there a point in preacing PO to others in order to influence their behaviour? To what end?
Where I sit (northern Scandinavia) things don't look so bad. My apartment building, like most in my modest home town, is heated heated with biomass. This region is a net exporter of hydro-electricity. There's some electric rail infrastructure in place and a new rail link being built. Population density is very low. I think we'll be fine around here- with some paiful adjustments, of course, but we'll live.
I try to imagine what life here will be like when fuel hits, say, $10/liter or so. I foresee unlit empty roads, animals put to work again (horses, oxen...), freight by sail boats (love to see that!) and an end to cheap produce from Holland, beef from Brazil and so forth. I can live on local potatoes and norweigan fish too... I'll miss bananas though...
Anyway. Today I changed the rubber seals around my 3-pane windows. There's no draft anymore. I'm all powered down, come what may. I can't avoid it, so I might as well embrace it.

Don't cry for suburbia  - go techno-amish instead.

Please flesh out the Amish /technology comment .  

As we plummet for the stone age , I suspect that the fund of knowledge available to us now can remove much of the pain involved in digging up tubers and snaring ground squirrels .  

BTW If I have the opportunity to snuggle with gorgeous Scandinavian women , I will forget all about bananas .  whoops! I just remembered that I'm 63 years old .  

With techno-amish i ment... Ehm... Well, the Amish got it made in any non-violent post-peak scenario. No need for any adjustment, just go on as usual. On the other hand, the amish think that electricity is the devil. I don't. I thinks we should surround ourselves with the blessings of the communication age. I also think that a visit to an amish community can teach many americans about how a life of plenty is possible without cars and electricity. I really don't think religous piety is a requirement either. Live close to work (or work close to home), learn to know your neighbours and cooperate with them, use the internet and you're techno-amish. Or whatever. I really just thought it sounded cool:)
It sounds good, but does it scale up to 8.6 billion people (or wherever we're at now)?
Currently 6.45 billion humans, projected to reach about 9.5 billion in 2050 and maybe 12 billion by 2100 by WHO (if I remember right).
The Amish are not as low-tech as you think.  They use kerosene.  They cannot own tractors, but they do borrow and rent them.  They go to regular hospitals and doctors and happily accept high-tech medical treatment.  They are part of our economy, selling things they produce to the rest of the country to get money to rent tractors, etc.  They are going to have some adjustments to make, though perhaps not as many as the average Joe.
Well I certainly think we can learn a lot from the Amish/Mennonites and be able to get by with less external infrastructure functioning.

And like nemo I'd continue to embrace the technologies we have that work. I'd want to produce all my energy locally, working with my neighbors to farm oilseed crops, build vertical axis wind turbines and that kind of thing, whatever works.

And I'd definitely have a major focus on maintaining lines of communication (that is to say, keep the internet functioning) and access to information.

Twilight: I don't think it's very scaleable. Industrialism seems to have fuelled the explosive global population growth. My guess is people will die. Lots of people.
Leanan: Right you are. I'd replace the kerosene with LEDs for light. More better. As for tractors, I don't righly know. I've seen amish plow with horser and travel by buggy. I've seen them riding in chevy vans too. My buest guess is that agriculture will require more labour post diesel and fertilizer. 200 years ago, some 80% of people here were farmers. Then they became factory workers. In this age of chinese labor and robotic assembly, there's workers to spare. Back to the fields I say! Sure, standard of living will plummet, but I see no real alternatives. No tractors=more farmers.
As for alternative motor fuels, I'm a sceptic. A while ago I read about a genetically engineered yeast fungus that could ferment alcohol from cellulose rather than sugar. Probably pie-in-the-sky, but would be mighty convienient, as there's plenty of wood around these parts. There will never be enought biofuel to power private cars and mass air travel, but priority vehicles can be kept rolling one way or another.
The reason the Amish can do what they do is that they already have land, lots of choice farmland that was acquired generations ago and which is owned by them outright rather than being mortgaged up to the eyeballs. I guess you could say that they already have a lot of capital (though not necessarily in the form of money) and have had a nice head start in living fairly independently. If the value of their land is taken into consideration, many of these humble-looking  Amish farmers would easily qualify as millionaires.

By the way, the image of the horse-and-buggy Amish is not totally representative of these people. There are various levels of Amish orthodoxy, and many drive pickup trucks and vans.  We have a moderate size Amish community in Delaware (central part of the state outside of Dover), and I often see them driving big vans and trucks into the local farmers market to stock up on various used goods, some of which they probably then try to sell to tourists as 'antiques'. They are not as innocent and pure as you think, and can be downright unpleasant to do business with.

There is much to be said about the Amish as a role model for simple living, but as pressure is brought to bear upon them by developers who covet their land, their living is getting less and less simple. Some want to cash in and move out to someplace less congested.

I guess my point is that it is getting harder and harder to run away.

Which Peter Maas(s) is this. For those who don't know, there are two. Are we sure this is the one with 2 s's?

Is this the guy who wrote Serpico, or the one who wrote the book on the Bosnian war?