China as the US, or vice versa?

I don't usually read Kunstler's weekly blog post for much more than its entertainment value, but yesterday he had a post that made me pause just a little longer than usual.

He points out two quotes from Robert Reich, Clinton's Secretary of Labor, from NPR's Marketplace last week (Real Audio version of interview here):

"As China grows -- at the current rate it's growing, in twenty or thirty years -- and becomes the number one largest economy in the world, I think China may become our nemesis."
"As China, over the next twenty, thirty years, grows and prospers, a lot of Americans are gonna say, now, wait a minute. . . ! The endgame, we hope, is more and more economic integration, a Chinese middle class that is more and more prosperous, that is able to buy things from the United States, that looks a little bit more like middle-class Americans live, and therefore is not so different from us."
Then Kunstler offers his take on Reich's opinion:
Note to Mr. Reich and the rest of the people he is smoking opiated hashish with: you've got it backwards. Over the next twenty, thirty years America gets to be more and more like Chinese peasant life in 1949. Why? Because neither America nor China (nor anybody else) can continue running industrial economies the way we have been, or even a substantial fraction of that way, in an energy-starved world. Nor will anybody come up with a miracle technological rescue remedy to keep all the motors humming.

This virtual "exchange" (since it's not like these guys were talking to each other) brought to mind a few questions:
  1. Is Chinese growth (if it continues at a similar rate) really going to cause it to resemble American society?
  2. Does Reich mean they're going to become our nemesis because we're fighting for the same limited energy resources? If that's what he means, why not say it more explicitly?

Reich says at the beginning of the interview that Americans like to have a nemesis (it seems to be just a general thing). But there has to be a reason—some way to justify it to the people—be it communism or terrorism, or something else. I doubt we'll go back to being worried about the spread of communism, so maybe energy will fit the bill after all. But the government is already downplaying, and even hiding the fact that our involvement in the Middle East probably has a lot to do with oil, so at what point are we just going to start admitting it outright? Only when the shortages come, or will the escalation of military action against either China or other Middle East counties happen earlier than that, thereby forcing the government to 'fess up?

Just a lot of speculation, of course, but I wanted to give Kunstler his due credit for making me wonder.

Didn't read the interview, but my bet would be that he's not necessarily talking about resource wars.  He's talking about economic power.  Competition, globalization, that kind of thing.

Remember the '80s, when our nemesis was the Japanese?  Their economy seemed unstoppable, their innovation endless.  Japanese businessmen were common villains in movies and TV shows.  It was hard to believe that only 10-20 years earlier, it was widely believed that the Japanese were culturally, perhaps even genetically, incapable of doing anything except make cheap copies of American technology.  

The "endgame" referred to isn't the end of the Age of Oil. It's dealing with problem of cheap Chinese goods and labor supplanting American industry and workers. The idea is that eventually, the whole world will have the same standard of living as we do, and then there won't be any incentive to move jobs overseas any more.  

Whether there's enough energy for this seems to be something few are considering.  Matthew Simmons did, and that's what led him to the concept of peak oil.  He started out wondering if there was enough energy in the world to bring China to the level of 1960 Japan, let alone the modern U.S.

Kuntsler's probably right. There is no way in hell that future world energy supplies are going to fuel China's growth policies 20 years or so in the future. First off, they're not going to get their hands on enough liquids to feed the envisioned growth in their transportation sector. The competition will be fierce. Secondly, coal is their main resource and unless they start converting coal to liquids (CTL) or do deals with Iran or Russia to finance gas to liquids (GTL) like there's no tomorrow, the supply simply won't be there for them as we go further down the road. Imagine it: trying to grow at those kind of rates in a world that is at or near peak. Impossible, it's just not possible. Same for India. Both countries are combing the world looking for every drop they can get their hands on now. This situation may be tenable for a while but not much longer. No way. The Chinese will either reconcile themselves to the inevitable or embark on military adventures (eg. in the Caspian Basin or Vietnam) to make the dream come true. Just as the US has done in Iran.

The US always needs a boogie man and China is now it. There will surely be fights over energy supplies in the future. Whether it's done with economic policies or gunboat diplomacy is an open question. Human history tells us it will be the latter. As the Latin puts it ora pro nobis--"pray for us".

Sorry, I said "just as the US has done in Iran". I meant Iraq. Understandably, I am beginning to get confused between the two.
Excuse me.  ¿"Won't be there for them"?  I would have said anyone.  Was there a particular reason you excluded the rest of the world?  
No particular reason. I was referring to Asia specifically. So, it won't be there for anybody. Are you happy now?
Yes.  Feel better now.  Thanks.

I read (between the lines) and thought you might have meant, "them" won't be able to afford it or might somehow be otherwise excluded from participating in the mad dash (bidding war, or hot war, etc.) for the remaining reserves.  

I think you mean that "at or near peak" is specifically the only time left that they can maintain those growth rates and consumption.

After we start to fall down the other side - that's when they/we won't be able to any more. How many percent can we slip over that side before things get rough, before americans start to feel they have a right to go to war for the oil?

(I'm assuming the mass media once again makes it clear who's fault it is that they aren't getting the oil...)

(It looks like a possible alliance between Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia is forming.  Remember that China and Russia are undertaking joint military exercises this year.)

China, Saudi Arabia Forge Closer Relationship

Im afraid I must tell you that Russia-China-Iran power play  is well in progress.  That is precisely why the US base in Uzbekistan was vacated last year.  China is building a marine terminal in Sudan, has made long term contracts with Venezuela, has bought PetroKazakistan (old Hurricane Oil Co. (exCanadian Co.) and will actively seek any and all accquisitions in the Caspian it figures it can get a finger into.  Personally I feel that Terjikistan is a lock up sooner or later and the Georgian and Azerbaijani governments will cave in shortly afterwards.  The US is obviously severely overextended and was unable to do anything more than wave a quick bye-bye with the one hand that is still not tied down as they moved the base to .. Romania, i think.  

President Evo Morales (Bolivia's new president) has already mentioned he FAVORS selling Bolivia's gas to China.  He doesn't like US meddling and the strings that come with foreign aid.  To paraphrase, "What could be better than to sell a state's resources to another state?"  Many prehistoric indian communities in South America were actually communistic and, as you can tell, he appears ready to renew old traditions.  Chavez attended his inaguration and he has already met Fidel.  At this point I'm sure they are already thinking about how Bolivia (with Chinese assistance) can negotiate a route through Chile and build a pipeline to a new LNG terminal.

Gets It,

Actually I doubt it would be Chile. Bolivia has never forgiven Chile for taking her seacoast in the Pacific War of 1979-1883. The new Govt. in Chile would have to give a seaport to Bolivia, so I suspect Peru is a better candidate though a more costly route.

As to the Azerbaijani government, they like the USA "Caspian Guard" and they stand to regain their people currently in Iran. There are more Azers in Iran than in their own country!

As to the Uzbecks, I suspect that has more to do with their corrupt dictator. I think the smell got too bad and we got an airfield in the next country over, closer to China.

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills - Chinese proverb.  Well .. there is also a new president in Chile.

I've lifted a few paragraphs from that article that only support my view, 'cause I couldn't find any that agree with yours.  Read the whole @

<start lift>

Bachelet also distanced herself from Washington by pledging to cultivate strong relations with all South American governments, including the left administrations of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Bachelet's refusal to join what she called a hemispheric "cold war" is based less on ideological sympathies than on Chile's reliance on regional energy supplies, particularly Bolivian gas.

Bachelet will be pressured by Morales, who has threatened to seek international arbitration of the sea-access issue and has insisted that La Paz will not accept a "qualified marina," to make further concessions. Caught between the possibility that Bolivia will staunch the flow of gas if progress is not made on sea access and the prospect of a nationalist backlash if she makes concessions, Bachelet will have her diplomatic skills tested.

Bachelet's victory will bring Santiago closer to integration with the emerging South American power center than it would have been had Pinera won the run-off. He had promised to continue Chile's full support of the F.T.A.A. and had expressed distrust of the left populism espoused by Chavez and Morales. Bachelet had warned in her campaign that a Pinera administration would isolate Chile from its neighbors.

<stop lift>

Uzbeckistan and Azerbaijan governments do not have overwhelming support of their people.  AKA "Back to the Future" ... can you remember USA support of the "Shah of Iran days"? or Viet Nam or <need a list?>

As for Azerbaijan see "Azerbaijan oil: a mixed blessing" Christian Science Monitor
"Now, who's in bed with whom?"

The Uzbeki situation is no better and even more complicated.  (What you smelled is known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. )
BBC Struggle for influence in Central Asia

Western view (see BBC

"But the West has trodden carefully, given Uzbekistan's role in supporting the war in Afghanistan and the country's resources of natural gas."

Note how "trodden carefully" really means,

"If enough pressure can be put on Mr Karimov to allow reform and opposition, then it is possible that his whole repressive structure will crash down."

It was the USA "deals" with the corrupt gov that got the base located there in the first place and now; Didn't work;  typical response; time to destabilize the government.  That did work.

Afterwards, citizen resistance to government corruption, gov forces killed <about, true number unknown> 850 citizens.  Just the kind of government the USA likes to sack in with, no?  Sound familiar?  Tisk..Tisk.  If you know your opponent will open with Q:Q1->K8 every time, its not a difficult game to get the hang of.

Wanna' talk Georgia?  

I find the politics of (even a preceived) Peak Oil far more interesting than continually asking, "Daddy! Are we there yet?"  Politically, that point was 2003.  Economically?  Probably starting today.  And finally, whether China builds a pipeline from Bolivia to Peru ...or Chile, matters little to the final outcome of my hypothetical scenario.  Welcome back... to the future.  

Gets IT,

You make some very good points. I would say that no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on that it is hard to give up a part of your nation to another after it has been Chilean for 125 years+. Maybe they could have a jointly run town on the coast (Antofagasta?).

It looks like it is coming to a head in the Middle East and there will be some changes soon. We will see how it plays out.

I hope it won't require that land titles actually change hands.  Palestine has certainly proven (as have other areas) that problems resulting from "political" solutions to land ownership can get very ugly. Hopefully, sufficient advantages for both countries can be found to justify the creation of a joint operating arrangement for something like a dedicated and utility corridor and a relatively small amount of land for construction of a marine terminal.  I suppose there would always be "security" concerns for Bolivia that might make those kind of arrangements difficult over the long term, but an operation agreement is something that would make negotiation of any disagreement more probable, if it were to come to pass, whereas land ownership issues have the capacity to quickly develop into one of national pride and consequent use of military force.  Especially since the geometry of any territory involved would more than likely be difficult for Bolivia to defend anyway.  I think there must be more and more mutually beneficial energy related agreements that will be made amongst the (presently) "lesser powers" in the world.  By that, I mean all those guys that don't have the history or capability of "stepping on someones toes" to get them to give in, or those that realize that, if they do try it, it usually is counterproductive in the long term.  Taming the toe-breaking habit seems harder than quitting smoking.
After reading it:

  1. Yes to a degree, because the Chinese affluent now are aiming for a U.S. style society, with cars and fast foods and all that other crap.

  2. I think Reich just meant that the guy with the biggest economy always wins.  I think he's an economist, after all.

Can China do it without using 40% of the world energy production?  Probably not.  However, they are graduating 400,000 engineers a year, so it appears that they're going to make a run at it.  If there's any long-shot cheap energy scheme to be developed to save the world, I'd bet on China and not the U.S. at this point.
1 billion little feet got them this far. Imagine what they can do now that they got 2 billion.

Soon to be available at your nearest DVD rental, "The Tortise and the Hare Part II", powered by Hydroelectric R Us.

I wouldn't bet on China.  It is up-and-coming, but it is also very centralized and deeply corrupt.  Those are the two things which frustrate innovation (elites are conservative, and the corrupt drain everything by demanding a cut), and it's far from obvious that the monster will be able to handle this.

They're trying some things, like building nuclear at a huge clip.  But unless they make their vehicle fleet electric (which they are, to some degree), this won't help.

The US is about to become the world leader in installations of wind power.  Don't count us out just yet.

You can't mean like Halliburton... do you?

I never count you out.  I just want you to do what it is you do best.  I ONLY critisize the US so much, because I know they can do so much better than everyone else, if only they can "ever get it together"???  I liked the idea I saw yesterday (forgot who posted it) about converting all the closing auto plants into making solar panels.  Its time to leave building cars for India.  Get moving on wind, solar panels and ... cold fussion.. or something other than those SUVs.  Hell, at least make us a good ethanol engine and start selling us those and the corn mash to go with it.  Shouldn't be a problem for somebody that can send mail to Pluto.  Don't misinterpret my critical remarks as not being intended in a constructive manner (in some kind of obtuse form).  Sometimes you guys just gotta' get mad to get things in order.

CNN finally reported this morning (takes them awhile now to be sure their translations are accurate) that France will start working on "4th generation" nuclear power stations.  I think it was to counter the BBC disaster series last night that featured a very scarey, what really happened at Chernobyl.  Having seen both, this morning I'm .. shall we say, undecided... but still dreaming about cold fussion.

US wind power is a great idea.  I hope you make it on a per-capita basis too.  (Seriously)  Actually our local grid can probably be supplied with around 20-30% wind power now.  There is a big station @ about 100 klicks, another real large one about 150 away, and another 100 to the NE.  The Brits are really trying (finally) to get into wind in a big way (they got so much of it, heh? ...just kidding), but NIMBY and NIMSV (Sea View) opposition is horrific.  Germany is full of props, Holland... they're building them out in the ocean (where else they gonna' put them?) The new ones are not as quaint as the old fashioned ones though.  The only bad thing about wind power around here is... guess when my power trips?.. ya .. WHEN the wind blows.  Maybe çause when it blows, it gets so hard that they have to feather the blades and switch to conventional.  Last month we had about 4 days of constant 60 mph winds, gusts to 90.  Started again yesterday.  I finally got tired of dealing with the trips and went out and bought a UPS for the workstations.  Should have done it a long time ago.  Much happier now.  Maybe they need to start making 2 stage windmills or something.

I ONLY critisize the US so much, because I know they can do so much better than everyone else
And from here, it looks like you're just being anti-American.  You might want to balance it a little; if you pick on everyone who's slacking, you come off  as hard on slackers instead.
I liked the idea I saw yesterday (forgot who posted it) about converting all the closing auto plants into making solar panels.
Unfortunately, they are probably the wrong size and arrangement to do that well.
Hell, at least make us a good ethanol engine and start selling us those and the corn mash to go with it.
Ain't gonna happen, because ethanol is a boondoggle.  The entire 2004 US maize crop was 11.8 billion bushels.  At 2.66 gal/bu the whole crop would make ~31 billion gallons of ethanol.  The US consumed about 139 billion gallons of gasoline in 2004.

Iogen has a process that they say yields 87 gallons/ton of biomass.  If we can get a billion tons, that's 87 billion gallons.  Add that to the whole US corn crop and it's still not going to replace gasoline (let alone diesel, jet fuel and whatnot).  Dead-end boondoggle.

There are more efficient schemes out there, such as direct-carbon fuel cells.  Research is relatively cheap, so why don't you set some examples?  Get some lab-scale and pilot plants out there, and license the technology on attractive terms.  If you think the US isn't pursing some worthwhile avenue, do it yourself!

I thought a poet would understand me better than that. I've got my priorities. Cold fussion, right after 4th gen nukes. Maybe we can trade our technology if you let us store the junk in Yucca Mountain. My opinions are my own.
I listened and read; Reich's interview was not as silly as Kunstler portrayed it but I think Kunstler's analysis was the more correct.

There is a growing Chinese middle class but it is still proportionately very small in comparison with the US's. Energy supply constraints will almost certainly limit that growth.

But it should be remembered that China is adapted to a much lower per capita oil and NG use than is the US, and it imports a lower proportion of its oil than does the US, and considerably less in absolute terms. China is also very aware of its dependency on imported oil and is doing quite a lot to install nuclear and sustainable electricity generation. It has a pretty effective public transport infrastructure and continues to develop that. As oil becomes more expensive and scarce China will be much less impacted than the US.

I think Kunstler is correct in saying that the US will become relatively impoverished and meet China on the way down rather than as a result of China's wealth increasing to US levels. Although current rates of growth would indicate China overtaking the US in terms of GDP within 20 to 25 years, I think Kunstler is more likely to be right in saying it will happen in about 10 years.

Conflict? Who can tell. I could imagine China initiating conflict at an appropriate time for them, I can also imagine the US doing likewise as its economic and global policeman empire ends. The Chinese will probably rely on economic 'warfare' to weaken the US more rapidly that otherwise would be the case, perhaps it depends on how the US reacts to that. The Chinese have been successfully building cooperation with many countries, the US has been successfully alienating many of its erstwhile allies. One could foresee a time when the US is somewhat isolated diplomatically, how would the US react?

As I understand it, Asians do not overly distinguish any difference between economic and military warfare.  Both are recognized strategies for ultimately defeating one's opposition.
China is looking more and more like the U.S. all the time.  I was there a few years ago, and was bemused to find that Beihai Park, "the most beautiful place in the world," the garden that some believe is the original Xanadu - had a Kentucky Fried Chicken right in the middle of it.  I've heard they've since moved it outside the park, but jeez.

I do think China's educational system is an advantage.  They value education, especially science and technology.  Everyone learns calculus in China, while here many kids don't even make it to algebra.  And they don't have our religious issues when it comes to evolution, cloning, stem cell research, etc.  I think the next technological revolution will be in genetic engineering, and they may have a huge advantage.  

Why do you feel the need to say you don't read Kunstler "for much more than [his] entertainment value?"

 Kunstler is arguabley one of the top ten non-fiction writers of the boomer generation.  His books "Home From Nowhere,"  "Geography of Nowhere,"  and "The City in Mind" are gorgeous works unparalleled in their field.

  That so many on this site feeel the need to disparage or disdain such a literary star who lends his magnificent voice to Peak oil is discouraging.  

 We are not all geo-physicists.
You are out of your preaking mind if you think JQ Public can understand your scientific charts and graphs. I print Stuart's information and study for days to understand and I have two masters...  (NOT in the sciences)

JH Kunstler speaks in a beautiful, often strident voice people "get"-- He should not be aspersed on this site.  

Actually, I wasn't thinking this data modelling was  geo-physics. I saw very similar thinking in actuarial issues years ago in business school and later in direct marketing for forecasting market space. There is a lot of science presented here, to be sure, but statistical gyrations are increasingly  popular. I enjoy certainly them... but whether a Gaussian fit is better than a log-linear transformation gets a bit wonky. Frankly, I've been waiting for splines <g>.

As for Kunstler. I take him seriously. His take on the emerging problems of suburban development are dead on. There is a horrible reality out there. Fuel cells and battery power won't solve it. It still gets down to four wheels and four wheel technology won't get us where we need to go.

Truth be told, if Ford can save itself, we are really cooked. That, I think, is Kunstler's message.

Did you read the article he posted a couple of weeks ago about people peeing in their car seats?

Now that was entertaining!

But seriously, Kunstler is just one of the 'hues' on the spectrum of Peak Oil opinion. I personally believe he's right out there in the ultra-violet somewhere, but he is part of the range.

In my view no-one should focus on any one person's particular opinion in exclusion to all others.

I like to 'stand back' and view all the opinions that I can find so that I can try and guage the full extent of the spectrum. That way I can try and see where the approximate (and most likely) 'middle ground' lies.

That's what I like about TOD. It hass a pretty balanced view of things.

I agree that it is necessary to stand back and gauge the full spectrum of opinion about Peak Oil (or anything, for that matter), and this site is very useful in helping to do that.  However, it is by no means always the case that the truth is to be found in the center of the spectrum of opinion.  The truth is most closely approximated by that part of the spectrum that uses the best evidence and the strongest arguments - and sometimes, that part of that spectrum is indeed located at the one or the other extreme.
sorry "arguably"
and feel, not feeeel, and so forth with corrections

note to self: must be kinder to students with typos

So, it used to be called the Cold War. Now, as the nations of the world scramble around to make alliances, what should we call it? How about the Fossil Fuels War? In this case, geographical boundaries won't matter quite as much but will certainly play a role. The economic & political deals will assume great importance. How's it going to go? Here's a WAG.
  • US, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, West Africa (Angola, Nigeria)
  • China, India, Chad, Sudan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran
Saudi Arabia? They're the wild card. Venezuela? Another wild card, who knows how long Hugo will be around or how things could change there. Libya??? Europe--they're caught in the middle with steeply declining production, dealing with Iran for oil and Russia for natural gas. Iraq? Who the hell knows. Everybody else is a bit player.

Feel free to make your own list of course!

Dave, sorry to say it, but it is better you not put Brazil aligned with USA. We are a lot interested at commerce with India and China, mostly because they BUY our produts. The problem with commerce with USA is that USA ever want sell their products to us, but USA never want to buy our products, you see, there are a lot of "sanitary" barriers, there are a lot of USA agro-business interests to defend from our grain production, there are the subsides your governemnt pay to yours farms. If we cannot sell to USA shoes, orange juice and steel and if you use the farm subsides to flood the market with soybean and corn and cotton we have no reason to be aligned to you. China buy all these products from us, so they are better commercial partners.

We are currently more interested to be a regional potency. So, we aren't defending USA interests here at South America, we are defending OUR interests. Brazil is the more industrialized country at South America and we want more.

So, put South America and Brazil at the China, India and Russia group. We will not be automatically aligned with you. And if we grow to be a regional potency, South America too will be not with you. Forget it.

João Carlos

Sorry my bad english, my native language is portuguese.

Brazil's export partners are:

US 22.4%, China 6.9%, Germany 5.1%, Netherlands 4.4%, Mexico 4.2%, Argentina 4.1% (2003)

That data is from 2003. The total exports at 2003 was US$ 73.084 billions. So, we exported to USA US$ 16.37 billions and to China US$ 5.04 billions.

The data from 2005 is:

Brazil total exports at 2005: US$ 118,309 billions

Brazil's most important export partners at 2005:
USA: US$ 22.7 billions (19.19%)
Argentina: US$ 9.9 billions (8.37%)
China: US$ 6.8 billions (5.75%)

[Europe Union: US$ 26.493 billions (22.39%)]

You can find the data at:

The Brazil's exportations are growing each year. However, the total volume exportated to South America and EU grew the last years more than the total volume exportated to USA grew.

You can see that while Brazil's total volume exported to USA grew (from US$ 16.37 billions to US$ 22.7 billions) the total participation is lower (from 22.4 % to 19.19 %).

The crude data can be misleading because currently Brazil's most important partner is the EU. If we add all Brazil's exportations to the EU countries we have a higher volume exportated to the EU countries than to USA. That happens because the EU countries are a lot of small european countries and the crude data is listed by country. So, I pu the 2005 Brazil exportation's data for the EU.

Brazil's exportations to South America too grew strongly and these exported products are mostly industrialized products (so, Brazil is competing with USA industrialized products here at South America, by the way who want to buy USA's cars that use a lot of gas? Brazil's cars use a lot less combustible and too can use ethanol).

I think that at 10 years our most important commercial partner will be China followed by Europe because the chinese are investing at Brazil to build the infra-structure (ports and railroads) to make possible to Brazil export more iron ore and grains. The chinese know that they will need more steel and grains if they intend to grow 10% each year and there is only one place where the grain's production can grow currently: Brazil. And wee too can mine more iron ore and produce more steel if they need it. And see you, steel production is more cheap at Brazil than at USA, that is the reason you tax our steel exportations.

João Carlos

Sorry my bad english, my native language is portuguese.

And I am writing from Brazil, so I am reading brazilians newspaper that are telling a tottally diferent story than the Fox News you watch. Wneh the USA citizens will stop to be illuded? when you will have Free Press?

Hey!  Not all of us watch Faux News, I assure you.

I suspect we will never have a "free" press here.  That is, one that doesn't cost any money.  That's the real reason our news media sucks.  News shows and networks have to make money, and that means they have to be more like entertainment than like news.  CNN, Faux News, etc., tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to know.  Because if they don't, we'll flip over to Survivor or put in that movie we just got from Netflix.  

  1. I am not writing from the US. I'm further away than you are and we don't get Fox news here.

  2. It doesn't matter if you use my 2003 data, the 2005 data, or read Brazilian newspapers, your point was wrong.

  3. Calm down. It will probably help you think a bit more clearly
First, the analysis from the Brazil's commerce data show that USA participation on the Brazil's exports are going down.

Second, USA is mostly a commercial competitor at the most  important resource that Brazil export: grains. Brazil too compete with USA as other produts' exporter. While China is an importer of these products that Brazil exports.

Third, I am a brazilian. Are you saying that you are better informed about what WE BRAZILIANS itend to do or what we feel and who we think that we think is a better ally? I suppose that you are american, because only americans can be so stupidly arrogant.

By the way, look at the last elections here at South America. There is no pro-american president elected.

João Carlos

Sorry the bad english, because my native language is portuguese. I am a brazilian and I say that only we brazilians can say what is BETTER to us.

Zing. My wife's Colombian, so I feel I can offer a slight correction. Uribe is S. America's most pro-American president (as you say, if there is such a thing), but I think it costs the US about 2 BILLION USD a year to keep him that way. In the meantime he's taken away tons of health and university for the kids and other benefits from the retired Ecopetrol quys, same time as Ecopetrol makes 30 million a day in export sales to BP, and they hate Uribe's guts. Its said there that he got elected buying 33 cent (now 1000 Pesos) beers for his voters. The US DEA is defolliating the entire Magdalena valley, the Isla Rosarios are dead from the sediment washing down the river and the displaced persons are mounting up in the cities. There's "peace", but that takes the 40 Hueys and 14 Blackhawk helicopters (25% of the DEA 2001 budget) given to the Colombian Army and there's a police guard every 5 miles along the major highways. My wife just got back and she says the poor are getting poorer and the rich are richer, the middle class is getting smaller and working for the same or less wages than 10 years ago. (news to you I bet, heh?) Uribe (according to rumor) has also gotten pretty close to war with Venezuela a couple of times. So given all the above, I can only imagine where the money's going. That house of cards is gonna' come tumblin' down one day soon (as it has in the past). Of course, I said that about Saudi Arabia when I got there in 1990, so I don't "get it" all the time. So, there goes another 1/2 MBOPD to <non US country>. Ya. Don't sound like much now, but latter every coffee can is gonna' count. My opinions are my own. I'm just keeping my seeing eye open while hoping that, "A one-eyed man can be king in the Land of the Blind".
Third, I am a brazilian. Are you saying that you are better informed about what WE BRAZILIANS itend to do or what we feel and who we think that we think is a better ally? I suppose that you are american, because only americans can be so stupidly arrogant.

You may be Brazilian, but you don't speak for Brazil or for Brazilians.

You made a point. Jack presented data showing you were wrong. You presented the same data just updated by two years verifying that Jack was right. Then you start calling everyone stupid. Constructive.

If a brazilian not speak for Brazil or for brazilians, who will speak? You CEO? The US citizens?

The data from last year show that Jack is wrong, not right. The US participation in Brazil's exportations is going down each year. That is a trend that the Ministerio da Indústria e Comércio Exterior show at its data. The own Brazilian's Federal Government afirm it. We read it at our newspapers (brazilian's newspapers...that is what brazilians citizens read). We see it at our broadcast news.

You will not read it at english, because our language is PORTUGUESE. The world is not only USA and not everyone think as the US citizens. To be true, only the US citizens think as the US citizens, you have a very stupid vision from the world. But the WORLD not think like you....

I mantain that Jack was stupidly arrogant and I say that you too is stupidly arrogant, CEO. Brazil is MY COUNTRY, CEO! BRAZIL IS NOT YOUR COUNTRY, SO YOU CANNOT SPEAK FOR ME OR THE OTHER BRAZILIANS. IF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT I SAID ABOUT WHERE ARE WE GOING FOR OUR INTERNATIONAL RELATION, GO READ A BRAZILIAN NEWSPAPER, supposing you can read other language that not the english.

Only your blindy arrogance make you think that everyone think as the US citizens.

João Carlos

Funny. You don't seem to have a problem speaking for Americans either.
As JC affirms, this is where Brazil was, not where they're going (quickly).
Jose, I'm from the USA, and this is how my logic has been moving too.  I believe that with the USA military so fully committed in the Middle East the US government is too distracted and overextended to exert as the overwhelming influence it has had in South America for so long.  Evidence for this is the failed coup against Chavez in Venezuela and the recent resugence of the left there.  This can only be good for South America in my opinon, as our meddling in your affairs has never worked out for your benefit.  I think that this is a calculation your leaders are making now as well, hence the increase in international cooperation down there.

This seems very obvious, but I don't think it is on the radar of most Americans yet.  I think that if Brazil sits on the fence and does business with everyone it will do very well.

sorry Joao - Jose was a typo :-/
I think that the problem with South America can be worse than you think, brook, and that George Bush II don't have all the faults. The current USA government get overextended at middle east and, worse, it is incompetent, but the current problems are a consequence from the Clinton's years.

See you, we followed all advices that the economists from Washinghton give to us and we opened our economies to US imports and sold our estatal companies to multinationals for cheap and cut our wages and destroyed our unions and cut our subsides to the poor. What was the result? Every country here at South America had an economic disaster... some countries had it worse, other had it better, but everyone had an economic disaster.

We just want better life conditions. For that we need our economies grow. But the economic policies that come from Washington make the things worse, not better. We learn it the hard way. We will not follow any advice that come from Washington now.

[Remember that IMF just made the Iraq government cut the gas's subsides, that is the kind of economic policies that Washington and IMF made all the 90's here at Brazil and Argentina and all the South America countries...well, you can guess how that economic policy is stupid at a country having a pre civil war, is IMF helping the insurgents?]

So, IMHO, if Bush II is not interested or have all his attention directed to the Iraq's quagmire, the South America's problem wasn't created by Bush II. The South America's problem is a consequence from Clinton's years.

João Carlos

"Globalization" has been a disaster for everyone except the rich international corporations.  
I think its not enough just to figure you can get all the energy you want for $$$. Joao, you definately "Get IT". I used to think globalization was a good thing. It was marketed as being able to solve the whole world's poverty. All the "other" countries would have free access to markets to sell anything anywhere and make a lot of money. Than as Joao points out, Oh oh, problem, no more steel sales here. Now they basically are allowed to only sell their coffee. But to do that, they're forced to compete with Colombia and 50 other countries. Globalization should be named, "Keep em at each other's throats". Problem is that it takes a whole lotta coffee cans to = 1 BOPD. So, Cuba pals up with Hugo and gets oil exchanged for Cuban doctors and sports training. No $$ needed and cultural interchange makes friends in the stranges places a lot better than military interventions and unpayable debts. When the large multinationals discovered that the workers were getting too much dinero and cutting into the profits in the US and Euroland, they had to figure a new way to get at the money. They couldn't bust union heads anymore to break them up, so the obvious solution was to export the jobs and build SUVs and PC boards in Mexico and Malaysia and import them back to the US, import tax free. Mexico sees jobs and gets a IMF loan to build housing and streets near the new factories. Now El Paso complains about pollution so bring on more loans to clean up the refinery and the water. All looks great on paper; all the Mexicans get a fair ($5/day) wage, but somebody forgot to tell Mexico the Globalists would also expatriate the immense profits, made on relatively few Mexican's labor pay differentials (this has to be the sourse of the infamous "dark matter") back to the home country, then with those, move the factories on to the next cheapest country on the list. Now Mexico is even losing jobs to China, but you already know how Mexico feels about that. So now its the Chinese who get to suffocate in the mines. (Yes I know there have been mine deaths in the US of late, but they seem to be from noncompliance issues that were duely cited by OSHA and not repaired = even worse) Important point here is that Argentina got wise and the lesson was picked up by everybody. That's where 50% of the resistance is coming from now, ask the Iraquis where the other 50% comes from. You guys think I'm anti-American, but all I'm doing is pointing out better alternatives you can try to get your fair share of any remaining BOPD, cause from what I see now $$$ just ain't gonna work. What else you gonna do? annex and fight everybody? Man if you're lucky, the Saudis will remember 1991 and save some emergency ration cards for ya, but to hear them tell it today, the Patriots didn't work and the RSAF saved the day ...way back ...when? My opinions are my own.
Yeah, that's how I thought it was.  This isn't an anti-Bush diatribe.  The US has been interfering in Latin America for generations. My point is, we seem to have lost much of our ability to manipulate your governments down south, as evidenced by the fact that leftist governments are on the rise there.  If the US had viable options to prevent this, it would.
Brook,  you hit it perfectly.  Nobody anywhere likes to be "manipulated".  Noboby has any inherent dislike in doing business on the "fair and level" playing field.  Just make sure the table is fair and level on all sides.  Lots of countries have found that things only look fair when the promises come in, only to find out later that one leg of the table gets cut off short and the table starts capsizing simply because some lobby group starts yelling at their (what seems to be) bought-and-paid for "Congressional Committee on Dumping <product X>" and all of a sudden trade barriers appear well after the supposed trade agreements have been signed on the dotted line.

Bush's flagrant disregard for soverignity by use of trade restrictions and embargos on, from (or is it to?) the most lucurative market in the world and that military action will be used if required or as needed only aggrevates the bad feelings, as other countries realize that any possible future disagreements cannot be negotiated in true good faith when one of the parties has unbalanced power of enforcement of their opinion of what "fair" is at any given political whim.  Its like playing Las Vegas unlimited poker with only a "ten'er" in your pocket and no ace in the hole.  (Think about it.)

If the US would learn to approach trade agreements, "multi-lateral" defence assistance treaties and "development" loan packages using "mutually beneficial" as a replacement for the "munipulating and self-serving" strings and attached clauses, one day they really could rise to be the power they appear to be when you read the hype.

I would think China remembers/knows life without oil, and how to cope. We do not have this consciousness, nor do we have a mindset for hardship. We have one hell of a transition to go thru.  Dave - how about we annex south & north of here e. g. N. &S. america .China can march to those other places. Does this give us much oil/energy?
Absolutely agree.  Undoubtedly it'd be easier for ya than trying to annex Iraq and Azerbaijan or deal with the Irani situation politically.  Go for it.  Standard Fruit already has the banana fields.  There's your foothold.  After Mexico and Venezuela run out, maybe by then there'll be a couple of KBOPD still left from Colombian production or Peru.  Peru has Camisia, but they would sell to Brazil without too much problem, if they weren't using it themselves by then.  Those #$#%@# Incan comunists.  The Colombian ELN were blowing up the Caño Limon pipeline once or twice a week when I worked there, so net export wasn't reliable.  Once they had more oil (on fire) running down into Venezuela than Exxon Valdez spilled in the water.  I'm sure the ELN can come back with renewed vigor.  Chevez is going to be a real pain.  Venezuela gave the Argentinians their last two Exocet missiles and a prayer when Argentina blasted the British MV Atlantic Conveyor (and that was well before Chevez's time.)  Think history is relevant today?  Colombia still thinks the US stole Panama from them. Given that the story was wired to Washington from a US destroyer anchored in Colon harbor 4 hours before the revolution began, I'd say there its more than likely there's something to the Colombian claim.  One thing about South America (just like Arabs) they fight and disagree a lot amongst themselves, but they like Gringos ...even less, and their jungles are much worse than Viet Nam.  Even GPS don't work under those trees.  But hey, who knows?  History was a long time ago, right?  Humm.. what the palm oil futures doin today?
What Stuart Staniford does with math, James Kunstler does with prose.  They're both excellent.  I like the fact that SS uses the best data available to chart his thoughts, that JK pushes and punches the wall to sober us.  
I think that setting up a "nemesis" or setting up a win/lose adversarial paradigm is folly.

We will either evolve into peaceful relationships or we will snuff ourselves out.

I saw a bumper sticker today, by the way, not quite on point, but close:

"If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve."

Richard Heinberg is spot-on in his analysis of the futility of any "Last-Man-Standing" macho resource wars.  That way lies nothing but death and destruction.

To take the analogy a bit further:

The last "man" standing will only be standing because he (she?)is pinned to the side of a Hummer by a large shard of flying shrapnel, or some such thing.

S/he might have time to consider briefly the stupidity of war.  S/he might briefly note that it would be damned lonely picking through the rubble for bits of irradiated food by oneself, eating alone, and dying soon of disease, infection, or through sheer lonelines and boredom.

The alternative to wasting energy on fighting over energy is to realise that most humans simply want to get basic needs met.  Some kind of international protocol to manage resources will be necessary in order to maintain peace.

More importantly, people will need to develop local, bioregional, permaculturally organised "lifeboats" in order to cope with the global ecological tsunami we've contributed to.

The geopolitical challenge is huge.  The challenge of getting people to think of themselves as bioregional stewards is huge.  Ecological impacts will show themselves as resource shortages, weather chaos, pandemics, and accelerated species extinctions.  (Ocean plankton alone, for example, are threatened by warming seawater.  Entire foodchains may very well vanish in a span of years.)

Enough of the Apocalyptic horsemen.  My point is that we humans have enough challenge just trying to suvive the ecological bottleneck without wasting ourselves on warfare.  We will either evolve beyond using violence as our core cultural paradigm or we will refuse to evolve and very likely do ourselves in.

Perhaps we humans will outlaw evolution and insist on Strangelovian Apocalypse.  I hope not.  Call me odd, but I get a kick out of thinking we might leave a world worth living in to another couple of generations or more. (Is the survival instinct vestigial?)

The notion that we must form alliances and kill each other off in competition for dwindling resources is pathological.  To do so would set loose such nasty nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that would haunt the planet for millenia.  We will lose enough population without war.

Sorry for the rant.  My reptilian brain does that sometimes. The devil made me do it.  And so it goes.....

"The notion that we must form alliances and kill each other off in competition for dwindling resources is pathological."

It is not pathological.  It is exactly what the human race has done ever since it first picked up a stick.  We just have bigger sticks now.  

We don't just kill each other in competition for resources. Even when there are ample resources we still kill each other, just to see who is top dog. The medievals called this unfortunate human characteristic libido dominandi.
Point taken, though I partly disagree.

My point is that we must evolve beyond the "last man standing" or "my god (or penis, or whatever)is bigger than your god (or penis, oe whatever) and so I win and get everything for me" approach, because, as you point out, we are using bigger sticks now.

To be more precise, the sticks we use now cause death and disease for years after they are used, and cannot be unleashed in any truly controlled way.

It is not a given that humans have always fought and killed each other.  From the reading I've done it looks like this reliance on lethal violence as a solution of last resort is an abberation that may very well result in our species extinction.  But that is not to say that humans have always and everywhere relied on lethal violence as a solution of last resort.  It is also not a certainty that humans always will do so.

In fact, again, the weapons we wield today make resorting to lethal violence to be just about as suicidal a strategy as we could employ.

Rational shared strategies offer better ways to cope with the ecological crisis we face.  The odds for survival are better if we cooperate rather than compete using lethal violence.

I agree with your thesis but would take a contrarian perspective. Although I totally agree that negotiation, fairness and mutual cooperation are the way for humanity to survive it may be that the resources available are insufficient. In that case a catastrophic kill off may be an optimal process in the long term interests of our survival as a species - provided we adopt your attitude thereafter.

I don't think humans, collectively, are wise enough yet to solve these imminent problems in the constructive way you and I would prefer. We have run out of time to grow up this time around, I intend to concentrate on preserving as much knowledge, skills, vegetable seeds, etc, as I can, in the hope of making the next couple of decades less painful.

1. Resources such as fossil fuels will only get scarcer so we all, as nations, communities, and individuals have serious choices to make. Most of them are not too appealing.
2. The market cannot choose no matter what some economists think.  The whole premise of modern economics is based on growth, always seeking and obtaining more.  When there's no more to obtain, or it's too expensive to bother with, then what?  The poor economists will be lost on this one.  There is no precedent in modern human history. Once we mastered agriculture, it's been downhill from there.
3. Our current national leadership is not capable of making a rational choice in the area of dwindling petroleum supplies. ( Yes, I realize that was a pointed opinion.)
4. China may well grow rapidly for several years to come but they, too, have pounded the hell out of their soils, and have developed areas for agriculture that are totally unsuitable for growing row crops or grain. Three Gorges Dam has great ooh-aah appeal but will, in the end, prove that when man plays God, man loses. Witness the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the disaster it is causing in the Nile delta, Egypt's most productive farm land.  The loss of fertility downstream will quickly be felt in their agricultural systems. While they are busy making money and building these huge monuments to themselves, their most important resource base will wash or blow away. You can't feed 1.2 billion people on sand dunes and gullies.
5. Kunstler is hysterical at times but he hits pretty close to home more often than not.  Kudos to the analogy of the rainbow.
6. Iraq, was, and is, about oil. Hell of a way to spend 100s of billions when our own are homeless after Katrina, eh? God save the King!
My opinion is:

1. China has huge problems: only 2 or 3 hundred million are in what we would call the middle class. 1 BILLION are steeped in poverty that might be getting even deeper. Unlike here, the Chinese have a relatively recent rvolutionary history. There's already a huge amount of trouble in the countryside---it will only worsen with any dip in the economy. The environmental problems are humongous and can only worsen. Finally, it will be very hard to keep increasing the flow of energy for future growth. Even though China is modernizing its military, this is not the same military that fought in Korea. China can no longer fight with people---it must fight as the US fights, or would like to fight, technologically.

2. The US has different problems. We are losing all capabilities other than military, and therefore the is no choice but to rely on that more and more, which is what's happening. There's little memory of the 60s, never mind a revolution. Once the economy tanks, the Junta will be able to beef up the ranks of the military. Iraqis take military work, not because they are suicidal, but because there is 50-60pct unemployment. The danger here is not revolt, but compliance: we'll be good Germans. I hope, hope, hope I'm wrong about this.

3. I think all of this will play out much sooner than the timeframe Reich indicates---Kunstler is right about that. A lot of blood and a lot of oil will be spilled for the remaining reserves. I don't see the guys at the top letting their current advantages ebb away without a really big fight. And it's not to their advantage to let it drag on too long. This is what makes me nervous.

Geopolitics and Peak Oil are such interesting subjects -- except in the middle of the night when I wake up with that cold feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My sense is that Iran is a trigger point for the resource war. If the U.S. attacks,  there will be a cascade effect that will leave all of us flabbergasted. And we're the people who sort of know what's going on!

Do you think average Americans would be shocked by $10 gasoline?

$10 gasoline?  You better believe there would be riots!  
Under those circumstance I'm convinced that we would willingly put an absolute dictator in charge if he promised to lower the cost.  
Truly frightening.
China does have a lot of problems.  And they do have a long history of revolution.  They've lived what we're fearing: resource wars, famine, dieoffs.  

The Chinese government is keenly aware of this.  That's why they maintain huge food stores, unlike other countries.  The government knows that if they cannot feed the people, they cannot stay in power.  

I expect they created their SPR for similar reasons.

Back in the turbulent time of the early 1980's, when it looked a bit like the Cold War might heat up and Americans military and intelligencia were deeply concerned, the Soviet Union was once described as a heavily armed empire in economic decline, one that might do desperate things while it was still able to do so.
Sadly, that description now seems to fit the United States.
The new economic competion will be from India not China. The Indian middle class is already much bigger than China's. India has hundreds of millions of English speakers, thanks to the UK, and world class technical expertise. They have genuine rule of law unlike China and are a multi-party democracy unlike the US.  Innovative thinking is rewarded in India but suppressed in China. Innovation is the root, trunk, and branches of economic growth which is why the high economic growth of China is unsustainable. India's economic growth is limited to its energy supply and their infrastructal growth can leapfrog over into renewables whereas the west needs to replace what we already have. They also have a home grown supply of nuclear scientists and engineers.
Must note: Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia + INDIA. Combine list with Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, ... Problem... Canadians No maybe you guys got sucked in? Gotta' think about Ecuador. They got a couple hundred thou.
Innovative thinking is rewarded in India but suppressed in China.

That's what they used to say about Japan.  

However, I think Kunstler's right.  Peak oil is the end of the old economic model.  Economic competition from India and China will be the least of our worries.

The PRC admitted to at least 85,000 "incidents" of unrest between its rural inhabitants and the government this last year.  Incidents as in riots, as in people being killed.  Does this sound like a stable society/economy?

What amazes me is the failure to take into account the disparity between industrial China and rural China.  The PRC is tottering on the brink of serious internal strife, yet, we in the West are attracted only to the glitz of the coastal urban development.

China is worse than Japan, which is an overlaid western exterior, with a feudal core.  China is no different.

The only reason the standard of living will fall in the U.S. is the continued export of manufacturing and technical vocations to the third world.  That is a function of our outmoded tax code.  

Get rid of our oppressive tax code that penalizes incentive and encourages domestic production, and the U.S. can compete with any country.

We will not become China, nor they, us.