Bill Totten's Weblog

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Clusterfuck Nation Chronicles

Comment on current events

by Jim Kunstler, author of

The Long Emergency (Atlantic Monthly Press 2005)

The CERA Report (November 20 2006)

Last week, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) released a report saying that there was no imminent global oil problem and that enough new oil would come on-line to permit current levels of consumption - and beyond! - for more than a hundred years into the future. CERA's stunningly disingenuous report flies in the face of everything that is known about the current world oil situation.

CERA is fronted by Daniel Yergin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the oil industry, The Prize (Free Press reissue, 1993). Apparently, Yergin has parlayed his legitimacy as an historian into running a disinformation service wholly owned by the IHS Corporation, a lobbying and public relations firm serving the defense, oil, and automotive industries. Apart from making a lot of money as executive vice-president of a company with about $300 million in net annual profits over about $500 million in gross revenues, it is a little hard to discern what Yergin's motives might be in shoveling so much bad information into the public arena.

Much of CERA's "story" hinges on the supposition that snazzy technology will allow the recovery of "oil" (liquid hydrocarbons) from solids that require costly mining and processing operations to covert them to liquids. In effect, CERA says that tar sands, kerogen shales, coal-to-liquids, plus super-deep ocean drilling will not only make up for currently depleting fields of easily-acessed liquid sweet crudes, but actually surpass current total production. This would seem, on the face of it, to violate everything that is known about Energy Returns on Energy Invested (ERoRI). And, in fact, the very companies working the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, have just this year steeply raised their dollar estimates of what it will take to convert that stuff into usable liquids - it ain't a pretty story.

CERA does not acknowledge some of the fundamental facts of the current situation, for instance that the world's four super-giant fields responsible for at least fifteen percent of total global production since 1980 (Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, Burgan in Kuwait, Daqing in China, and Cantarell in Mexico) have all passed peak and turned down into depletion. CERA doesn't acknowledge that discovery of new oil peaked worldwide in the 1960s with more than forty years of steady decline since then. Or that there has been almost no provable meaningful discovery the past several years (and Chevron's as yet unproved deepwater "Jack" claim of three to fifteen billion barrels total is not significant in the context of a world that now burns through thirty billion barrels a year.) CERA doesn't acknowledge that the predicted US peak of 1970 was absolutely on target and that our domestic production of regular crude has fallen from around ten million barrels a day in 1970 to under five million barrels a day now (still declining yearly, including the Alaska North Slope fields). CERA doesn't acknowledge that current total global oil production through 2006 is at least absolutely flat and more likely falling (depending on whose numbers you look at), which would tend to indicate that the world has bumped up against the ceiling of its all-time total capacity. CERA doesn't acknowledge that exports are down nine percent this year because the nations with export capacity have growing populations and economies that require more and more of their own oil.

The CERA story also tragically gives aid and comfort to those who deny that climate change needs to be taken seriously, since it is saying, in essence, that we can easily continue pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - by burning as much coal as we can. The CERA report amounts to "don't worry, be happy".

Perhaps most tragically, there is no corrective for this mendacious PR. It's not against the law to spread lies about a business venture - which is what the oil industry is - even if its truthful condition is critical to the functioning of our society. There's no oversight committee or agency authorized to investigate public relations activity. It's a basic case of buyer beware. Unfortunately, the buyers in this case are America's political leaders and the news media responsible for informing the public.

The mainstream media last week swallowed CERA's PR hook, line, and sinker, without a single reflective burp. It even drove the prices on oil futures markets down a few dollars a barrel - though the price was back up by Friday. The only cogent analysis of the CERA report took place on the Internet, and for the most part on a single site:, which is the best-informed forum of debate on these issues operating in the United States. You can go directly to their initial response, composed by Dave Cohen by clicking on this link: . It's worth taking the trouble to read.

Energy Independence (November 13 2006)

The day after the impressive Democratic election victory, Senate Majority Leader-to-Be Harry Reid declared that a top priority for the new congress would be policy leading to "energy independence" for America. The time of jubilee will certainly come, but not in the way Harry Reid thinks it will - nor in the way the rest of the country imagines this idea.

When politicians flog the term around - "energy independence" - they invariably mean that we will continue enjoying the happy motoring utopia by other means than imported oil (which makes up seventy percent of all the oil we burn). Get this: the day is not far off when, for one reason or another, the flow of imported oil to the US will cease. But when that day comes, we will not be running our shit the way we have been running it. That day will be the end of the interstate highways, Walt Disney World, and WalMart - in short, the way of life we are fond of calling "non-negotiable".

We are not going to run that shit on coal liquids or tar sand byproducts or oil shale distillates or ethanol or biodiesel, or second-hand french-fry oil. Nor on solar, wind, nuclear, or hydrogen. You can run things on that stuff, but not the biggies we run at their current scale. If the Democrats really want to get serious and act responsibly, they'd better not squander whatever is left of our credit and collective confidence in a futile campaign to keep this racket going. They'd better prepare the public to start living differently.

Where to begin? They can start by recognizing that massive long-haul trucking of goods has to end and be replaced by improved, electrified rail plus water transport - with trucks used only for the final, local leg of the journey. To reach this point of recognition, the Democrats will have to overcome the entrenched interests of the trucking industry - but, by now, most of the truck drivers in this country have been successfully converted into right-wing Republican zombies, so it might not be so difficult to overcome them. They will also have to overcome WalMart and its "warehouse on wheels" composed of thousands of eighteen-wheelers full of discount goodies incessantly in motion for "just-in-time" delivery to the big box outlets. And, of course, by "WalMart" I mean not only the company itself but the millions of Americans who think they can't live without it.

Do the Democrats have the guts to go against this tide? My guess is probably not. But, get this, too: sooner rather than later, whether we like it or not, we're going to have to replace WalMart with an entirely different system for retail trade - probably resembling the system of multi-layered local trade networks that were destroyed by WalMart. And the further off we put this task, the more difficult it's going to be. So, real political leadership will have to inform the public that the time has come to start making other arrangements.

Instead of supporting the fiction that happy motoring can continue forever, the Democrats should create an "Apollo Project" to restore the US passenger rail system, too. (We hear a lot about an "Apollo Project" to develop a miracle fuel for our cars, but that ain't gonna happen and we'd be much better off devoting that investment to public transit.) This will baffle and piss off a lot of the public, but it is necessary if we are going to survive as an advanced civilization. Please notice, by the way, that I am not suggesting we deprive anyone of the right to drive a car, only give them the option of getting somewhere by train instead. And don't worry, the politicians will not have to do a thing to restrict automobile use - circumstances will do it for them as the world plunges into a permanent oil crisis that does not go away.

Another thing the Democrats can do with their new power is reorient the activities of the US Department of Agriculture - and especially legislated cash subsidies - away from the "agribusiness" Big Boys to small-scale, local farmers. We are silently and stealthily approaching a crisis situation with the American food supply. Most localities now only have a two or three-day food supply, and any number of crisis events in the offing could disrupt the three-thousand mile chains of frozen pizzas and Cheez Doodles that the public depends on for basic sustenance. We desperately need to reactivate what's left of the productive land around our towns and cities, and to repopulate it with people who can grow real food.

The Democrats will have to contend with the imminent cratering of suburbia whether they like it or not. The "housing bubble" is the first leg down for a development pattern that has no future. What's out there now is a vast over-supply of exactly the kind of houses in the kinds of places that will not have value in an energy-scarcer world. The overbuilding of tract houses is a tragedy caused by reckless and irresponsible behavior in the lending industry and in the government officials who regulate interest rates and the credit supply. The investments are already lost, and the individual carnage is going to be extreme, but the depth of the problem will reveal itself slowly for two reasons: (1) both homeowners and realtors will desperately try to maintain the fiction that these properties still have high value, and (2) individuals who are in trouble with their mortgage payments will never reveal their dire situation to their friends and neighbors because it is too humiliating. The news about default and re-po will only arrive with the moving vans (if the individuals can afford to hire them).

The collapse of suburbia will be the Democrats chief inheritance from the "free-market" economically neo-liberal Republicans who were too busy money grubbing at all levels to notice that there was such a thing as the future. The tragedy of suburbia will finish off whatever is left of Reagan-Bush1-Bush2 Republicanism - although the truth is that Bill Clinton did as much to promote this way of life, indeed, to turn suburban development into a new basis for the US economy when manufacturing crapped out.

The nation as a whole - however it reconfigures itself politically in the aftermath of this fiasco - is going to have to come to grips with a lot of hard truths. One will be that "energy independence" means a whole different scale and system for daily life, not just "new and innovative" fuels for cars. As long as we are stuck in a foolish national wish-fest aimed at keeping all the cars running and propping up all the trappings of car-dependency, we will remain lost in a wilderness of our own making. And whoever the next president of the US turns out to be, whether a Democrat or the leader of a party that has not yet coalesced, will have all that he (or she) can do to keep this nation from completely falling to pieces.

Bill Totten


  • The gods use the United States to hurt the disfavored, at home and abroad, for it is the goal of redwhite&blue:::
    20th century welfare hurt the black community very, very badly. There was too many abuses of the system and its legacy is still felt today.
    There will come a time that will be a CRUCIAL moment in the history of black america (whether it is a critical time for everybody remains to be seen). When that era arrives the gods will instruct the United States to pay black people reparations, and it may be as much as a million dollars for every man, woman and child.
    Refuse it. This is an act of preditation. The gods hate Africans, evident by the sorry state of the people in the United States and back in the motherland. This may ba a choice between going and the money. Understand how the gods use greed and materialism against you:::::Blacks wallow in materialiam, incurring evil and costing themselves time. And when their time DOES come they will be granted reparations immediately prior, further limiting the number of Africans who ascend.
    The day IS coming when they will grant reparations, and the amount will be staggering, another tactic to ensure you fail in the quest to ascend into heaven. And many of the disfavored blacks will blow it all; the gods will push them into spending it friviously or losing it in their casinos.

    So much of this mind poisoning social "progressiveness" was initiated in California. In a couple of decades it pervaded east into the heartland AMONG THE MASSES, widespread instead of isloated.
    Gay acceptance/marriage, bi-racial acceptance, casual drug use/sex, cable TV, etc. So many things weren't present in the heartland decades ago.
    Because they are favored. Contrary to appearances, contrary to popular perception their favor got them extra time. In California the gods hurt the disfavored with this abuse right off the bat.
    California is favored. It is the land of the gods, and when they disfavored invade, as they did during the gold rush, the gods strike back.
    The gods pushed them into coming, told others, for only the disfavored are misled this way.
    Soon they scapegoatted these disfavored's descendants when the gods exported their wicked, sick sub-cultures to the rest of the nation. One day they will punish these descendants.
    California subducts first. And those who have gone will get less time.
    Expect similar reverse positioning in the Jesus issue.
    This is typical of the positioning of the gods. It's crucial that you begin to think correctly.
    There is no such thing as a Christian god and there never was. Be god-fearing.

    There are many ways they can play this, for the door is open. I suspect the script is written, but the following is one idea they floated to me a couple of years ago::::
    They may one day send the message, creating desperation:::
    Have their redwhite&blue (favored) clones shut down their corporations, stop their economic activity, be it farming, canning, power production, etc. and close up shop.
    This would leave the few disfavored companies (Atlanta) to fulfill the demand, unless they instruct them to pull out as well.
    They ARE all clones.
    People shouldn’t be doing business with the favored.

    We may all be "clones" for they have suggested they colonized our planet with genetically engineered individuals. Geographic clues like Italy and Lake Michigan suggest artificiality.
    Is Earth an evolved source planet or a created host planet? Was life and our Planet Earth in fact created in 6 days?
    You can't trust their scientists or any of their people in professional roles, clones or not. Just as they beemed earth out to create the Lake Michigan basin so could they have beemed in fossils and told them to dig in a specific place. (This issue would be a step contributing to society's breakdown into godlessness.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:14 AM, February 06, 2007  

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