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Bad timing

Tue, Dec 8, 2009

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It seems the evil empire will keep chugging along, despite my wishes to the contrary. How long is anybody’s guess. And, despite my record of bad guessing, I’ll toss out some more guesses here.

When forecasting light’s out in the empire by the end of this year, I clearly put too much stock in the International Energy Agency’s forecast of a 9.1% annual decline in crude oil availability. The IEA is notorious for lying, but they’ve always lied in the other direction. Under pressure from imperialists such as Barack Obomber, they routinely claim there’s plenty of oil available. So when they forecast a 9.1% annual decline, beginning in 2009, they suckered me. As most energy-literate folks are aware, there is no way demand could fall at a pace approaching 9% without a complete collapse of the industrial economy. So far, year-over-year decline has been about 3%, and the Great Depression 2.0 is destroying demand even faster than world supply is falling. If we believed in the “laws” of supply and demand, oil should be priced at about ten bucks a barrel. If, on the other hand, we believed in pricing oil at what it does for us, oil should be priced at about a thousand bucks a barrel.

So, despite the howls of indignation every time I generate a forecast, I’ll keep trotting them out, gladly risking my so-called credibility in the name of sounding the alarm for the few people willing to take out the earplugs and listen. If I were a conservative, self-respecting mainstream scientist — as I was for nearly three decades — I would forgo such risky endeavors, staying mute while we kill the living planet and therefore destroy any hope of salvaging our species. But behind me are the days of eating popcorn and calmly reciting the harmful effects of inhaling smoke while the theater is going up in flames.

I have plenty of company, with whom few seem to take issue. Las Vegas and Atlantic City survive on the basis of daily forecasts. There’s an entire website dedicated to assessing the accuracy of predictions. The consummate one-trick pony James Howard Kunstler isn’t losing any fans, despite his nearly annual forecast of Dow 4000 to go along with his claim that the ongoing economic collapse proves he was right about Y2K (thus giving unintended meaning to the term, “long emergency”). Here’s my first prediction for next year: Kunstler will forecast Dow 4000 again this year. I hope he’s right, because Dow 4000 almost certainly spells the end of the industrial age.

There is no denying that casinos and Kunstler are great entertainment. Casinos in particular are based on fantasy (the fantasy we can get something for nothing). So what’s the difference between these forecasts and mine? For starters, unlike the entertainment industries of gambling and doomer porn, my forecasts are a matter of life and death. As such, they resemble roulette of the Russian kind, not the casino kind. If you bought what I was selling earlier this year, you’d be settling into your new ’hood, learning a new set of skills and getting to know a new set of neighbors while developing infrastructure for the coming post-carbon era. In other words, you’d be extending your life by a few years (maybe more) in the dark years ahead.

I’m not afraid to wade into reality, writing what I actually believe, stark though the prospects may be for industrial humans. No spoons full of sugar to make the medicine go down, bitter though it may be for this nation of hyper-indulgent, channel-surfing, overfed, undernourished fools. And I believe a new day will dawn for all species on the planet, including our own, when Americans regain their dignity and self-respect as they overcome daunting physical and intellectual challenges.

Had I been right about the lights going out in the Empire by the end of 2009, we would have stood a chance to save a few remnants of the living planet, along with our humanity. I was wrong, so we probably lose both. So much for wishful thinking. Looks like Barack Obomber and crew saved the industrial economy. They won the battle. We all lost the war.

For this year, I suspect the price of oil will top triple digits again, thus sustaining the ongoing recession. (I know, I know: the federal government says we’ve recovered. Try telling that to the 20% or so unemployed, or the many people who’ve lost their houses, or the people working minimum-wage jobs to put food on the table.) But I doubt we’ll see oil priced high enough to bring down the empire for a few more years, although some are predicting chaos in the stock markets and beyond, up to and including a default by the U.S. Rather, 2012 looks like the year high oil prices will bring the industrial economy to its knees, consistent with my original forecasts. Until then, the industrial economy will muddle along, losing jobs and deleveraging a while longer. This will allow us to keep pulverizing the living planet while politicians wring their hands about economic contraction. It will allow the increasingly unpopular Barack Obama/Goldman Sachs administration to keep transferring money from the impoverished to the financially wealthy with increasingly absurd strategies that will go unchallenged and either unnoticed or cheered by mainstream Americans. It will allow the façade of a green economy, powered by solar panels and wind turbines, to act as yet another distraction for a group of consumers (cf. citizens) too consumed with celebrity to give a damn about the real world. It will allow us to spend yet another year in ecological overshoot, thus damning our species and the living planet to more suffering and death.

Despite the bad news, some of us will forge on, undaunted by the culture of make believe (i.e., culture of death). We’ll keep acting as if the world matters, including its human occupants. And because we are willing to laugh at ourselves, and laugh at the apocalypse, we’ll never run out of material.

________________________

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18 Responses to “Bad timing”

  1. Stan Moore Says:

    Don’t worry about credibility, Guy. All an analst can do is take the best available current data and project It is hard to predict the irrational, which is what the system has resorted to in the interests of short-term perpetuation.

    I have come to the conclusion that the Obama Administration is going to continue liquidating the economic assets and the planetary assets as long as possible, including in the context of global warming. The word is out that carbon trading derivatives are the order of the day in a forthcoming policy agreement by the wealthy nationa of the Global North. In other words, Obama is perfectly willing to let the planet overheat as he and the investor class swap carbon futures for big profits, no doubt subsidized by the Treasury and the Fed over time.

    Obama is utterly shameless and he will continue right to the end making excuses that his hard core believers accept as sincere even as he fleeces them and sells their hides on the commodities market.

    I still think that Richard Duncan’s Olduvai Gorge theory of the end of industrial civilization by 2030 is very plausible and the depletion of global petroleum will evetentually coincide with financial crises that make infrstructure investments impossible. The lights will go out and the party will be over. But for the American Middle Class the party is winding down very quickly even now. I think the media is setting new records for stenography while blind. The repeating of claims that we are coming out of recession are more hollow than Obama’s Nobel Prize, but taken seriously by the gullible public who wants to believe in what they are being told.

    We are entering the second decade of the New Millenium, and it will be a struggle from beginning to end. The young will have to figure out that their future has already been sold out from under them. If the teens and twenty-somethings don’t get weaned from YouTube and Facebook pretty soon and start looking outward at the world around them instead of at their list of virtual friends, they are going to wake up one day with the internet dead and gone and their parents will tell them there is no inheritance and they will be just shit out of luck. Why are the young people not figuring this out?

    Here in the Bay Area, even the Bay Bridge is crumbling and has been shut down repeatedly for structural repairs. Everything in our societal infrastructure is corroding and soon to be imploding and exploding simultaneously.

    Keep revising your predications Guy — the excercise in thinking is intrinsically worthwhile and eventually the collapse will occur BEFORE you expected it…

    Cheers!

    Stan Moore

  2. Frank Mezek Says:

    Prof Em Guy:

    Your biggest problem is with your own.How are you going to explain this
    to 5N after December 31? He publically stated we would still be here in 2010.

    Jim Cramer and others justified a DOW in the 5000 range,so 4000 is certainly doable.I’m certain (notice I’m not putting a time line on this)that we’ll take out the previous low around 6400,so we’ll at least
    come close.

    Frank

  3. gerald spezio Says:

    You appear to be a sincere & intelligent fellow. Many “peak oilers” are truly good folks, also.

    Here is another prognostication about “the reasons” why, as you say, oil prices may hit triple digits soon.

    Yalie lawyer & mouthpiece for Zionist Israel, our-bought-President-Obomber; has escalated the U.S. troop force in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 – just what Israel ordered.

    There are more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq – best described as a rubble heap, sewage pit, & all around hell-hole.

    IRAQ IS ESSENTIALLY DESTROYED AND WILL NEVER RECOVER – just what Israel ordered.

    This doesn’t even count the thousands of U.S. mercenaries in both Afghanistan & Iraq – so we can low ball the number of the mostly working class U.S. troops at 250,000 plus.

    Factor in at least 100,000 more Mericans floating around on the seas adjacent to Iran

    ZIONIST ISRAEL’S LAND THEFT IN PALESTINE REQUIRES THE COMPLETE DOMINATION & CONTROL OF THE ARABIC/MUSLIM MIDDLE EAST – “the Oded Yinon plan.”

    IRAN & PAKISTAN ARE THE REMAINING KEYS IN THE ONGOING MURDEROUS ISRAELI STRATEGY.

    Pakistan’s nuclear weapons must be neutralized in order for Israel to attack Iran on the trumpted up charge that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

    Israel illegally developed a nuclear arsenal of several hundred nuclear weapons more than forty years ago.

    Israel has openly threatened to use nuclear weapons – “the Samson Option.”

    Consider what any observant Iranian must think when he sees himself surrounded by Israel’s U. S. mercenaries and knows full well what happened to Iraq – UNDER TRUMPTED UP CHARGES PROVEN TO BE COMPLETY FALSE.

    Calling the U.S. Israel alliance, “The Deadly Embrace,” scholar James Petras says;

    “The lesson is clear: the rise of Judeo-fascism (JF) represents a clear and present danger to our democratic freedoms in the United States. They do not come with black shirts and stiff-arm salutes. The public face is a clean-shaved, necktied, pink-jowled attorney, real estate philanthropist or Ivy League professor. They work hard to send the family members of non-Zionists to fight wars in the Middle East in the interest of Greater Israel. And they tells us to keep quiet or face slander, ostracism in our communities, loss of jobs or worst… And it is the exemplary punishment of the many small voices, which keeps the number of vocal critics low…until recently. There is rising anger and hostility in America against the ZPC, against its arrogant authoritarian communal attacks on our democratic values. Sooner or later there will be a major backlash – and it ill behooves those who, through vocation or conviction, engaged in the firings, censoring and intimidation campaigns against the American majority. The American people will not remember their cries of ‘anti-Semitism’ they will recall their role in sending thousands of American soldiers to their death in the Middle East in the interests of Israel.”

    Peak Oilers might want to take notice of the critical “Straits of Hormuz” on Iran’s South shore – most Arab oil passes through the “Straits.”

  4. James Howard Kunstler Says:

    The consummate one-trick pony James Howard Kunstler isn’t losing any fans, despite his nearly annual forecast of Dow 4000 to go along with his claim that the ongoing economic collapse proves he was right about Y2K (thus giving unintended meaning to the term, “long emergency”).

    Guy–
    For a guy whose predications are kinda wide of the mark, it’s not very nice of you to make sport of me. If I were less of a gentleman, I’d ask you to kiss my ass — but I’ll wish you a merry Christmas, instead.
    Cheerfully
    JHK

  5. Guy R. McPherson Says:

    Thanks for weighing in, Mr. Kunstler. You’ll note I made sport of myself before starting with anybody else. Nonetheless, I appreciate your restraint and sentiment, and wish you happy holidays as well.

  6. Doug Says:

    “It seems the evil empire will keep chugging along, despite my wishes to the contrary.”

    Be careful what you wish for, Guy. Or you just might get what you’re asking for! The “evil empire” may be the only thing holding our so-called “civilization” together and in balance at this juncture. Without the “evil empire,” you and the rest of the peak oilers who are craving collapse would probably be “toast” by now.

    Credibility and the electric grid are what keeps a blogger relevent. Kunstler’s credibility has severely eroded due to his obsession with making foolish predictions. Yours has too. Without your credibility, you’re left with only the electric grid. And when the electric grid goes… you’ll know you finally got your wish.

  7. Guy R. McPherson Says:

    Doug, I know exactly what I’m wishing for. I’ll gladly give my life to terminate the omnicidal industrial economy, as I’ve indicated many times on this blog.

  8. Craig Crosby Says:

    Gerald Spezio: Geez! Here we are having a serious conversation about important things, and all you can think about is your sick religious bigotry. Get a life.

  9. Court Says:

    My mama raised me to be polite so, in this instance at least, I’ll heed her teachings, and not crow about the fact that every single one of the good professor’s predictions are falling flat on their face. It gives me no pleasure. I’d rather you made better, useful predictions, that proved to be right.

    Well, you got the Broken Record of Doom, the Kunstler himself, to stop by. That counts for something, though I’m not sure what. I expect him to go on pathetically bleating as long as the interwebs provide equal ranting for all and purveyors of mediocre literature continue to murder masses of trees to inflict his writings upon a world already seething with drivel.

    I’ll nitpick upon only one point: why this obssessive focus on Wall Street? What difference does the relative height of the Dow Jones have to do with civilization? Isn’t the Dow Jones just a bunch of made-up electronic numbers representing some fictional conglomeration of estimates of industrial health? How, exactly, is the fate of civilization tied by a noose to a bunch of flickering numbers in New York City?

    Maybe it’s just that it was -19 when I started my car this morning, but such numbers don’t seem to have all that much bearing out here on the frozen high plains.

  10. Guy R. McPherson Says:

    Yours is a fair question, Court. The Dow (along with other indices) is a trailing indicator of collapse. It’s the ultimate measure of confidence. When the Dow drops to 4,000, it might as well be zero — all the confidence in the industrial economy has been lost at that point. The price of oil is a leading indicator — when it spikes, all kinds of economic bad news is sure to follow and, ultimately, people lose all confidence in the ultimate con game. Hyperinflation might take the Dow to 50,000 as Bernanke and Obama flood the world with dollar bills. But a far more likely scenario has the Dow dropping to 4,000 and then much, much lower. When that happens, as I’ve pointed out before, everybody working for all those suddenly worthless companies question whey they’re going to work.

  11. bubbleboy Says:

    With the state of Arizona poised to hand out IOUs instead of paychecks by February, we are offering to be the first falling domino in the nation. We sure are courteous around here. http://azstarnet.com/metro/320831

    Our only response to the budget shortfall has been attempting to mortgage the state buildings and the natural treasures. (Kartchner Caverns is on the list.)

    If anybody wants a toxic asset that can’t be foreclosed upon, let us know. -And pronto!

  12. Sidd Says:

    It’s unfortunate that reality often makes us the proverbial “boys who cry wolf” when the oncoming economic train wreck occurs in slow, rather than in fast, motion. Humanity has a tendency to try and maintain the status quo not only beyond the point where it is feassible but even beyond the point where it is even POSSIBLE. One need only look at history and a series of tribal rulars styling themselves “Emporers of Rome” long after the Roman Empire was a going concern. I’m sure the future may very well hold various incarnations of political entities with leaders styling themselves POTUS long after the US goes the way of all political flesh.

    Technological achievements which could help with a relocalized restructuring of available resources (combined with renewables) and which would lead to a future which was a hybrid of 19th and 21st century technology and logistical allocation will, instead, be plowed into trying to maintain what JHK terms “happy motoring”. In all likelihood resulting in some kind of catastrophy.

    I think it’s foolish to be too specific with regard to the timing or the form of this catastrophy. Again, looking at Rome, that whole enterprise collapsed under it’s own weight and unsustainable use of it’s resources – not to mention it’s highly unstable political structure. In the end, the Roman Legions themselves were just one (amoung many) armed groups fighting over the atrophied corpse of the empire. They centralized until they could centralize no more and then it fragmented – badly. But that fragmentation took GENERATIONS to occur.

    The executive branch (and DC by extension) engages in a similar centralization of power. Will this work when we’re forced to squeeze oil out of shale and it’s 20.00 bucks a litre at the pump? Can we have “happy motoring” then? Certainly not. But what will take it’s place? It will very likely be a long period of instability and violence and famine, etc….but saying it will happen at the end of 2010 or next week Tuesday is just foolish.

    While there will be pain before the final series of shocks it’s unlikely that it will be before the middle of this century. Not that there won’t be notable problems before then – I’m just saying that odds are stuff will unplug and unwind in fits and starts for quite some time. Wimpers, wimpers and not one big bang.

  13. Frank Mezek Says:

    Memo to 5N(Court):

    Where on the high plain are you? Last we heard from you was when you were in rural Thailand.

    I’ve warned your Uncle Guy that the downside of our still being here in 2010 was that you would crow about it.

    You’re wrong about the Dow.Psychology and symbolism is everything to the
    human mass.When we take out the previous low under 6500 it will be a catastropic psychic blow,entirely out of proportion to the mere 30 stocks in the DJIA.

  14. Guy McPherson Says:

    Court, I’ll pay attention to your criticism of Kunstler (and other professional writers, for that matter) when you’ve earned a decent living with your own writing as long as he has. If you start making a living next week, you’ll be caught up to Kunstler in 40 years or so.

  15. vertalio Says:

    Ah, predictions. Hard to say.
    Optimism might include a surge in terrible weather, a cycle that included hard storms along the coasts, chills in N. Europe as the thermohaline stream stalls, drought in SE US and Africa and the Indian sub-continent as runoff from the massif peters out…that then stabilizes for a spell without releasing too much methane. Mosquitos, of course, rampant. Great reduction of surplus apes.
    But then the collapse, at the moment of the lesson. The Correction.
    Chastised, with the great if shallow re-freeze on the poles providing albedo, we take up where we left off, minus the bankers, who we all ate back in the day.

    I say the weather thingie starts in five years, 2014, and goes to 2026 before calming.
    Human population in 2026; 560,000,000. Ouch. And not really much to eat going forward.
    Did I say optimism? Hmm.

    Do we get extra credit for using all caps, Guy? Or is that just for outliers?

  16. Court Says:

    Touche, Guy. Although by that logic, some other writers you really need to be paying attention to, since they’re making a really good living off it, not just a paltry one being a professional doomer, include Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, John Grisham, and Danielle Steele. Happy reading.

  17. Dan Treecraft Says:

    Guy – to paraphrase JHK: It’s all interesting (mostly). For you, as well as the the King of Carp himself, I find that even if the Daily Emanation isn’t utterly brilliant, the kibbitzers can be counted on to cough up something worthy of ponderance. I know that my comment falls into a cold fire, being ejaculated into the ether a week after you lit said fire, but….

    It did strike me odd that you chose to bring Court down a peg by suggesting that he needed 40 years of pay stubs in order to legitimate his written ideas. I liked his nice come-back about Ann Coulter’s success as a professional writer entitling her to serious attention by those still able to read, think, and make judgements. As if.

    That said, I’m late to your blog (six month’s) thanks to a link from EnergyBulletin or CarolynBaker (?). I don’t read it as religiously as I do Dr, Kunstler ( your emittances are less regular [it does seem to affect our own attendance]), but I do have you flagged on my “favorites” list, and do manage to read most of your postings, AND I enjoy and appreciate your perspective. Not much you think or say that I disagree with other than that I have less hope than you do – that our species has a fair shot at a comeback. Opposable thumbs, maybe – but so much extra-capacity grey matter on top of primitive mammal and reptile brain structures — god help the species left standing after we’ve played this all out, if any of our kind are still around. It’ll be deja vu all over again.

    Animal nature, with so much neural overcapacity, will come up with the same kinds of hell (OK – very roughly so), if we manage to sneak through the needle’s eye before us. Why wouldn’t it? Well…. Darwin got it. E.O. Wilson gets it. Wile E. Coyote didn’t get it. We’re outta here – ‘cept nobody knows quite when. We all do seem to love to make predictions though. Neils Bohr learned his lesson. Roughly: “I’ve learned, after some bad experience, not to make predictions – especially when they have anything to do with the future”, (roughly, I said).

    I never noticed Dan Quinn or Derrick Jensen were so optimistic about our squeezing a few gametes through the eye of the needle. That’s probably because i can barely read, and don’t usually make it all the way to what Tim Bennett refers to as “The Happy Chapter”. You’ve got to have some sort of Happy Chapter if you’re going to collect and hold a following. Martin King beckoned that bullet to his head with his own sort of brilliant, poetic “Bring it!”. A courageous American Martyr, if ever there was. And, as persuasively as anyone in the last couple millennia, he caused people to believe there was a rainbow ay the end of the pot of suffering. Aside from being an atheist – still, I just don’t get it – how our kind might be around for another 10,000 years. We aren’t sustainable. We’re to GD clever. We’ll unwind whatever good things Nature leaves sitting out in the yard, no matter how much education anyone tries to pound into a human skull. If we were ever going to LEARN, it would have happened at least a few dozen empires back. Don’t we imagine that a few Mayans or Easter Islanders were socially mal-adjusted enough to see utter doom coming before the last bit of paradise was converted into detritus?

    I dunno about you-all, but i still own and drive a car, and a truck-with-a-two-ton-brush-chipper-attached, and two motor scooters, and as many chain saws as I can keep out of the clutches of the unemployed scavenging class. Ninety-nine percent of my grub comes from the two grocery stores in our hood. My wife still files and pays her IRS protection money. We can’t save “Society”. It’s gonna be part of the bouncing rubble one day. But, yes, “one day” is an unknowably far date, out there somewhere.

    Kunstler’s LONG EMERGENCY first tacked me. Then I watched Sally Eickson & Tim Bennett’s ‘WHAT A WAY TO GO!”, and finally got to Bill Catton’s OVERSHOOT a year or so ago. Catton’s essay “The Problem of Denial” then got me obsessed with that topic. I decided a few weeks ago, to prepare a talk on “Denial”, for a little “informal” study group i belong to. At first, I foolishly griped to my wife about how little there was, written about the subject of denial. Well, Howdy! – there’s all a body would ever want to read on the subject. It’s just not at the top of the “PBS News-Hour With Jim Lerher” table of contents. Or within 500 feet of any dentist’s waiting room coffee table. The subject of human denial, and its supporting cast, has to be one of the loneliest subjects in any kingdom on the planet. My presentation is tomorrow night ( 12/15/09 ), and I’m still finding articles and examples of how we are able to either delude ourselves or let it be done to us.

    Smart as we are, we’re completely out-gunned, as a species, as a society, in the contest between rational thinking and emotional action. gOD help the planet’s other creatures if any part of our kind survives the sudden deceleration at the bottom of the falls.

    I don’t hate our kind, any more than most people hate their children. I just don’t know what to besides warn them and watch what happens. ( If I have any children – they never call or write. ) I’m so smug.

    Keep it up, Guy, et al. Every fire ought to have a few good fiddlers! I enjoy the heqque out of it!

    Awaiting your moderation…

    Dan


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