James Howard Kunstler is a current doom & gloom celebrity. As a “Peak Oil” prognosticator, he has a big following. His credibility comes from his ability to write in a compelling manner. And it comes from the fact that what he has predicted appears to be coming true.
If we are indeed in the beginning stages of a Peak Oil crisis (what Kunstler refers to as the “Long Emergency”), life as we have known it in the industrialized west is, undoubtedly, going to change. Actually, I think it already is changing. Will it change as radically as Kunstler postulates? Probably not. But if it’s half as bad, it’s going to be significant. And, like I said, the guy appears to be right on so far.
In a recent editorial in “The Daily Reckoning” Kunstler writes about the flooding in Iowa and equates it to a “wet version of the 1930s Dust Bowl.” He predicts changes coming to agriculture. Here is an excerpt:
[We currently have] an agribusiness model of farming cranked up on the steroids of cheap oil and cheap natural-gas-based fertilizer. Both of these "inputs" have recently entered the realm of the non-cheap. Oil-and-gas-based farming had already reached a crisis stage before the flood of Iowa. Diesel fuel is a dollar-a-gallon higher than gasoline. Natural gas prices have doubled over the past year, sending fertilizer prices way up. American farmers are poorly positioned to reform their practices. All that cheap fossil fuel masks a tremendous decay of skill in husbandry. The farming of the decades ahead will be a lot more complicated than just buying x-amount of "inputs" (on credit) to be dumped on a sterile soil growth medium and spread around with giant diesel-powered machines.You can read the whole editorial at this link: ”Status Quo-Oh” by James Howard Kunstler
Like a lot of other activities in American life these days, agribusiness is unreformable along its current lines. It will take a convulsion to change it, and in that convulsion it will be dragged kicking-and-screaming into a new reality. As that occurs, the U.S. public will have to contend with more than just higher taco chip prices. We're heading into the Vale of Malthus - Thomas Robert Malthus, the British economist-philosopher who introduced the notion that eventually world population would overtake world food production capacity. Malthus has been scorned and ridiculed in recent decades, as fossil fuel-cranked farming allowed the global population to go vertical. Techno-triumphalist observers who should have known better attributed this to the "green revolution" of bio-engineering. Malthus is back now, along with his outriders: famine, pestilence, and war.
We're headed, it seems, toward a fall "crunch time," and that crunching sound will not be of cheez doodles and taco chips consumed on the sofas of America. I think we're heading into a season of hoarding. As the presidential campaign moves into its final round, Americans may be hard-up for both food and gasoline. On the oil scene, the next event on the horizon is not just higher prices but shortages. Chances are, they will occur first in the Southeast states because oil exports from Mexico and Venezuela feeding the Gulf of Mexico refineries are down more than 30 percent over 2007.