By James Howard Kunstler
Everywhere I go these days, talking about the global energy predicament on the college lecture circuit or at environmental conferences, I hear an increasingly shrill cry for "solutions." This is just another symptom of the delusional thinking that now grips the nation, especially among the educated and well-intentioned.
I say this because I detect in this strident plea the desperate wish to keep our "Happy Motoring" utopia running by means other than oil and its byproducts. But the truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used French-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system – or even a fraction of these things – in the future. We have to make other arrangements.
The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. These systems can be listed concisely:
The way we produce food
The way we conduct commerce and trade
The way we travel
The way we occupy the land
The way we acquire and spend capital
And there are others: governance, health care, education and more.
As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble.