Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Intractable Land

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this. Oil prices will rise to $200 a barrel by 2010. Americans will be paying European prices - $7 a gallon. Jeff Rubin forecasts 10 million few vehicles on the roads and a massive drop in miles driven. The poor won't have cars at all. This being only two years away, there will be no time for new public transport infrastructure to be built and new fuel technologies will not make much of a difference - the latest American hybrids are not fuel efficient by world standards. Rubin's $200 a barrel will be wrong, of course, but significantly higher oil prices in the long term seem likely. 
Flying from Los Angeles to St George I saw nothing but desert, the few towns - settlements would be more accurate - being connected by just one road. If American mobility is to decrease rapidly, then the isolation of these places will be intensified. I spoke to one local woman about what it is like to be surrounded by endless desert. 'We don't think about it,' she said. They will very soon. This is about to become a more intractable land.


  1. I'll be moving to a new apartment in August, strategically located next to a mass transit depot.

    Moreso than these little desert towns will be the impact on exurban dwellers and their long daily commutes to the office. Especially in CA, where so many people have bought property inland from Los Angeles just to be able to afford a house.

    You don't mention the impact this will have on the political viability of the environmental movement in the US. Your friend Obama and the Dems still refuse to drill for oil in the coastal offshore regions. They will be toast if they don't change their tune.

  2. The link to the One eyed one is not working. Nor is it working on his own page.

  3. I saw three cities on my recent trip to the States: Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque. From the air, each appeared as a gridlike fungul growth, encroaching across a barren expanse, and nestling beneath an arid mountainous panorama. If one were to classify these cities in biological terms, they would be deemed extremophiles; examples of life subsisting and developing in hostile climates and ecosystems.

    Transport is one thing, but it strikes me that life in these places, in the metallically and plastically burgeoning sense of a modern city, is only palatable because of air conditioning and artificial irrigation systems. All of which are ultimately dependent upon, (nuclear power notwithstanding), fossil fuels.

    The future is adobe.

  4. Read James Howard Kunstler's "The Long Emergency"; possibly the bleakest book i've read in my entire life.
    This will get much worse before 2010. Matt Simmons (a former white house adviser and author of The coming Saudi oil shock), recently said oil will be higher than $500 a barrel by 2010. Even $500 he thinks is very cheap compared to world oil supplies, which in his opinion, peaked back in 2005.

  5. There could be a way out- the other week I was watching the institutionally smug BBC America and the very smug Matt Frei had a special report on lessons Cuba might have for America. The lesson was: donkeys and carts. There was no trace of irony, something for which we Britons are supposed to be celebrated.

  6. Hmm, lessee. Americans will be paying the same price in the future for petrol that Europeans pay now. Thus poor Americans won't have cars.

    Why? I've not noted that poor Europeans don't have cars.....

  7. Hey, how's that whole $7 a gallon, $200 a barrel thing working out?

    My advice is to be more selective in your choice of sages.