Category Archives: end of the world

Apocalypse Soon

gucci-louis-vuitton-diddo-gas-masks-1

Many of us in Nashville are getting a good laugh at the news that a survivalist company, called (hilariously) “4Patriots,” is opening its doors in the upscale, hipster neighborhood known as 12South. We’re all having a good time imagining shelves stocked with artisanal MRE’s, Chanel chemical toilets, or Gucci and Louis Vuitton gas masks such as those picture above (real, but created as an art project).

But we keed, we keed. This shop is the real deal, despite its location near hipster watering holes like Urban Grub, artisanal ice cream shop Jeni’s, and Reese Witherspoon’s new preppy clothing shop, Draper James. It’s a weird choice of locations, I must say. I can’t imagine following my stop at the Cupcake ATM and the hip homewares shop owned by Hank Williams Jr.’s ex-fashion model daughter to a place selling “survival food rated to last 25 years” (and it’s Glenn Beck certified, so you know it’s good!)

Maybe I shouldn’t worry. After all, it’s “by patriots, FOR patriots,” which means it’s definitely not for candy-assed liberal capitulators such as myself. (I love the testimonial from “Mark,” who says he now feels more able to feed his family in a time of crisis, and only wishes he could afford more of them. Ummm ….. )

I don’t get any of this, I never have. Certainly not in a city like Nashville. I sorta get it for people who live out in the sticks, where one ice storm or tornado can cut you off from the real world for a few days. I do not get the “patriots hiding in a bunker” BS. What kind of paranoia makes someone think they need to set by a 25-year supply of dehydrated soup? I guess the kind of paranoia the guy hawking the desiccated foodstuffs in the first place is selling, with ludricous claims about FEMA trying to buy out his supplier because,

I think that the government knows something we don’t and is worried that they see a full-scale disaster about to hit. And I think I found the factors that will trigger it.

Okay, whatevs, dude.

When I was growing up in the ’70s I remember my mom setting aside a couple of 50-gallon bottles of water in our garage, the kind that go in an office water cooler. And then she started saving cans of tuna fish. Whenever we asked her what this was for she’d answer, “for the revolution.” Interestingly, I’ve talked to several friends my age, and they all say their parents did the same thing around that time. Maybe it was the Arab Oil Embargo and the campus anti-war protests. Somehow, our parents’ generation seemed convinced the end was near.

And I do sort of get it for that generation. Mom was born in 1930. She was a Depression baby in every regard. Her teenage years were colored by World War II and all of the rationing that came with it. These were people raised on hardship and bread lines. So sure, I can see lines at the gas station and Kent State sending the message that maybe it’s time to stock up.

But now? Why now? What makes people think that now is the time to prepare for the apocalypse? Is it our pop culture? “The Walking Dead” and 9/11 and all that? Is it the paranoia of right-wing talk radio?

Let me give you “4Patriots” people some advice. Forty years after my mom set cans of tuna fish on a dusty shelf in our garage, my sister and I were throwing all of that crap away as we readied the family home for sale. We never used it. The tuna fish outlived both my parents. The revolution never happened and the apocalypse didn’t come. Hell, we lived in Southern California — we didn’t even need to crack a water bottle because of a goddamned earthquake! I suspect in 30 years your own kids will be tossing this stuff in a dumpster too, shaking their heads at the folly of mom and dad.

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>Musings On $100/Barrel

>Those futures traders are so cute! It’s just like playing Monopoly:

Crude oil futures for February delivery hit $100 on the New York Mercantile Exchange shortly after noon when a single trader bid up the price by buying a modest lot and then sold it immediately at a small loss. Prices eased somewhat in later trading, settling at $99.62.

But while the trader was apparently looking for vanity bragging rights, the spike in crude prices of $3.64 for the day reflected deeper worldwide trends, including the surge in energy demand from China, India and the oil-producing countries themselves.

Aww. Bless his/her heart! I tell ya, that’s one for the grandkids, alright! Or maybe, one for eBay:

Of the trader who sent oil to $100 in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Gheit added, “He’s probably going to frame the ticket and sell it on eBay for $100,000.”

Sure, why not? It’s not like this stuff matters, or anything. It’s not like what happens on the New York Mercantile Exchange has any effect on real people. It’s all fake, right? Free hand of the market, wheee!

Am I the only one thinking these Wall Street folks are as out of touch as the Washington press corps?

Anyway, those annoying Henny Pennies over at Peak Oil have been sending me dire “How to survive $100/Barrel” screeds for months. Now that it’s actually here, I thought I’d see what they have to say:

$100 oil in itself is no big deal – its 1% higher than $99 oil. But it serves as a milestone reminder that the future is likely to be less ‘easy’, and perhaps dictated by new rules. Questions abound: will high prices bring about more production? Will high prices begin a “hoarding” phenomenon among exporters and producers? Will $100+ oil spur energy alternatives with the scale and quality of energy dense crude oil? Is this even possible? Will society start to realize the dichotomy between natural capital and financial capital? Will $100 oil reduce demand in developing countries? Will OECD oil-importing countries (like the US) take the lead on changing the cultural carrot of consumption that drives energy use?

That last question is the biggie. That “cultural carrot of consumption” keeps our economy afloat. Everything is predicated on getting people to buy an increasing amount of stuff, and the juice driving this engine is oil. As people pay more for oil, they’ll buy less stuff.

If we had half a brain we’d be preparing for this bumpy road, maybe figuring out how to use less oil and investing some serious time and money into non-carbon fuels, the ballyhooed “Apollo project for energy.” That would be nice but it won’t happen. Because our government is run by the oil companies, and they have no interest in transitioning the economy away from a centralized resource they control from oil field to gas pump to an energy source that everyone has access to, like wind, solar or even biofuels.

Because we’re about to get our asses kicked in a hellacious recession, which means oil prices will stabilize, temporarily, as we go into panic mode. By then we’ll be thinking $80/barrel is a steal, in the same way that I filled up on $2.86/gallon this morning and fleetingly thought it was a bargain.

And then things get worse:

There is absolutely no reason why oil will stay at $100 a barrel or anything close.

To emphasize how well the world’s economy is doing at the minute, the Journal points out that the IEA in Paris sees world oil demand in the fourth quarter rising by 2.3 million b/d over last year to nearly 88 million b/d.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that in August 2007 world production (all liquids) was estimated by the IEA to be 84.6 million b/d down by 854,000 b/d from August 2006. In 2006, and so far in 2007, world production has been just about 85 million b/d, some 3 million b/d less than we are forecast to consume in the current quarter.

We could of course take the extra 3 million b/d out of the world’s stockpiles, which would then be dropping by 90 million barrels a month — not really a long-term solution. Will OPEC bail us out with a 500,000 b/d increase in production? Could be, but considering that 140,000 b/d of that increase is supposed to come from Venezuela, where production has been stagnant for years, I wouldn’t count on it.

So there you have it. From the perspective of imminent peak oil, $100 oil is not something to weather for a while. It is merely a milestone on the way to still higher prices. The Journal’s bold conclusion that we can handle $100 “quite well” may be perfectly true, until you ask “then what?” and the only possible answer is higher and higher prices.

Somewhere the bubble will burst, for at the close of every day, the world’s oil reserves are 85 million barrels smaller and smaller and smaller ….

And somewhere a NYMEX trader has a souvenir of the day the big unraveling began.

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>Apocalypse Wow!

>It’s the end of the world as we know it, if some folks have their way. On the Conservative Christian end we have church leaders like Pastor John Hagee, convinced we must restore the Jewish people to the Holy Land so Jesus will return on a white cloud:

Pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio and a world-reknowned TV evangelist, [Pastor John] Hagee organized the lobbying blitz (the second in two years) to try to exert political power in Middle East policy, including consideration of a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

Scary stuff, especially when you remember that Pastor Hagee has the ear of the White House, and he’s leading them right where they want to go. Hagee wrote a book about how an invasion of Iran was prophesied in the Book of Esther, and he’s doing his darnedest to make sure it happens on his watch. Yikes.

On the left side of the aisle, I’m getting inundated with scary e-mails warning of a pending apocalypse due to Peak Oil, President Bush’s Presidential Directive #51, FEMA’s REX-84 plan, etc. Either way, civilization as we know it is over, get yourself educated on permaculture, buy some land out in the country, move to Canada. etc.

Someone pass the popcorn.

Once upon a time we had crackpot evangelists predicting the end of the world at every turn. The Jehova’s Witnesses have made nine apocalyptic predictions, none of which happened. Maybe they’ve given up. In the ‘80s one Christian leader said the Africanized or “killer” bees dominating the news at that time were a sign of the Rapture. This year we had some Christians saying the massive, worldwide die-off of honeybees are a sign of the Apocalypse.

Anyone remember Edgar Whisenant and his “88 Reasons” why the Rapture would be in 1988? And 1989 … and 1993 and 1994 … Give it up, buddy.

I love my liberal friends but I wish they’d quit telling me all the reasons why Peak Oil is real and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. The world has run out of oil, they say, and because the world is dependent on oil, there will be massive riots, food and water shortages, chaos in the streets, etc. It’s “Mad Max” without a cute guy in leather. These are some of the most hopeless voices of despair I’ve heard; at least the Christians are telling me I can get to heaven if I repent.

Now I’m getting hysterical e-mails from friends telling me about how President Bush is going to declare martial law, after finding a reason to invade Iran. Excuse me if you’ve heard this one before … in Oct. 2006 (the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007) … in 2005 (bird flu) ….in 2004 (elections cancelled) … in 2002 (internment camps) … Etc. etc.

I no more buy these dire predictions than I believe the Rapture is imminent, or would be if only we’d invade Iran, prompting nuclear annihilation so the handful of Jews left on the planet could return to the Promised Land … and convert to Christianity. Apocalypse, fuck yeah! It’s the awesomest!

Tell me, does any of this make sense to anyone? Who thinks that Mr. Commander Guy Of 27% has enough support anywhere in this country to seize control of the government and declare martial law, rounding up the liberals and placing them in internment camps? That’s just silly.

I think we’re so programmed for fear in this country that we’re starting to go a little nuts. The news media is telling us to be scared of everything, including our shadows. I mean, for crying out loud, two weeks ago I saw a TV news report warning in ominous tones how running might be dangerous for your kids! Running!

Come on, people. Calm down. The apocalypse ain’t comming any time soon.

And if I’m wrong, you are all free to mock me until the end of day(s).

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