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Page added on June 29, 2012
There is a new book out this summer called, ‘Too Much Magic, Wishful Thinking, Technology And The Fate Of The Nation’ by James Howard Kunstler. The book deals with American’s core belief technology can solve all our problems and how this is at odds with the future of energy supplies. Kunstler, a believer in Peak Oil and Peak Capital, writes that our industrial society as we know it is about to undergo significant and radical reorganization due to the end of cheap and abundant oil and an upcoming lack of capital needed to maintain our standard of living.
His views are not a popular or a welcomed position in America today. Given how gritty his message is, it’s a good bet Kunstler will not be a New York Times Bestseller #1 non-fiction author anytime soon. But his views about the future appear more and more to being validated by current events.
Kunstler has written before about the predicted end of the golden age of oil throughout modern industrial societies along with the problems of suburban sprawl and America’s endless Happy Motoring car culture. In 2005, he published, “The Long Emergency” and the prior “Geography of Nowhere” in which he began to introduce the idea about how changes to the way we live would be determined more and more by upcoming limits to long term energy supplies.
He believes, “American suburban sprawl will prove to be one of the greatest mis-allocations of wealth in the history of the modern world.” He has written about the same topic in the form of several non-fiction works, “The Witch of Hebron” and “World Made By Hand”.
In his new book, “Too Much Magic”, Kunstler updates his prior writings on Peak Oil stating how Americans long held ill-conceived belief new technologies can always conquer our problems is leading us into a period of great denial and subsequent anger. He covers the current financial crisis of the last several years in the U.S. and Europe as further evidence of capital destruction due to cheap financial credit and reckless complex financial derivatives and shows its relationship to energy supplies.
Kunstler writes this underlying destruction of our financial markets is resulting in serious upcoming capital shortages just at the time we need to be investing in rebuilding our railroad, mass transit and water transportation systems. Such transportation systems he argues are far less oil dependent than trucking or cars and because of this, they will be a key part of our future. Instead of such actions taking place, he believes we are receiving instead a barrage of feel good messages that technology and energy independence will solve all our problems.
He points to rapid changes throughout the European euro financial community including Greece France and Spain as to what the future might be as limits to economic growth increasingly become hard stop realities. He believes much of the civil strife occurring in Europe will soon become a fact of life here in America and for the same reasons.
He writes about how shale gas and shale oil along with tar sands are oversold and over-hyped while ignoring the realities of high extraction costs, rapidly depleting shale gas production rates, massive water use and massive capital use all of which is flying in the face of an upcoming era of capital scarcity. He believes the current shale gas industry claims are a great example of the innately American belief new technology conquers all even as the numbers do not add up.
The recent financial meltdown and ongoing scandals at Chesapeake Energy certainly give credence to the view all is not well within the shale gas industry.
He points out how much of the green renewable energy resources is another false promise of technology as solar, wind and geothermal all lack the ability to scale to the point of becoming serious energy resources. He does this at the same time he notes that Canadian Tar Sands, the BP Gulf of Mexico ultra-deep water drilling disaster, shale gas and coal bed methane are all increasing economically marginal to non-viable and evidence cheap and abundant oil and gas is now a thing of the past.
Kunstler believes as a result of these energy limitations, our political and economic systems and the way we live will be forced to undergo radical change. The results he writes, of these continued long term economic contractions are producing the anger and denial within American society today in our political landscape as these changes are now slowly coming down upon us.
Kunstler’s message is uncomfortable and he rankles many as he is quick to point out energy reality is not American’s feel good therapist. It’s anyone’s guess as to how accurate regarding the future might be or when things might begin to change. He understands he is not the mainstream view of things today.
Yet his new book and his prior works are worth the read. Throughout his work, he offers the surprisingly positive idea an energy limited future might well bring about many of the things the nation at large claims to crave as in less fiercely aggressive capitalism, less militarism, stronger senses of community and generally reduced levels of stress as we end up being forced by new energy realities into simplifying how we live and interact with others.
Disclaimer: The author of this article does not hold any U.S. securities in any type of energy development company. He is not a member of any environmental or any anti-fracking groups and he does not have any financial arrangements with any of the entities or individuals listed in this article.