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Our energy future? ‘Too Much Magic & Wishful Thinking’

Our energy future? ‘Too Much Magic & Wishful Thinking’ thumbnail

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.


17 Comments on "Our energy future? ‘Too Much Magic & Wishful Thinking’"

  1. BillT on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 1:48 am 

    Kunstler has a firm grasp on reality and this book should tie the oil/financial threads together as one relies on the other and both are failing. Yes, the Us is headed for 3rd world status and living. Nothing else will be possible. Anyone who can turn away from the propaganda machine called television and use the internet to find out what is really happening in the world, will soon see the same picture. Only those deep in denial will plug their ears and go “Nananananana…I can’t hear you!”

  2. James on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 2:30 am 

    I am going out to buy the book.

  3. DC on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 3:11 am 

    Why wouldnt his book become a best seller? Even in amerika there is still a market for reality based non-fiction, I think his book will do just fine. Sure, bloomberg, the NYT, the Wall St. Urinal wont give it glowing reviews(or maybe any reviews at all), or buy many copies, but so what?

    Could use a better title though. Im sure it will be a good book, but the title…not his best!

  4. Ham on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 3:37 am 

    Hirsch said recently that $50 trillion is invested in the the Global oil economy. Industrial economy wants to cling to the fantasy of ever more. JHK is right, there is only the prospect of a decline. There is absolutely no way the bonanza of gambling and ponzi can salvage the enormous amounts of energy we currently consume. The evidence is everyday in the mainstream media: unfortunately this message is being distorted by a litany of Alice in Wonderland nonsense. This is an antidote to all the Polyanna deluded thinking we being bombarded with.

  5. Stephen on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 5:44 am 

    I think we will have to bring people together and make some very hard decisions on what to keep, what to scale down, and rethink the motion of putting corporate profits and mass scale marketing ahead of quality of life at home. Over time, we will need to change our economic policy, and rethink the motions of extreme austerity, putting money toward retraining citizens for the new reality, and investing in relocalizing, local farming, and a good quality of life while reducing consumption of resources. Ultimately, if we leave everything to the marketplace, the fate will be far worse than if we think and implement outside the box. I also think a debt jubilee, and one that doesn’t make a person lose everything they own will be nessecary, as well as tax changes, subsidy changes, and a rethink of what money is spent on.

  6. BillT on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 6:26 am 

    Stephan, I agree that those things should be done, but do you really think there is a snowball’s chance in hell of it happening? I don’t. I see a very nasty few decades ahead as the dumbed down population wakes up to their fate and tries to change it with force. That will be met with even more force from the military until it all regresses down to every person for themselves somewhere down the line.

    When the polls say that more people believe in flying saucers and aliens than believe in evolution, we have problems. A once great country made the wrong turn in 1913 (Federal Reserve) and then another in the 70s when we ignored Carter’s warning that we had to change. Now I think it is too late for any about face short of revolution.

  7. Charlie Bucket on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 1:50 pm 

    BillT – There is no doubt it is too late! And frankly, I work in a cubicle, and wouldn’t mind if the whole thing came crashing down tomorrow. Seriously, modern day amerikan life has become completely meaningless!

  8. Bernz223 on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 3:36 pm 

    Shut the hell up BillT you keep posting the same crap over and over again especially all the so called “positive” articles saying they have no credability. Hows you third world hell you live in. Man I just want to bash your face in if I ever met you. Old man isn’t it your time to die as you stop sucking up resources you useless eater.

  9. Grover Lembeck on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 4:51 pm 

    Wow, Bernz223- people speaking the truth get you kind of bent out of shape, don’t they? BillT decided to go somewhere that life is meaningful and people look out for each other. I think the U.S.A. is going to be far more hellish than the Philippines in a few years, due to our lack of close personal ties. I think that BillT is the one you should be listening to, not people trying to blow yet another investment bubble.

    An speaking personally, you really ought to relax a little. Maybe try decaf.

  10. Hubbertsfreak on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 5:46 pm 

    Bernz, jeez. BillT is consistently on the money. Sometimes I skip the article and go straigt to his comments.

  11. Bernz223 on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 8:04 pm 

    Yeah BillT is sure on the money all the time. Is he any way connected with the oil industry? No he is one of those arm chair generals who shouldnt lead troops into battle and certainly shouldn’t talk about this subject like he has any authority cause he doesen’t.

  12. BillT on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 1:34 am 

    Bernz223, I happen to enjoy my 3rd world living. It is not that different from the way you probably live. I shop in a mall, eat food from all over the world, see the latest movies, etc. I plan to move into the country in the next few years and slow my life even farther. Here, my age is respected, and I am valued for the person I am, not what I own, or co-own with some bank.

    I also enjoy living in the real world, and if things do not happen to get as bad as I think they will, I will be pleasantly surprised, not blindsided. You really should chill out. It’s bad for your heart. I’m 68 and in very good health, physically and mentally. I lived all the years since the end of WW2 with my eyes open. Have you?

  13. Norm on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 8:25 am 

    HEY Bernz223. Stop pickin on BillT. Its clear enough that BillT is posting like crazy with gloom & doom on this website almost everyday. But your post was downright violent and thats just wrong. This is the peak oil website. What else do you expect, but people will object on this website to the ‘ever more goodies’ presumption of todays society. If you dont want Bill T’s viewpoint suggest spend your time at Wal-Mart and Costco shareholders meetings. And hey Bernz223, ‘if I ever met you’ I will put you to work in our hippy commune kitchen you are gonna get to sort out our garbage and separate the banana peels from the empty soup cans.

  14. Arthur on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 12:17 pm 

    Kunstler is a member of The Tribe, albeit with a low, who I actually like. Maybe a little bit foul-mouthed at times, but at least he knows what he is talking about and is a good speaker and educator and anti-imperial, which makes him an ‘outlier’ within his community, that in general has the idea that the survival of the planet depends on America in general and their tribe in particular, like this clown:

    The reviewer says: “much of the civil strife occurring in Europe will soon become a fact of life here in America”

    That’s baloney. Except for Greece, a total basket case, and to a lesser extent Spain, there is zero ‘civil strife’ here in Europe and certainly nothing like the scenes we have witnessed in the US with the Coccupy Movement, last year. On average the debt levels in Europe are on average lower than in the US and the situation is addressed in Europe by austerity measures, unlike the US, which keeps borrowing like a madman (because the elites refuse to give up on their unsustainable empire idea). Yes, the news is full with crisis headlines, but on the street it is largely business as usual, although folks have become more prudent vis-a-vis large new financial commitments. The housing market in Holland for instance is flat on it’s face as the number of transactions is approaching zero. But in general unemployment is relatively low in northern Europe.

  15. rpm3165 on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 2:03 pm 


    No civil unrest in England in 2011 under the March Anti-cut protests or the riots which followed in August 2011 which resulted in five deaths and estimated £200 million worth of property damage?

    No protests in Portugal in 2011 by Geração à Rasca as in Portugese for the ‘desperate generation’?

    No street protests in Ireland during their financial crisis of 2008 and on?

    No recent history of economic protests in France from farmers, truckers or university students?

    Are the countries of England, Portugal, Ireland and France not part of Europe?

    As in you say its baloney about civil unrest in Europe due to financial conditions except as we all know for Greece, Spain, England, Portugal, Ireland and France.

    Should we assume if Swiss and Dutch are all not up in arms its all cool over in the EU?

  16. Arthur on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 2:40 pm 

    Bernz223, you are a violent fool. Please don’t take it personal. Why don’t you go play at the Fox News forum, if any?

  17. Arthur on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 3:56 pm 

    rpm3165, I do not consider Britain European. They don’t consider themselves European, so why should we Continentals do? Next time they will destroy Europe with the Chinese if they get the chance, like they did last time with the Soviets and Americans.

    The French protest all the time, nothing new. Maybe the Portugese had a march or two. There is nothing like turmoil let alone revolutionary circumstances, only maybe in Greece. Spain and certainly Greece are different as I already said earlier.

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