Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2008 - 00:43:32

As Planet Earth struggles with ecological damage, America's appetite remains insatiable
By Michael Payne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 4, 2008, 00:12

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

Recently I watched the movie "Wall Street" in which Gordon Gekko, the ruthless and greedy corporate raider, proclaims that "greed is good". This great movie caused me to reflect on just how our nation and our society now seem to be completely under the spell of extreme materialism and rampant consumerism. Warnings abound relative to the escalating threat of global warming and the specter of huge petroleum shortages (Peak Oil) likely to happen to our planet in the near future.

But we in America, in particular, continue with our habits of non-stop consuming and wastefulness, seemingly oblivious and uncaring relative to the dangers that will face us far sooner than we can now imagine.

Planet Earth has now been ravaged by the effects of 6.2-plus billion humans that have ravenously fed on its resources and this has resulted in widespread pollution and contamination. This increasingly deteriorating situation shows no sign of letting up any time soon. Of all the damaging effects upon our planet, none have been more damaging and harmful than the excessive and wasteful habits and lifestyles of we Americans. In this regard, this society is head and shoulders above the rest of the world and yet we almost seem to be flaunting this very troubling, unflattering reputation, as witnessed by our government's continual refusal to be a part of any serious world efforts to curb harmful emissions into the atmosphere or to provide any leadership in serious programs of conservation.

The majority of Americans have been totally conditioned and brainwashed to the degree that we now, as a society, fully accept our role as highly motivated, programmed consumers. We have developed into constant consumers with a voracious appetite that wants more and more; an appetite that, unfortunately, also results in associated unnecessary and irresponsible debt.

I honestly do not think that there is much of anything that this society will do to change its ways because to do that, considering the long way that we have now come on this wrong road, would require fairly radical change and dedicated sacrifice. That is just not likely to happen, especially since we have national leaders and the corporate-controlled media that are masters at beating the drums to motivate us to shop until we drop -- so that we can help to increase already bloated corporate profits and keep this non-manufacturing economy functioning by using smoke and mirrors and by financial manipulations rather than by producing real products for export.

But, I can envision a new dimension entering our lives in which other forces and planetary conditions may well cause a change in our lifestyles for the better -- and it will be accomplished whether we take part or not and then we will become merely passengers heading into new directions. I believe that this will come about when we are literally forced to make these necessary changes that are simply critical to our future, as well as the future of the world community and this planet -- by forces over which we will have no control.

Here is how Peak Oil will transform this planet and the American society:

Most of the world's prominent geologists and petroleum experts now acknowledge that Peak Oil, that time when the world's demand for petroleum will overwhelm total production capacities, is now looming on our horizon and will occur in the very near future, possibly by the year 2012. When Peak Oil actually manifests itself the lifestyles of every nation and people on this planet will change -- slowly at first and then quite dramatically. And America, the nation that consumes about 22 percent of all petroleum produced in the world, will bear the brunt of this phenomenon's effects.

There are, of course, many doubters and detractors that argue vehemently that those that promote the idea that Peak Oil is inevitable are loonies and doomsayers; that the entire world should totally ignore them and "carry on business as usual." Well, let's consider that the worldwide demand for petroleum is about 85 million barrels per day -- and the world oil production has been running at just about the same rate. So we now seem to have parity between demand and production. However, the world demand is expected to continue to rapidly escalate, largely due to the enormous growth of the economies of China, India and other nations, while production is reaching its peak. There are little to no discoveries of new reserves and the threat of sabotage and military confrontations is a constant threat to supply.

Therefore, in this writing I will proceed with the premise that Peak Oil is truly a reality and that it is inevitable, because the majority of the research that I have seen most definitely supports it. Since I know far more about America than the world community of nations, I will concentrate on just how Peak Oil will impact America, our entire economy and our daily lives.

I want to make it clear that I do not believe that Peak Oil will bring complete chaos to America and the world. The fact is that as demand for petroleum outstrips production, the impact will be steady and constantly increasing; something that we will not be able to just shake off and do business as usual. It will be pervasive, it will not go away, it will demand that we change our habits, lifestyles and will affect everything we do.

As Peak Oil evolves the impact will be felt in the majority of the nations on our planet. The only nations that will not be severely affected by this atrophy of the production capacity will be the major oil producing nations who, of course, will guarantee their own supply before they worry about maintaining exports and profits as they fully comprehend the scope of the problem. A November 30, 2007, report issued by the investment firm Lehman brothers indicated that: "Consumption of oil in countries that are members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, should grow 4.4 percent to 370,000 barrels per day in 2008, putting the producer group behind only China in terms of incremental demand growth."

After the initial shock of Peak Oil, oil-dependent nations will quickly respond by reviewing their agreements with oil-producing sources and will immediately try to make up any shortfalls by negotiating new agreements. Oil-producing nations will be swamped by suitors of all kinds and the ensuing negotiations and agreements that emerge, based upon various geopolitical factors, cannot be predicted. China, in particular, has already been very active in cementing new oil agreements in Africa and South America. The U.S. has taken a completely different course by making itself a dominant, occupying force in Iraq with the goal of controlling the petroleum resources of that entire Middle East region.

As many of the oil-producing nations use more oil themselves and guarantee their own supply, it will have an immediate effect upon the fleets of oil tankers plying the oceans that form the supply chain to the U.S. and other nations of the world. The current number of tankers in the entire world fleet is around 3,500 -- they, collectively, transport about 43 million barrels of oil per day (mbpd) which is about half of the daily world demand of 85 mbpd. This massive traffic will begin to slow down -- it will not shut down by any means, but the effect will be a de-escalating one on supply, as Peak Oil steadily becomes a stark reality.

As this process continues to develop, there will be increasing interruptions of petroleum shipments to our nation that will have a direct, damaging effect on land transportation in our nation. The initial impact will be on our giant trucking industry wherein millions of commercial trucks carry every imaginable type of product over our extensive interstate and local transportation systems; trucks that, collectively, travel about 90 billion miles annually. The current massive China to Wal-Mart supply chain that exists via ocean shipments and interstate transport will begin a steady decline. All of the big-box retailers, indeed the entire retail sector of the economy, will be dealt a direct blow because they are so overly dependent upon imported goods.

One recent article predicated that our society will once again begin to look like the society of the 1950s when life was simpler, slower paced and far less consumer-driven. In the upcoming scenario our supermarkets won't be so super. Instead of choosing between the huge numbers of different cereals, breads, canned goods and many, many other products currently on the shelves, our choices will be far simpler as the offerings will shrink drastically. Far fewer trucks will clog our highway system and railroads will re-emerge as a major, far less expensive way to move goods. The era of suburban sprawl and the 100-mile round trip daily auto commute will begin to dry up. High school seniors won't be driving their own cars to schools and the four to five-car family will disappear. Soccer moms will get far more rest, as their hectic delivery schedules of kids to all sorts of activities will be greatly curtailed. Airlines will be hard-pressed to continue profitable operations as the costs of fuel will continue to escalate while, at the same time, Americans will be forced to curtail travel by air.

As Peak Oil enters our daily existence it will be an unexpected shock to our system, but I really believe it can have a positive effect on our nation in the long run. As Peak Oil continues on its path, I think that America will find itself at a very critical crossroads that will determine our very future. We will be asked to do more and more to alter our lifestyles such as increasing our conservation and recycling, curtailing the buying and driving of bloated, gas wasting vehicles, living in mega-mansions that needlessly waste heating resources, among many other ways to rein in our excessive habits.

Of significance is that Peak Oil, with its ominous and threatening impact upon the entire world, may be the biggest boon in beginning the process of reversing the specter of Global Warming -- that emerging planet-threatening condition whereby the earth's surface temperature is increasing. The majority of world-class climate scientists have concluded that this warming is most certainly caused by human activity (mainly from internal combustion autos and trucks) and that the associated C02 emissions are among the greatest causes that must be drastically reduced. So Peak Oil and the steps we must take to solve its effects upon our society will naturally contribute to also slowing down the escalation of Global Warming.

How this rapidly developing, ominous scenario will be addressed by this nation will determine the quality of our future existence. If we rise to the occasion and respond in very positive and innovative ways, then we will be able to cope with the specter of Peak Oil and we will be survivors. If we do not have the will and courage to make these significant changes to our lifestyles, then we will seal our fate and Peak Oil and Global Warming will overcome this nation.

At one point, in the movie "Wall Street," Bud Fox, the young corporate-raider trainee, asks his mentor, Gekko, "Just how much is enough?" and Gekko replies, "It is never enough." But in America today, enough is enough! Our rampant non-stop consumerism and materialism simply cannot and will not be sustainable.

As our planet struggles mightily to combat the ecological damage that it has been dealt by humanity, we humans are being given a very distinct challenge. Will we meet this challenge? Can we change, will we change, or will we continue on our present course that can only lead to a disastrous conclusion? The normal succession of future generations hangs in the balance. Planet Earth awaits our answer.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
The Bourne paradox: the hunted as hunter
Now congressional Democrats are attacking free speech
A riposte to �Criminals with badges: How the police create crimes�
2007: Annus Mirabilis and the "Smiling Garden of Eden"
The war on Mithraism!
As Planet Earth struggles with ecological damage, America's appetite remains insatiable
2008: So what�s new?
Bilawal and the Bhutto curse
Criminals with badges: How the police create crimes
From a sun-splashed Rose Bowl to wintry Iowa
Happy New Year, people
Afghanistan does not exist: Viva Pakistan!
Machiavellian Musharraf
We all are prisoners now
Iran, US engaged in a lethal Chess game
Simon says . . .
Enough security! Where's our humanity?
Lies, injustice and the capitalist way: We�re on the highway to hell -- don�t stop us!
As 2007 passes, many Americans are oblivious to the state of their crumbling empire
Will Alabama execute an innocent man?