Wednesday, February 22, 2012

flashdance flashback

Well, okay, a bit of poetic license with the title.   Flashdance was released in the early eighties, not the seventies.  But last weeks drama with Iran halting oil imports to England and France in retaliation to sanctions reminded me of the seventies when OPEC stopped oil to the US because of our support of Israel.  Did it have much of an actual impact back then?  We didn’t lose that much oil supply.  Remember, not too long before that we were the worlds leading oil producer.  After World War Two we were supplying half the oil globally.  And even today, after decades of production decline, the US still produces about half what we used to ( the problem isn’t so much our lack of production as our extremely wasteful consumption- China is the worlds factory with far less oil  ).  The biggest problem back then was the threat of Soviet control of the middle east, politically speaking.  Economically speaking, our western allies were the ones suffering from the oil embargos.  The middle east oil has always been the rest of the West’s energy supply.  But we need them to have that oil so that they can help support our economy.  Given all that, where do we stand today?  England has seen drastic declines in its North Sea oil, but their economic collapse ( mirroring ours ) has surely decreased demand.  And France, during the few times that the public workers aren’t striking or the Arab immigrants aren’t burning everything in sight, surely doesn’t use that much oil.  They are to a large degree semi self sufficient with their nuclear electricity generation.  Obviously the Iranian oil stoppage isn’t going to see them dying in the streets or living in the dark.  But what about an economic impact?

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The US economy is pretty much nothing but growth.  Whether from extra oil being consumed or by foreign currency inflows or by the current inflation, we don’t really do much except grow.  That is our economic model ( borrow and spend, paying the central bank its vig ).  European nations don’t do much better.  They just slowly eat away at their past production, growing government welfare programs.  The only difference between them and us is that we do things on a Texas size scale whereas Europe is still in the “me-too” category.  Just think how $150 billion will keep Greece alive whereas we generate that kind of deficit every few hours or so and think nothing of it.  What makes me wonder about the impact isn’t just the Iran cut back but that plus the Saudi Arabia cuts plus the increased costs of oil at the same time.  At a time when the derivatives markets are only kept from imploding by constant inflation, would a slight nudge in the oil price/supply be more significant than usual?  Hell if I know.  I’m sure nothing will come of this.  This time.  I just think that with everything so strained, it won’t take much of anything to qualify as the straw that breaks the camels back.  I’m not saying we should panic about everything, just that it might be foolish to just think that only a huge disaster will push us over the edge. 
Okay, that was a bit of navel gazing.  Here is some more.  You would have thought that after three days off from writing I’d have a better article.  Well, there you go thinking again.  I think I’ll need to warm up with a few articles before I get to “earth shattering” mode.  That, or I don’t have a bunch of damn people yammering in the background distracting me.  The drawback of finally getting volunteers to help out at the food bank.  Anyway, here’s my profound nugget number two of the day.  I think I know why everyone wants a slow collapse to be the choice of disaster.  If we have already been in slow collapse for forty or fifty years, it follows in their mind that the next few decades will be the very same.  If they ignore Peak Oil, and base all of their economics on the last hundred years, we are just looking at “business as usual”.  And business as usual is a decrease in the standard of living on a generational scale.  Which, for all practical purposes, means in their lifetimes they won’t see anything they can’t adopt to.  With that kind of time frame, there is NO collapse.  So your majority of survivalists will not be seeing any kind of danger.  Nor will they have to change their lifestyle at all.  It makes you wonder why they are interested in the practice of survivalism at all.  Is it because it is an excuse to just buy lots of guns?  Do they have so much money they need to buy Bug Out Submarines?  It baffles me.  But then, it baffles me that folks can spend forty years spending a grand a month on a crap house but balk at buying a five hundred dollar lot of junk land or $150 in bulk wheat. 
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  1. In real dollar terms the price of oil peaked in the early 1980s, so your Flashdance deal is O.K.

    Scarrow in his After Light noted that Britain was in better shape than France or Germany, because their preperation was so poor the collapse happened quicker and thus less of the surplus supplies were used up.

    I suppose a slow collapse has the advantage of allowing society to adjust to the changes. Their have been slow collapses in the past. They tend to play out in revolution and unrest, but they are occassionally peaceful.

    On the other hand, for some sooner may be better. You might want to have the collapse before you lose your job, and are kicked out of your house? Broke and homeless are not great survival strategies.

  2. "I think I know why everyone wants a slow collapse to be the choice of disaster."

    I'm not sure that "want" is the right term. "More likely" is perhaps more apt.

    Now just like you, O Mighty Lord Bison, I just loves me some Doomer Porn, and the standard meme is a bunch of nukes flying around leaving Our Intrepid Protagonist alive with a small group of protominions. Now that the Ivans have discovered what a great tool capitalism is for screwing their own people, the nuke threat is less than it used to be. Unless you live in NYC or LA: pretty much everyone is rooting for them to be turned into faintly glowing dust, after all.

    Anyway, the porn writers, knowing their audience, have shifted to EMP and pandemics to hang their tales on. And don't forget A-hab the A-rab and his limitless supply of sleeper cells. Don't think I'm denigrating them; a guy has to earn a living and your back hurts a lot less after a day in front of the computer than it would by dith digging.

    The slow collapse is simply more plausible. Or rather, a slow collapse preceding a sharp drop when "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" stops working.

    And a slow collapse story has more relevance to a reader than does the fantasy of "now that everybody's dead, I can finally get all the plastic carbines I ever wanted for free" thing.

    Looting Wally-World is gonna be a lot more interesting when everyone in a fifty mile radius is thinking the same thing. And there's a rich vein of comedy to be mined writing about the no-holds-barred deathmatch over a pallet of toilet paper.