[permaculture] 'Jim Kunstler writing about export cuts by producers and ramifications'

Keith Johnson keithdj at mindspring.com
Wed Jun 27 14:51:44 EDT 2007

'Jim Kunstler writing about export cuts by producers and ramifications'

"Stop wringing your hands about that new strip mall, think hard about
how you're going to feed yourself in the coming years . . ."

I get lots of letters from people in various corners of the nation who
are hysterically disturbed by the continuing spectacle of suburban
development. But instead of joining in their hand-wringing, I reply by
stating my serene conviction that we are at the end of the cycle - and
by that I mean the grand meta-cycle of the suburban project as a

It's over. Whatever you see out there now is pretty much what we're
going to be stuck with. The remaining things under construction are the
last twitchings of a dying organism.

It is not an accident that the housing bubble coincided with the
phenomenon of Peak Oil. First of all, the housing bubble should more
properly be called the suburban bubble, because most of the activity
came in the form of "greenfield" housing subdivisions, and included all
the additional crap-o-la accessories required by them -- strip malls,
power centers, Outback steak houses, car washes, et cetera. The
suburban expansion has been based entirely on cheap-and-abundant
supplies of oil. Similarly, it was not an accident that the suburban
project faltered briefly in the 1970s, when America's oil production
entered its long decline, OPEC seized the moment, and oil prices shot
up. Notice that the final suburban blowout occurred after 1990, when
the North Sea and Prudhoe Bay oil strikes came into full production,
disabling OPEC, and a world oil glut finally drove prices as low as ten
dollars a barrel in 1999. That ushered in the climactic phase of
suburbia, as represented by things like the standard 4000-square-foot
Toll Brother's McMansion and the heyday of the super-gigantic SUV to go
with it.

The American public has no idea how over all that is. The bottom is
falling out under not only the housing market (as in houses up for
sale) but on the whole apparatus for delivering future houses, and the
car-oriented crap associated with it. The production home-builders,
such as Toll Brothers, Hovanian, Pulte, et cetera are going down and
they will not be coming back. There will be a great deal of wishing
that they might come back, but they won't. Likewise, the commercial
builders of all the various forms of suburban retail will be waiting to
"turn the corner." But they will discover that the wall they have hit
has no corner. It's just a wall. For anyone who wonders how much we do
not need anymore retail space in America, have a look at this chart
showing the comparative amount of retail square-footage allotted for
citizens of each nation:

Those of you considering the purchase of more WalMart stock, take

Some years back, when those watching the oil scene began to coalesce in
their recognition that a worldwide production peak was imminent and
hugely significant, the concept developed that this peak would take the
form of a "bumpy plateau," meaning that supply-and-demand would teeter
in an uncomfortable relationship for a period of time as markets and
economies adjusted to the new reality by oscillating from higher prices
to "demand destruction" to recession to recovery to higher prices, and
so forth. This was expected to go on for quite a while before the world
really headed into a slow permanent decline.

The latest statistical work by Dallas geologist Jeffrey Brown over at
The Oil Drum.com, suggests that something else is happening, something
that was not anticipated: an imminent oil export crisis. This Export
Land Theory states that exporting nations will have far less oil
available for export than was previously assumed under older models.
(Story here.) The theory states that export rates will drop by a far
greater percentage than net production decline rates in any given
exporting country. For example, The UK's portion of the North Sea oil
fields may be showing a nine percent annual decline for the past couple
of years. But it's export capacity has declined 60 percent. Something
similar is in store for Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela -- in
short, the whole cast of characters in the export world. They are all
producing less and they are all using more of their own oil, and have
less to send elsewhere.

Brown's math suggests that world oil exports will drop by 50 percent
within the next five years, certainly enough to trigger a systemic
breakdown in market allocation, meaning serious supply shortages among
the importing nations. That's us. We import two-thirds of all the oil
we use.

The implication in all this is that the activities that have become
"normal" for us during the post World War Two era will very shortly
become untenable. An economy based on suburban expansion and incessant
motoring is on the top of the list of supposedly "normal" activities
that will not be able to continue. I would maintain that even if we had
20 years, no combination of bio-fuels and other alternatives would
enable us to keep suburbia running. But this latest work indicates that
we have much less time to adjust.

This new information is consistent with my view that we had better
prepare to make other arrangements for living in this country, by which
I mean specifically re-localizing, de-globalizing, with an emphasis on
local agriculture wherever possible, the emergency restoration of
passenger railroad service and related modes of public transit, the
rebuilding of local commercial infrastructures, and a radical
rethinking of how we inhabit the landscape under New Urbanist lines.

Perhaps the most imminent danger is that the financial markets, which
have been driving our insane, hollowed-out economy, will soon recognize
what's in store and implode, creating a crisis of capital that will
leave us with no ability to make any emergency investments, such as
would be required to rebuild the railroad system. The equity markets
sure blinked last week when two hedge funds based on phony-baloney
collateralized debt obligations tanked. The collateral underlying this
load of hallucinated "wealth" is comprised of contracts made by the
insolvent for suburban houses worth far less than the value stated on
the contracts -- with every indication that the real value will keep

In any case, those who keep wringing their hands over the bulldozers
leveling the plots of prairie, or cornfield, or desert -- those
distressed folks can direct their anxiety elsewhere. *Worry less whether
one final strip mall will tilt up out in gloaming, and think harder
about how you are going to feed yourself and your family in a couple of
years when the stupendous motorized moloch of American life begins to
sputter, and the Cheez Doodle shipments can no longer make it to your
supermarket shelves, and all that is "normal" melts into air.*

Keith Johnson
"Be fruitful and mulch apply."
Permaculture Activist Magazine
PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 47408
(812) 335-0383
Impeachment: It's not just for blowjobs anymore.
Switch to Solar Power the Easy Way
Blog: http://kjpermaculture.blogspot.com/
also Patterns for Abundance Design & Consulting
also Association for Regenerative Culture
also APPLE-Bloomington (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy) It's a small world after oil.
also Bloomington Permaculture Guild

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