Fooling With the Future

The DoubleThink is really piling up fast.   In last Friday’s New York Times, the illustrious Fareed Zakaria, star of a corporate news show with “GPS” in its title, published “How Will We Fuel the Future?”, a review of The Quest, the new tome by oil-industry front-man Daniel Yergin.  Yergin, of course, minimizes the nearness and severity of Peak Oil and takes it as an axiom that capitalists are soon going to be selling the automobiles that transcend it.  How?  Yergin doesn’t say — because he can’t say — because it is a physical impossibility.  Profitable as it has been to capitalists, relying on intricate 3,000-pound machines as the primary means of everyday locomotion for significant segments of the human population is inherently and radically unsustainable, given the physical properties of planet Earth.

So, how does Mr. GPS review Yergin’s book?  While lecturing about “the need for lucid thinking” on all sides, here is Zakaria’s conclusion:

The steam engine, the automobile, the computer, the Internet are all miracles.  We need something on that order in energy — and fast.

Might the reign of the automobile, despite the miracle talk, be incompatible with any kind of decent human future?  That possibility, despite the screamingly basic facts of the matter, remains literally unmentionable in the mainstream media.  Some miracles are just way too important to the sponsoring class.

Cars Will Kill Capitalism

money-trap “Capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of nature, its own negation.” It is supposed to be crude and wrong to say such things.

Meanwhile, consider this bit of insider planning:

Some media experts have predicted 20%-30% increases for this year’s TV upfront market, in which media buyers will strike deals for commercial time in the fall season, based on early reports of economic recovery. Several key economic indicators are up since last year — durable goods; real retail and food service sales; vehicle sales; and consumer spending — leading to a feeling of optimism among network executives. But a lurking factor could spoil the party: rising gas prices.

The average price of regular unleaded gas has hit $3.68. That’s still shy of the $4.24 high set in June 2008. But what happens if the summer driving season and the unrest in the Middle East pushes gas prices above the summer 2008 levels, above even $5 per gallon? According to Nielsen Wire, a 50-cent increase in gas prices would cost the typical U.S. household about $52.50 per month, and if prices were to rise two dollars, that would mean $210 a month, or more than $2,500 a year. In an economy where job and personal income growth is meager at best, the economic and psychological impact of paying $2,500 more a year for gas can have a profound impact on consumer spending.

A jump in fuel prices also eventually translates to higher transportation costs for marketers, which pass those costs to consumers through increased prices for everything they buy — not just gas. As prices rise and inflation ensues, the Federal Reserve could be forced to raise interest rates, which would hurt the still floundering housing market.

At times like these, retailers need to protect their brick-and-mortar businesses. When shoppers go online, there is clearly less foot traffic in traditional stores. Rising shipping costs also eat into the retail profit structure. Either way, retailers are squeezed.

Heading into the upfronts, then, smart marketers and media buyers should consider whether the hike in gas prices will be short-lived or whether it will trigger a longer economic downturn that alters consumer behavior and shopping patterns.

This is from Hank Cohen, CEO of KSL Media, the independent media planning and buying agency, via Advertising Age.

This is not going to be a passing problem, either. Capitalists are institutionally addicted to cars-first transportation. Cars-first transportation in the United States obliges huge use of petroleum. Peak oil ensures that huge use of petroleum will be an increasing choke on the possibility of economic growth. Catch-22.

Meanwhile, thanks to the premium on keeping the capitalist addiction out of sight, the topic remains undiscussed and undiscussable in mainstream venues.

Non-Turning Point

cliff-drive Here at DbC, we track the sociology of overclass heedlessness. How could we not, given that the automobile is perhaps the ultimate embodiment of the phenomenon?

So, anyhow, here we are, living in a world of Peak Oil, more and bigger impending oil shocks, and eventual extraordinary misery. What, at this very late moment, remains “the world’s primary manufacturing industry?” That’s right: the one that turns out 4,000-pound petroleum and coal burning machines that sit idle for 95 percent of their lives.

In fact, the news is worse than that. The car industry is not just still #1. It is still expanding:

A new J.D. Power forecast said global auto sales will likely set a new record this year.

The consulting firm said it expects global light vehicle sales of 76.5 million units in 2011, 6% higher than the existing record of 72 million light vehicles sold in 2010.

And somebody said capital is heedless of the health and welfare of the species, unless compelled by society!

WSJ Acknowledges Peak Oil

Write the date down.  Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal is running an op-ed saying the following, in a story titled “The Next Crisis: Prepare for Peak Oil”:

But the work of the Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security shouldn’t be disparagingly dismissed. Its arguments are well founded and lead it to the conclusion that, while the global downturn may have delayed it by a couple of years, peak oil—the point at which global production reaches its maximum—is no more than five years away.

Corporate politicians and the corporate media have kept this colossal issue under tight wrap so far.