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  • Sunday, September 04, 2005


    Scared Yet? You will be...

    Despite recent upbeat news reports from the Gulf Coast disaster zone, there are dark days ahead for the US. While we are focused on the very real human tragedy there, several related aspects loom large over our economy and winter survival.

    You Bet Your Life by Michael C. Ruppert is a tad more alarmist than even I, notorious for my doom and gloom projections, am willing to completely endorse. Nonetheless, his basic outline and some of the specifics are quite plausible to me. (I did an earlier post on "peak oil" where I postulated $10-15 gasoline and rationing.)

    Gulf energy production has four main components: drilling and production, pipeline delivery to shore, refinery capacity, and then delivery to the rest of the nation. We have heard precious little about the damage to Louisiana'’s Port Fourchon which is the largest point at which energy passes from sea to land in the region. It is heavily damaged and mostly inoperable for now, despite optimistic financial reports, intended to calm the markets, stating that "“damage is minimal."” I am quite sure that I speak for the maybe 250,000 New Orleans residents who couldn'’t or wouldn'’t get out when I say, "“Screw the markets!"”

    Production, if and when it starts trickling again, will most likely shift to Port Murphy or to Lake Charles. Sounds easy in the abstract, but the corporate headquarters at which to make and implement those decisions were mostly located in New Orleans. Shifting energy flows will never replace what was lost because those two facilities already face the daunting task of restoring their own output. They can'’t handle the additional burden of compensation for what has been lost. As one astute and great researcher put it, "“How will the oil companies even find their workers or tell them where to report for work?"” Where will the workers live? Where will they buy groceries? How will they get to and from work if the gasoline they'’re supposed to produce isn'’t there? The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is also much more seriously damaged than press accounts disclose. It'’s here that supertankers from overseas (used to) offload. They have no place else to do it. They'’re too big. I have seen video of LOOP damage which doesn'’t look anything like the minimal damage that'’s been reported. OK, so when the port is fixed what about the damaged pipelines running to shore? How many boat anchors have been dragged over them? In how many places are they ruptured, crushed or broken?

    As many as twenty offshore rigs have now been confirmed as adrift, capsized, listing or sunk. Each rig may have as many as eight wells. Where'’s the money coming from to replace them? How long will that take? [all emphasis mine.]

    Read the whole article. I still think the decline period, even with this crisis, will be long and gradual.

    Something that just occurred to me is the easily foreseeable abuse of rationing by the wealthy. During WWII, the last time full scale gas rationing was in effect in the US, my understanding is that sacrifices were made on a relatively equitable basis. I'm sure there was abuse but not necessarily along class lines. It was a full scale war involving practically all sectors of American society and economic production. With the decline of the life-long civil servant in US government and what I percieve as the increase in people seeking positions for business connections and post-government profit, I suspect abuse will be rampant. Of course, government spokespeople will assure the general populace that their unlimited usage of gas is necessary for our functioning economy and government. This will be true in many cases. But I suspect the rich will be able to gain extra rations through government connections or outright purchases from the government. This will be justified with the usual appeal to social and economic Darwinism: Those people who have money are inherently and intrinsically worth more than those without and thus deserve the extra rations.

    Yeah, there's a phrase repeated often in the movie Robocop: "I'll buy that for a dollar!" Except we won't get off that cheaply. Not too long ago (January, 2005) I predicted $10 a gallon gas before the end of the decade. I suspect some people thought I was being wa-a-ay alarmist. Now I'm revising the estimate. Please understand I'm a layperson on these matters; I've read a few books and tried to match what I've learned with my observations, no more. So here's what I see in the next five years.

    Free market gasoline will approach $20 a gallon by 2010. We will not see rationing before 2008 because President Bush won't tolerate such restrictions on the oil industry. His influence may also be able to hold the line in Congress on this matter. Thus it will take the next Democratic president to begin the process. (Barring a miracle candidate or event, it is unlikely in my opinion that another Republican president will be fairly elected in 2008 due to the results of Bush's misrule.) Bush's eight years of havoc will be inherited by the next president. That president will be blamed for implementing necessary controls and policies in the aftermath of Bush's faith-based climate policies and corporate favoritism.

    Personally, I suggest learning to grow your own food if possible. Canning food and storing it might be an excellent hobby to pursue. The sky's not falling yet but I'm seeing some cracks. Oh, and living in a large city isn't really very good for your health. Urban centers over 50,000 to 100,000 people are not sustainable when food distribution and supply breaks down.

    Sorry to be such a Pouting Pete. I would sincerely love to be completely and wildly off base with these dire suggestions and warnings. I hope I am. In a twist on Pres. Reagan's "Trust, but verify," I say "Hope, but prepare."

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