petroleum is hopelessly compromised, running out, and worse, by objective measures, than a different economic future.
But that is the bullet that no one in the internal combustion for land economy wants to bite: that it is a different future we are talking about - not just changing how we get energy, but changing what we do with it. However, it means not only a radically different structure of the economy, but a change in who runs American industry. And this is what the current political order is fighting to the death. It wants to keep the same people in charge who have driven things to crisis, because they are the people who are in charge. The same bankers, industrialists, politicians, writers, lobbyists, and assorted other elites, who have wildly thrown away a generation on an orgy of consumption, are the ones who are going to stay in power until the last rock of coal is turned into the last barrel of synfuels, to drive the last SUV, to the last development. On that day some other nation will call the dollar worthless paper, and American will go through the radical austerity that Britain did after the collapse of its empire.
Is there a way to prevent this? The answer is yes. Will it be done? The answer is no. Instead we are about to see an administration, Obama or McCain, which is committed to having less of the national effort as public investment, and more as consumption, and investment in consumption. Less as a change to the future, and more for the military, which is consumption and investment in consumption. Both will pass stern laws saying that the next President will have to solve this problem. That's change you can believe in, because it is straight talk. It is not that there are no differences between the candidates, but there is little difference between their campaigns, because both are dialing for dollars, and the dollars, from big or small donors, are from people who want things to stay as they are, only with a few of their problems solved at someone else's expense.
The reality is quite different. Either Presidential nominee will reach December, put their transition team in place, and find out - that the cupboard is bare. That the treasury has been looted, and while the Saudis will lend us a great deal of money to consume, they will lend us far less to get off of our oil addiction. This is the rightward slant of the last 40 years: there is plenty of money for consumption, but far less for investment. So the world has invested in consumption. In itself this is not bad, but without a corresponding investment in supply, that consumption investment is foolish and destined merely to drain the sources of supply harder and sooner.
. . .
The accumulation of the next 12 years - because it is at least a 12 year cycle where one failed cautious President will be followed by a swashbuckling Bobby Jindahl type who will give us balls to the wall gas guzzling - will be fiscal crisis in Medicare, a dramatic reduction in American standards of living, and the disruption of American Empire. We could do something about this, but we are not going to do something about this, because the leadership class, set for the next 12 years, is dedicated to not ever doing anything about this under any circumstances, and there is no wave of new leadership ready to take over. The die is cast, Americans have voted repeatedly not to vote on this issue, but instead put whoever is in charge in charge. There we are.
This may sound bleak. In one sense it is, everyone attached to the petroleum economy is going to ride it all the way down. . . .
Obama, the conservative Democrat, is running for Jimmy Carter's second term, while John McCain is running for Herbert Hoover's second term. Utterly devoid of ideas, utterly devoid of political courage, utterly devoid of vision, the political system picked them, because they had less than any one else.
That is what Americans wanted: two people who promised not to upset the oil drum. And so we have it."
I fear there's truth is this passage from Newberry. The American People have lost the moral compass necessary to be dissatisfied with the Bush, who tortured and cheated and committed war crimes; they are only upset that the price of gas is high. The politically aware are struggling to overthrow a whole regime, to effect a passing of generations and outlooks. In this, I take some hope from Tim Russert's passing. People die, even if we do not kill them.