Re: Life after the oil crash

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Sun Oct 30 2005 - 06:35:13 EST

Regarding the substance of this conversation about life after the oil crash, I am reading a book that is the subject of discussion at my church: "The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics," by Ched Myers. I recommend it to everyone on the list. It may overturn your perception of how Christians ought to understand life in the community of God's People as opposed to our involvement (or entrapment?) in the capitalist political economy of our time. The disruptions that may ensure as oil becomes increasingly scarce may offer a risk-taking opportunity for the Christian family to lead the way in challenging the world community to think differently about economies of scale and the sharing of abundance, in opposition to the fundamental economic inequalities of our world.

Bob Schneider
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Tjalle T Vandergraaf
  To: ;
  Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2005 7:41 PM
  Subject: RE: Life after the oil crash



  I'm commenting on your response to my comment about the wisdom of being able to buy strawberries in January when it's -40 outside (and yes, it was good to meet you in person after all the e-mail communication over the years!).


  I agree that the gummint is not often the most efficient organization. But it cannot always be a matter of efficiency or lowest cost. Let me use your example of the mail system. Canada Post is not as efficient as FedEx, UPS, or DHL. But Canada Post does provide a service at a reasonable cost to all Canadians, regardless of where they live. I can mail a letter from my PO Box to the holder of the PO Box next to mine for 55. I can also mail an identical letter from my home town to Inuvik, on the Arctic Ocean. I doubt if FedEx charges the same (I have never had the need to mail anything to Inuvik). Now you can argue that, in an ideal system, the price of an item or an activity should reflect the cost in producing that item or activity. However, in that case, it might cost 10$ to send a letter to Inuvik from any location in "inhabited Canada." That would mean that very little mail would be sent to Inuvik and that might mean that nobody would want to live there. Same goes with isolated mining communities in northern Canada.


  In most developed countries, it is assumed that the gummint will take on certain tasks that could just as well, or be done cheaper, by private industry. The US highway system is a case in point. It might be cheaper to have all private roads with each owner charging a toll. I remember being surprised that the sidewalks in Grand Rapids, MI, were a rather motley mix. It turned out that, at that time and in that part of the city, the sidewalks in front if a house were the responsibility of the owner. I am used to having the city or town look after this and I prefer not to have to worry about it.


  You may well be right that "capitalism has done much better than other systems at providing the maximal amount of wealth for the maximal number of people." The problem is, of course, those people who do not fall in the "maximum" category. That's why I have suggested that society finds some way, on the one had, to foster an improved standard of living and, on the other hand, to ensure that the disenfranchised do not fall between the cracks.


  Getting back to the strawberries, given that we have a limited supply of fossil fuels, should it be used to ship strawberries halfway across the continent. But, this question is probably in the same category as asking why no environmental impact statement is needed before a war is started.





  From: [] On Behalf Of
  Sent: Friday, October 28, 2005 10:07 PM
  Subject: RE: Life after the oil crash



  This is a note to several. First to Chuck, then to Janet (responses to a couple of emails) and finally to Bob Schneider.

  Chuck wrote:

>I can buy strawberries in January when it's -40 outside. That's only
>possible because diesel fuel is cheap enough to transport
>from California to Manitoba (and probably because the strawberry
>growers can use cheap labour to pick them).
> Question, is this a good
>use of our resources?

  Chuck, First off, after meeting you in PA, it is nice to have a face to put with your name.

  I am not smart enough to know the answer. I do know that when the government gets involved, usually the results are not very good. Who thinks government schools are better than upper crust private schools? Who thinks the mail system is great? Who thinks that government bureacracies are highly efficient? Usually individual decision makers, all trying to maximize their personal good are much better at solving problems than one person (or a few) at the top trying to solve the problem. This phenomenon was why capitalism has done much better than other systems at providing the maximal amount of wealth for the maximal number of people. I tried to find my reference but couldn't. It actually has been shown mathematically that this is the best approach to finding a solution in a large solution space.

  JANET wrote:

>-----Original Message-----

>From: [] On
>Behalf Of janice matchett
>Sent: Friday, October 28, 2005 10:37 PM

>Most of the doomsday predictions are based on a very simple fallacy of
>assuming that current trends will continue unless
>something dramatic is done about them, by the ubiquitous but never
>defined "we" or "they."


>This neglects Herb Stein's first law: If something can't go on forever,
>it won't. This is true of population bombs, energy crises, budget
>deficits, crime rates, and so forth. ....

  I would like to note that the current trend is for more and more oil to be produced each year. That is the current trend. Running out of energy is NOT an assumption of the current trends will continue. It is precisely the opposite.

  And as to Stein's law, I think you miss the point. Of course an energy crisis won't go on forever. If we run out of energy, the population will plummet until there is balance between supply and demand. This is what happened to the reindeer on St. Mathews Island.

  "An example featuring mammals is provided by the reindeer of St. Matthew Island, in the Bering Sea (Klein, 1968). This island had a mat of lichens more than four inches deep, but no reindeer until 1944, when a herd of 29 was introduced. By 1957 the population had increased to 1,350; and by 1963 it was 6,000. But the lichens were gone, and the next winter the herd died off. Come spring, only 41 females and one apparently dysfunctional male were left alive (Figure 2)." David Price "Energy and Human Evolution _Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies_Volume 16, Number 4, March 1995, pp. 301-19

  Lichen were the energy source for reindeer. They ran out of it and the energy crisis didn't go on forever. Stein is right. The reindeer all died off and balance was re-established and there was no longer an energy crisis. In case you haven't noticed, the earth is a lush island in an otherwise hostile universe. Eventually we will use up all the energy or most of the energy. How do you think balance will be restored at that time?

  The only thing which is really at question is WHEN will we run out of those non-renewable resources, like coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, thorium etc.


>>Tjalle T Vandergraaf wrote:"True, any scheme will involve some
>>"skewering of the other guy."
>### You have no clue.

  Janice, while I don't agree with Chuck's suggestion, he clearly does have a clue. People who are going without, will do whatever it takes to not 'go without'. Chuck understand's human behavior better than you seem to. Humanity does not behave according to political theory--which is what your post is all about. Your post actually is an indictment not of Chuck's suggestion but of the free democratic society. In a free society, people are free get their congressman to do what they want. And if that means making me a robber baron, all the better. Let's hear it for democracy which allows money to go to the benefit of the politician so that he will do what the donor wants. Do I think we should change the system? No, but I am not blind to the problems. Even calls for electoral funding reform are nothing more than the losing side wanting to stop the populr side from getting more money than they get, which is entirely self-serving rather than noble. If they were the beneficiaries of more money, they would be against election reform. Mankind has yet to invent a perfect political system.


>I recall that within a week of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon and other oil >companies began putting commercials on TV, repleat with scenes of beautiful, clean >waters, birds, and forests, that pledged their love for the environment. You'd think >that they were among the foremost envirnomentalists in the country. Modern >versions of these adds abound on TV today.

  Frankly, I dislike this blame game. Maybe because I am in the oil industry but I always want to ask, how much petroleum derived food did you eat last year(think of fertilizers, tractors, etc)? How many fresh veggies are you going to eat this winter? Do you use refrigeration to keep the food fresh (or do you eat rotten meat like our ancestors?) How much oil was spent getting food to your local grocery store? What fibres are your clothes made of--any rayon in them? Did you use one of those plastic disposable diapers on your baby(or do you let your baby run around butt naked like they do here)? How much oil was burned to bring the lumber, plumbing, pipe and shingles to the place where they used that material to build your house? Did you take an airplane flight? Did you use heating in the winter to keep you warm? Does the mail man bring your mail in a truck? Did you drive a car last year and otherwise give rise to the demand for oil which requires us to ship oil out of many places, not just Alaska?

  When you want to blame someone for the Exxon Valdiz, look in the mirror. Maybe you are not quite the environmentalist you think you are.

  THe oil industry does the very best it can to avoid problems like this, but like any human endeavor things go wrong--often caused by humans doing stupid things (like the drunk captain). But Exxon didn't take him to the bar just before sailing and buy him all those drinks. The last thing Exxon wanted was to lose several million dollars worth of oil and then be assessed huge fines and clean up costs. So many seem to think that the oil industry just loves a good oily beach but all of us in that industry have children and want the same clean environment that everyone else does. Your kind of blame game absolves you of any responsibility and you can feel so good (and maybe sanctimonious) after disposing of your guilt and responsibility for the need of the oil.
Received on Sun Oct 30 06:38:20 2005

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