Sunday, April 23, 2006

Changing American demographics

The future's coming on now sweet and strong
And no-one gonna hold it back for long
Slade lyrics, "The Shape Of Things To Come"

In previous blogs, I referred a few times to Richard Heinberg's book, "The Party's Over, Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies" in which he talks about how man's population has been able to flourish beyond Earth's capability to sustain it at its present levels. The reason? Oil and the its cheap abundance. But that's all about to change when we reach "peak oil".

Peak oil is the point at which our demand for oil will exceed our ability to supply it in quantities needed. The exact point at which the planet goes beyond peak oil is not known, but many experts estimate it will occur any time now, i.e., within this decade of the new millenium. And how exactly will it manifest once peak oil is achieved? By steady increases in the prices for it and all things dependent on oil for its growth (foods), processing and manufacture, transport to market, home heating and cooling, etc.

So while we remain in the dark as to when we can expect the demand for oil to outstrip its supply, the sudden and rapid increase in gasoline prices give rebirth to speculation about peak oil once more. Of course, getting clues from those best informed in such matters--the oil companies--seems useless. Citing the seasonal switchover in fuels, the approaching summer driving season, and refinery capacity still reduced due to Katrina hint at price increases as just "business as usual".

The government's not much help either, which most often simply cites increased demand for oil by China and India as explanation for gas price increases while assuring us inflation figures, however, remain low if one takes out those increasing costs of energy and food.

The mainstream media certainly seems loath to talk about the declining supplies of oil. That's not really surprising in that MSM is loath to cover anything that's news. More and more, they deliver less and less.

Meanwhile, airlines are mothballing their less fuel efficient aircraft and some retirees are feeling the pinch at the pump, thus cutting their travel. And we are told the driving habits of youth with limited budgets may be next to suffer. Peak oil? No one knows for sure. But when it comes, it won't be just an upward price adjustment by Big Oil in preparation for summer motorists going on vacation. It will be the beginning of a whole new way of life for many millions of Americans.

In the past, I've also joked here about the eventuality of more and more Americans moving down to those "low-rent" areas. Specifically, those underneath freeway overpasses. And I've teased about it saying I hope I'll be among one of the earlier ones making such a transition so that I might stake claim to one of the choicer spots beneath the bridge before they're all taken. But it may not be all that funny, because among the news of the rapidly rising gas prices, there seems to be at least one retailer who's taking it all very seriously. And it's *the biggie*, Wal-Mart.

Sometimes in news stories that cruise along with hum-drum facts and data, you suddenly stub your toe on something significant. And if your mind hasn't glazed over before you get to it, it makes you stop, go back and reread. That's what happened as my wife she was perusing the story on gas prices rising as much as three cents per gallon per day in many parts of the country. She stumbled over the following protruding tidbit and almost fell over.

See, buried down in the middle of the story of soaring energy costs is the revelation that Wal-Mart, largest retailer in the country, is increasing its marketing of more up-scale products to attract a wealthier class of clients. The reason? (And this is what I found really disturbing.) Wal-Mart is forecasting declining sales throughout 2006 among its least wealthy customers. These are the very people Wal-Mart has depended on all these years for its rise to the retail stardom it now enjoys.

It may not yet be a sign of the global decline that will be ushered in by peak oil. But for Wal-Mart to expect to lose more and more of the very folks it depended upon for its rise to dominance may be an admission that the oil industry, the government or mainstream media are unwilling to entertain. That something very dramatic is taking place.

And with growing numbers of homeowners behind in their mortgage payments, or now in default, Dada is worried. If this time the gas hikes are in fact the beginning of the end of the Petroleum Age, the housing bubble beneath the best freeway overpasses may be just beginning. And by the time Dada gets there, all the choice places could be gone.

8 comments:

Nina said...

*shiver*

dada said...

Yes, *shiver*. Unless, of course, it's summer and you live in a desert. Which would make it, I suppose....

*sweat*

Anonymous said...

And why should Big Oil ever relieve the situation by expanding oil production & building more refineries? They're enjoying profit levels the likes of which the world has never seen, thanks to dwindling supply, too few refineries & SUV-loving Americans. They've discovered the best way to capitalize on the twilight of an empire. The worse off we are, the more $$$ they make. Too late for our own govt to exert even partial control. Big Oil is so big they own the whole damn country. Who ya gonna call?

But don't worry, dada ... an alternative to the fwy overpass may be a return to the commune concept. Or maybe spend summers in Maineiac's area, then bike down to Mexico for winter. Oh, and if Comrade Bush or Citizen Cheney show up, they get latrine duty prior to being staked out for ant food in the broiling sun. D.K.

dada said...

Nina:

Have you seen the nice mood rings over at Mood Jewelry.

And they don't cost an arm and a leg, just a finger or two. And at these most reasonable prices, I recommend you get several!

some_maineiac said...

I just loved our preznit's recent actions to show he cares about rising gasoline prices...stop putting oil into the strategic reserve...that's great, just like working Americans who can't save a dime anymore and live from paycheck to paycheck, we're going to stop saving oil...here's another one; encourage oil companies to develop alternative sources of oil...you know what that means, trashing the Arctic...

speaking of news, here's a couple of tidbits from the op-ed page of the Arizona Republic, which has a "speak out" column in which average Joes and Janes can express their views...

"bush's approval rating can never go below 33%, because that's the percentage of morons in this country"

"I don't care if gasoline goes to $20/gallon...I'd rather be a hammer than a nail" (written by a driver of a big 'ol SUV)...good luck deciding whether to eat or drive, bubba

dada said...

Oh, these desperate administration chickenshits. Bush was again down in New Orleans today. He's averaging a trip and a half a month down there since those photos of Sen. McCain blowing him the candles out on his cake in his birthday suit for Bush to enjoy.

It was almost like rubbing Katrina victims faces in the icing; as though Bush was saying, "Let me eat (more) cake," by asking for a second helping as thousands of stranded and helpless were starving in squalor of desertion by their government.

Or there were other great photo-op pics of Bush playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" as hundreds were floating gently face down dead in the brown mucky waters.

For sure, if I'm to be in the same photo as Bush, it must afforehand be understood, "You are NOT to in any way touch me, to emasculate me, or to demean me, or use me as one of your photo-op props by putting your fuckinarmaroundmeyousumbitch as you're speaking to the camera, because if you touch me, consider it my right to put my arm around you as I describe to the cameras what an incompetentdumbassjobyourfuckingov't has done in aiding victims while it seems to excel in creating 'em.

I liked those nice quotes you brought back with you from AZ, Maineiac.

Didn't one poll I saw have Bush's approval at just 32%? This may be an indication morons ARE capable of learning??!!

And I especially liked your response to the $20/gal. dude. BTW, I heard the dems in congress proposed cutting out the fed'l tax on gas for now to alleviate the high prices. The repubs countered with a $100 for every American taxpayer offer, which probably appeals oodles to the 33% of morons you referred to. Oh, but wait, I forgot to mention. There was a catch with the repubs $100 gift to each taxpayer. The same bill would open up ANWAR for drilling. Those bastards always end up on the moral high ground. I don't know how the hell they do it!

some_maineiac said...

yeah, dada, some of the details behind all the proposals that are being made by our political "leaders" emerged in the newspaper yesterday...and the story even commented on how Bush appears to be trying to distract everyone from the issues by traveling here, there and everywhere...if it wasn't so serious a problem, it would be funny to comment on how both parties are falling all over themselves trying to provide "instant leadership"...

my Senator is going to get a letter to make sure she knows that my view about the whole $100 rebate thing is that it is (1) a sop (what's $100 gonna do?, maybe 4 tanks for an economy car and 1 for an SUV!) and (2) we have to stop this insane seeking for the next oil fix and start heeding the words of former president Carter to conserve what we've got and start seriously exploring alternate sources of energy...like a heroin junkie, we may need to kick the oil habit cold turkey and that may not happen until ALL sources are gone...

unfortunately, according to this month's Nat'l Geographic, the ANWR is just a relatively small piece of the area where drilling is already being done...and the Inupiat people who are affected are none too happy about it...

while traveling in AZ, I could not help but notice a few things...there's a helluva lot of open land and a helluva lot of wind and sun...christ almighty, wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays would be no less of a blight on the land than golf courses and subdivisions!

Anonymous said...

dada, getting another 1% of the moron vote is progress & at least gives me hope. But why do I have the feeling the $100 bribe will be taxable same as that shocking $300 a few yrs ago Lieberman insisted on "so the avg American can participate" in the biggest transfer of wealth to the already wealthy ever attempted before (AKA the Bush Tax Cut).

Mainiac! Good to have you back. Yes, a lot of places in the SW would be perfect for wind & sun power. I've seen the sun photo-v arrays by Barstow & they aren't offensive at all. The wind turbines around Palm Springs & Tehachapi are gross, though. So big & ugly, they don't blend & make me feel as if I'm caught in a futuristic mechanical world where humans are just there for maint. Maybe if they weren't stark white & located a valley over off the main roads so not so visible? But ugly as they are, if the whole nation got behind alternative power, I could live with them & maybe even grow to love them.

Then again, rows of cookie-cutter box houses are just as ugly and ANYTHING beats Golf Courses! I agree with you (and Geo Carlin) ... they are a TOTAL waste of time, money, fertilizer, chemicals, maintenance effort & good alcohol ... and for what, so some rich white guys can whack a ball with a stick for a couple hours? Jeeeez, don't they have any REAL work or sensible recreation they could be doing? It's not even a form of exercise for their fatty hearts & butts since they all use golf carts with little refrigerators well stocked with aforementioned alcohol. No wonder many of them keel over & croak around the 9th hole! (I used to work at a country club & joked we should just have a stand-by paramedic crew stationed there) D.K.