I'd like to think that if someone from another planet were to arrive in the United States and spend a couple of weeks talking to folks and taking in all our amenities (Wallmarts, shooting ranges, freeways, etc), they'd quickly deduce that one of the most important tasks we are faced with as a society is keeping the economy healthy....that and low oil prices.
At least, that's been my take on things over the past few months. The relationship between plentiful, cheap oil and the viability of industrial societies is so intertwined, so deeply ingrained in everything we're taught, it's rarely discussed at any length. But as many Peak Oil folks point out, Hubbert's Peak isn't something up for negotiation - as oil production peaks, industrial economies go down, and very possibly, completely crash.
Even small cent by cent increases in the price of gasoline over a few months for example, are enough to give the economy a conniption of epic proportions. So, you'd think, with gas prices easing down (still of $4 a gal here on the Coast) now, perhaps this would be a good time to take stock of how we've been living and start to steer a new course, right?
Wrong. As a friend pointed out a few years back, knowing the mentality of Americans, it's very likely that when the going gets tough, most folks are gonna be willing to support anything to bring back the status quo. Even if the behavior exacerbates the problem. Even if the status quo of freeways and fast food sucks.
Case n' point: Off shore oil drilling. Late last week, Nancy Pelosi, the biggest disappointment out of the Bay Area since Jerry Garcia, said she's considering allowing legislation to go through that would permit new offshore oil drilling.
According to the L.A. Times, Pelosi, like Obama, is softening her stance on a longstanding offshore oil ban enacted by Congress. The fact that only a few weeks ago, the golden asshole in the white house made a symbolic rescinding of the ban in an effort to influence public opinion in our oil oligarchs favor is really only salt on a wound. No, I take that back, it's more like being beaten by a meat tenderizer just before being put on the grill.
I'm old enough to recognize that most politicians are unprincipled, power-hungry, egotistical-swine, who will whore themselves out to anyone who can deliver votes or campaign contributions (whichever comes first) but come on Nancy, how can you even look at yourself in the mirror?
Then again, to use the language of our ever-accurate pollsters, the democrats and the American public deserve only 40% of the blame. The rest really goes to the oil barons, the republicans, and the 4th estate. The former, for buying up ad space to push more lies about "clean" coal, offshore drilling, etc; the latter for selling the airspace to them in the first place and running front page stories (SF Chronicle in particular) with headlines reading "More Americans Support Offshore Oil Drilling Now"; and the GOP, for placing a higher priority on political power and the "health" of an economy destined for failure rather than on the health of the planet.
In a future where oil supplies are uncertain, there will be simply no shortage of blame, and if there's one thing I'm sure of, we ain't seen nothin' yet.