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Peak Oil = This year's shark attacks?

Steven Leavitt certainly thinks so. The noted author of Freakonomics applies what Glenn Reynolds referes to as "a brutal fisking" to Peter Maas' article in the New York Times that seems to have set off some of the people on my f-list. Leavitt's take on it is that not only is Maas an economic illiterate, he can't write and doesn't know jack about history either. RTWT.

As a consolation prize to my friends who will be disconsolate about not getting to live in a post-apocalyptic future, I offer the thought that Rush Limbaugh and other talk radio hosts may be losing their audiences. No, wait, sorry - it's just that people are turning to podcasts, or tuning in to local hosts. Interest in Al Franken's show does seem to be increasing, though he has a way to go before he's competitive with El Rushbo.

UPDATE Mitch Berg of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, a longtime radio pro, has some comments and context that the Strib article doesn't supply.

Speaking of the apocalypse, Professor Death comments on a couple of news articles concerning public and private teps being taken to prep for the possible avian-flu pandemic.

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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
chebutykin
Aug. 22nd, 2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
The Leavitt article is interesting, but he misses big, huge, gaping issues, most of which are discussed in the comments below the main article.

The laws of supply and demand are wonderful things, but the issue here is really that it is fully possible that oil production will drop faster than we can invent our way around it... or that political unrest will cause a sharp drop, which, even if temporary, can have devistating effects on an economy that isn't quite prepared for it. Indeed, a tiny shortfall of oil in the 1970's ground the entire economy to a halt. Granted, we now have better fuel efficiency, etc., but we also now use far more oil overall than we did in those days.
wombat_socho
Aug. 22nd, 2005 05:27 pm (UTC)
Obviously I'm more optimistic about the situation - and as for the 1970s oil crisis, yeah, it was a shock top the system but not exactly the apocalyptic horror everyone makes it out to be these days. I think the reason it has that "ZOMG the sky is falling!" feeling for so many people was that the Vietnam War was ending badly, the auto companies were getting their heads handed to them by Toyota and Nissan, and the Fortune 500 in general were shedding people right left and center. For all its flaws, Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." sums up the feeling of the time perfectly.

That having been said, it's worth remembering that Leavitt's base statement is correct: every time somebody says the bottom's going to fall out, we find a way to weld it back on and keep going. Americans are pretty cool that way. ~_^
chebutykin
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
That having been said, it's worth remembering that Leavitt's base statement is correct: every time somebody says the bottom's going to fall out, we find a way to weld it back on and keep going.

It's correct in that that's what's happened in the past. However, there's nothing inherent in it that says that's necessarily what's going to happen until the end of time. The truth is, catastrophic shit happens, systems fail, and the longer a system lasts, there are more opportunities to alter it. We're at a fragile point in our economy right now. While we may be able to wriggle out of it somehow, there's also nothing wrong in preparing for the fact that we might not be able to do so. On a smaller scale, that's why people keep savings accounts. You never know when you're going to need it.

that the Vietnam War was ending badly, the auto companies were getting their heads handed to them by Toyota and Nissan, and the Fortune 500 in general were shedding people right left and center.

Funny, that sounds awfully familiar to me. We're in a mess in Iraq right now, we're importing more and more consumer goods each day, and a ton of the corporate giants are going belly up (see: airlines). Plus, we've sold our souls to China in order to fund the Iraq war. Our economy and our national attitude are in a sucky place, and they might not bounce back well with an oil problem on its hands.
jamestrainor
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:10 pm (UTC)

Funny, that sounds awfully familiar to me. We're in a mess in Iraq right now


Oh noes, they're fighting so we must be losing!
wombat_socho
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:26 pm (UTC)
He's being snarky, but it's worth pointing out that in the last couple of years the main fighting has been shifting steadily westward away from Baghdad. Things in the Shiite and Kurdish parts of the country have been extremely quiet since the first year - nobody there wants the Baath Party (or the Sunnis, for that matter) back in charge.

Sure, we're going to keep hearing about bombs going off in Baghdad. That's where the reporters are, and what bleeds leads. Even the press is starting to wonder if they've been too negative, though; see my post on "Ignoring the Fourth Estate", below.
chebutykin
Aug. 22nd, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC)
Not necessarily what I meant. I just happen to think we could have used those people and $315 billion a lot more constructively (especially since Bin Laden is still running around somewhere).
wombat_socho
Aug. 23rd, 2005 12:46 am (UTC)
Maybe so, but it's hard to run a jihad when you're on the run and nobody wants to look too friendly for fear of being the next on our list. There are far worse foreign policies than Oderint dum metuant.
chebutykin
Aug. 23rd, 2005 01:57 am (UTC)
There are far worse foreign policies than Oderint dum metuant.

True, but there are also better ones. Besides, last time I checked, Caligula still wasn't held in high regard as a strategist. *grin*

I think the biggest irk I have about bin Laden still being on the loose is that he is still being used as an excuse to do things that have only the barest, most tangental relation to the 9/11 attacks. Like they want to keep him out there just so they can point to him whenever they come up with another pet project that might be unpopular with the public. I'm not saying that's necessarily what's going on, but that is certainly the conclusion I'm starting to believe.

... but it's hard to run a jihad when you're on the run...

I'm also not convinced that this is the case anymore.
wombat_socho
Aug. 23rd, 2005 05:25 pm (UTC)
Caligula's responsible for that one? Didn't know that. He's not the only one to use it, that's for sure.

Part of the problem with foreign policy is that we don't have just one any more - party politics used to stop "at the water's edge", but that was one of the many casualties of the Vietnam War. Sicne then, we also have the onslaught of popular culture, and unfortunately not all cultures are like the Japanese, who are happy to suck up all our pop culture, put their own weird spin on it, and fire it right back at us. Equally unfortunately, a lot of foreigners don't see that we don't have a pop monoculture any more and haven't had since the 60s. It's become more pronounced lately, with the Internet and CD/DVD burners to help bring together subcultures and make it easy for them to disseminate their art, but it doesn't always draw the attention that the stuff produced by the NYDCLA axis does, more's the pity.

Even in our own country there are people who don't realize the rich veins of alternative folk and country music out there, much less the cultures that music comes from, because it doesn't get a lot of attention in the big cities. Ditto with world music and foreign literature. It's becoming more accessible to more Americans, but in Europe and Latin America they don't see that as clearly as we do.
wombat_socho
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
With this post, I officially declare myself an Old Fart.

*ahem*

With all due respect, you weren't there, and the situations are not even remotely comparable. Despite the media talking heads, Iraq has more in common with the Philippine Insurrection than it does with Vietnam. Nobody was drafted to fight in either Iraq or the Philippines, the cost in terms of the national budget was pretty minimal (adjusted for inflation, defense expenditures this year are lower than they have been since before WW2) and there's no other superpower helping out the other side as there was in Vietnam.

The corporate crises of the 1970s had everything to do with the big manufacturing companies realizing they couldn't compete effectively with the Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese any more, coupled with runaway inflation (LBJ's guns and butter budgets coming home to roost) and nothing to do with the oil crisis. NWA and American declaring bankruptcy is not symptomatic of the economy at large, which has been growing at a robust 5% this year with negligible inflation. You'll note that plenty of other airlines (Continental, Southwest, JetBlue) have been doing just fine since they're being run a lot more intelligently than the legacy airlines like NWA. I feel bad for the machinists, but there's new jet engine and airframe mechanics coming out of the armed forces and civilian schools every year, and the airlines can't afford to pay them above what the market demands any more, especially since the airlines aren't free to demand top dollar for all their seats since deregulation.
chebutykin
Aug. 23rd, 2005 02:27 am (UTC)
No, 2005 isn't a straight replay of the 1970's. It's true there hasn't been a draft, and Iraq isn't being backed by Russia (but, I seem to recall, they've signed a mutual protection pact with Iran...), but the unpopularity is there. Granted, the protesters of the 1960's were a bit less apathetic than our 2005 activists, but the sentiments are there for 50% of the population. In economics, perception of the situation is just as likely to effect the economy as the reality of the situation. If people are seeing a messy military situation, gas prices that creep higher every day, and companies folding that affect their daily lives... that can still be ripe ground for real problems, regardless of current growth.

You also bring up a point when you mention that I wasn't around for the oil crisis of the 70's. You're right. I wasn't. Nobody under 35 was. That's a lot of adults that are seeing 2005 as some of the worst American social unrest that they've ever personally seen. There's a lot of alarm in people of my age group.

I just happen to see a tinderbox here, and an oil shortage -- even if it's small and temporary -- is a possible match.

...defense expenditures this year are lower than they have been since before WW2

That may be so, but before Regan took office, those defense expenditures weren't happening on top of HUGE deficit spending, which changes the paradigm a little. We're trillions of dollars in debt right now, and we're currently spending half of all global money that is spent on defense. I believe the figure was $466 billion dollars last year, just out of our pockets.

Now, deficit spending in itself isn't bad if its a temporary situation, but we've financed ourselves through China. That very well might bite us in the ass very soon.

Anyway, that's all a tangent, and getting further from the original discussion.

I did find an interesting article here, though, about the relation of the US dollar to oil. Aside from the doom scenarios at the end (which we have been debating already, and I know you don't buy), I thought you might be interested in the "history of money" stuff. Curious what you think of it.
wombat_socho
Aug. 23rd, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC)
You also bring up a point when you mention that I wasn't around for the oil crisis of the 70's. You're right. I wasn't. Nobody under 35 was. That's a lot of adults that are seeing 2005 as some of the worst American social unrest that they've ever personally seen. There's a lot of alarm in people of my age group.

Speaking of things which have come back to bite us in the ass...there's a horrible lack of historical perspective in your generation, too, thanks to the public schools. But that's another rant for another time, and you're right - for people that came of age during the dot-com bubble, this must seem like the Great Depression all over again.

I'll take a look at that post and will probably comment on it. Y'know, it's nice to have someone on the other side of the political fence that I can kick this stuff around with without things devolving into exchanges of insults. That's unfortunately rare these days. Thanks.
chebutykin
Aug. 23rd, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC)
there's a horrible lack of historical perspective in your generation, too, thanks to the public schools.

Oh, completely agreed on that, though I suspect that's true of just about any generation, at least to some degree.

Y'know, it's nice to have someone on the other side of the political fence that I can kick this stuff around with without things devolving into exchanges of insults. That's unfortunately rare these days. Thanks.

Likewise!
tokenfanboy
Aug. 22nd, 2005 04:42 pm (UTC)
Rush really shot himself in the foot with his whole drug problem. I haven't listened to him much since then - including during the election.

I even got out of the habit of listening to GL. I never did like the time change. Instead of them being on for 2 hours before I leave work it became only 1 hour.

One of my co-workers listens to WDFL (aka WCCO) most of the day so I overhear some of that. Pat Miles is okay but I can't stand their afternoon guy. I have to laugh every time someone calls in praising the him for being unbiased. What's worse is that he seems to think he's unbiased too. At least Rush admits his bias.

I have been occassionally tuning in to MPR's news station. Some of their science shows are interesting. I like that they will play entire speeches and lectures too. I heard an interesting talk by Newt Gingrich on health care reform last week. I do actually like Gary Eichten (sp?) as an interviewer. He asks a lot of good questions of his guests.

With my uncertainty about work in the past year I haven't been in the mood to listen to people get all riled up about politics. I've generally been listening to Jack FM. On the drive home I've been listening to Moon and Stacey on KS95.

wombat_socho
Aug. 22nd, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)
With my uncertainty about work in the past year I haven't been in the mood to listen to people get all riled up about politics. I've generally been listening to Jack FM. On the drive home I've been listening to Moon and Stacey on KS95.

I get all the political headaches I need from the blogosphere these days; in the truck I'm usually listening to mix CDs or baseball, depending on what time it is.
qob
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC)
I've been ripping up carpet for our new offices since wednesday and haven't listened to much other than music, so my political stress level has gone down. On predicting the Apocalypse: the beauty of it is that no matter how many times they've been wrong, the doomsayers still get listened to - "What if they are right this time?" I have a strong feeling that the energy industry is taking a lot of pro-active steps. Personally I have enough to worry about now without worrying about that,"Sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof."
wombat_socho
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:28 pm (UTC)
Isn't that the truth. That's why I tend to give the blogs a quick scan in the morning or as time allows, and not get too worried about it...got troubles of my own right now that I have to deal with.
433
Aug. 22nd, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
I was happy with the GL timechange, because then I could listen to the full Kevyn Burger show between Ron & Mark and GL. Then, of course, they switched Kevyn's timeslot with Dr. Laura. Bah.

I got a survey from 1500 last week and was quite happy to say I "rarely or never listen" to Rush and Hannity, and in the comments section I asked why they waste time with shows that one show that is a pale imitation of its former glory and a crappy copy of the same show, and asked that they fill the slots with Joe O'Brian and the Polichicks. Then on Saturday morning, boy was I happy to read that Strib article.

I guess I just like hosts who actually care and think about what the callers have to say, as opposed to the gruesome twosome of Rush and Sean, as well as Bob Davis.
wombat_socho
Aug. 23rd, 2005 12:44 am (UTC)
I can't pull in AM stations from my cube, and the Evil Banking Neighbor doesn't let us do the audio streaming thing any more, so I haven't listened to Rush regularly in years. He does seem to have lost some of his former zing, though whether it's the drugs, the divorce, or just boredom (he's been doing this for over 15 years, after all) I really couldn't say. Hannity I've never liked.

Still, Mitch made an astute point in his post on this: every six months after an election, the Strib runs a piece about how talk radio is losing market share. Funny thing, when the campaign season gets underway, they forget to run the article about talk radio's market share going up...
433
Aug. 23rd, 2005 02:50 am (UTC)
Well, you have to admit they couldn't ignore a 63% drop.
wombat_socho
Aug. 23rd, 2005 01:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree. They could have done a much better job of showing context, though, especially in the case of the two explicitly partisan stations. Similar numbers but wildly different demographics make one station a roaring success and the other a complete flop. This is the sort of thing that newspapers used to be very good at, but these days most of the j-school graduates are either all about being the next Woodward and Bernstein or can't write their way out of a wet paper bag. Or both.
433
Aug. 22nd, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
You mean Don Shelby? Does he still have his show? You know he's a big Nawm Coleman guy, right?
wombat_socho
Aug. 23rd, 2005 12:40 am (UTC)
Just so long as he's not a big fan of Nick (I Know Stuff!) Coleman. ^^
tokenfanboy
Aug. 23rd, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
Actually I was refering to their Noon-3 guy that directly follows Miles. His name is Jack Rice. Shelby's show is on at 3.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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