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Culture Change

The oil industry has plans for you

by Jan Lundberg

More drilling, spills, opening up public lands for private profit, base consumerism, road building, Wal-Marts and other parking-lot developments, climate destabilization, cancer, birth defects, manipulation of science for PR, maximizing imports of liquefied natural gas, oil wars, and more guerilla warfare in Iraq...

None of this "progress" is a surprise to the White House or to society's other top sectors, nor to the conscious intelligentsia. But, news-reporting on all of these developments--although a bit scanty--makes it appear we are a people innocently discovering only now that war can have "unintended" consequences.

Blow-back is the U.S. "intelligence community's" term for delayed reactions to its interventions and covert activity. Sept. 11, 2001 may have been purely blow-back, or something more extensive. Anyway, we need a term for oil policy blow-back. Flow-back? Gas-back? Oil-company weather?

Some oil watchers call the oil blow-back to come "the historic discontinuity," flowing from the passing of the peak in world oil extraction. The big eye-opener for the somnolent consumer is that "they" (scientists, leaders) will not be able to "think of something" to replace oil, as is assumed.

We have to have plans for the oil industry, if we are to exercise awareness of the oil industry's plans for us. Boycotting petroleum is doubtful, if not impossible these days. However, creating Citizen Petroleum Councils, for example, will allow the public to find out what the industry and government know about petroleum dependence, and will give communities a chance to start planning around the petroleros' agenda. [See the link at the end of this article for information on Citizen Petroleum Councils and non-petroleum transport and agriculture.]

News keeps coming in that shows the U.S. will continue to play the role of dangerous giant on the world scene, at any cost. But it's interesting to note the world's vulnerability to maintaining petroleum gluttony enabling the global economy of waste.

Prices of natural gas have risen greatly and are going nowhere but up. This threatens economic growth.  There is no sign of conservation--or, more impressive--a transition to doing without nearly so much energy consumption. The pointlessness and greed of continuing present energy usage, when basic needs can be provided for on a fraction of today's energy use, is never accounted for. That's why alternative press and websites exist. The U.S. uses twice the energy of Western Europe, which takes better care of its people and the environment.  

However, it would be a losing game to cling to the popular fantasy of fueling the present economy--with billions of consumers--with substitutes for petroleum. What the Sustainable Energy Institute has learned and tried to get across since its founding in 1988, is that there will be no continuation of this nation's energy-intensive industrial, agricultural and consumer diet once the peak of global oil production passes. 

The peak is about now, and no new discoveries or oil wars can alter the overall trend. Therefore, it's vital for our survival to visualize an alternative lifestyle and social structure. People are so enamored with massive energy consumption and gee-whiz techno-gadgets that any departure from that way of thinking is deemed to be insane and Luddite. Yet, hiding our head in the sand is no solution.  

If it hurts to say that the only model for sustainability that we have is the American Indian, so be it. As the arrows fly at us from the techno-geeks and hopeless consumers--flag wavers and non-flag wavers alike--we hasten to say we know very well we cannot go back in time; Yes there are too many people now and nature's pristine bounty has been trashed and depleted; Yes, much has been learned that can help us to develop a sustainable society. Appropriate technology must be applied for our short-term and long-term survival, especially for ecological restoration and providing food and water with renewable energy.  

The fact that this is not underway except by some fanatical visionaries and hippies does not bode well. The energy future that is being pursued by mainstream society and government policy is going to make the transition to sustainability iffy. Unfortunately, the funded environmental movement is hardly helping, when it does not understand or tackle petroleum issues and does not admit to overpopulation as already achieved. 

Who's your daddy? Alan Greenspan 
Low natural gas prices— now vital to economic growth—are not expected to return unless "something is done."  So Alan Greenspan was before Congress's House Energy and Commerce Committee June 10. In a responsible-sounding economist voice, he was reiterating the direction of energy policy: make more cheap energy.  While it was the same old story, we could discern the latest approach. Congressmen were blatantly representing industry (in the guise of "jobs"), wanting more manufacturing and less regulation. A revival in nuclear was also voiced by Greenspan and industry lackeys on the Committee. 

One Congressman pointed out that a policy of conservation still pops up here and there in contradiction to incentives to use more energy at a discount. Another Congressmen had Greenspan comment on the peak in global oil production, which Greenspan claimed was perhaps many years off. It was clear he is not interested in evidence that the peak could have just occurred, although this would have massive implications for status-quo economics. 

The official topic for Greenspan's testimony was on the "need" for more natural gas. Because of lack of reserves the focus was on liquefied natural gas (LNG) that would be imported. This means more port facilities and the facilitating of dangerous spills and terrorism, as pointed out by Congresswoman Lois Capps of Santa Barbara. 

Unmentioned was that more gas and LNG means more greenhouse gas emissions. The LNG would not be replacing coal; it would be for extending economic growth. More everything. Short term profits is what Greenspan's bottom line has to be, or he'd be outta there.  

That's U.S. energy policy, and it's given a greenwash, such as when natural gas and LNG are called "clean fuels" even though they're just petroleum. However, if substitution of coal (three times dirtier than gas) were the goal, one should accept on a temporary basis domestic natural gas as a replacement fuel, but not as a way to increase consumption for the sake of "economic growth".

White House cover up 
In mid June a scandal hit the White House and Environmental Protection Agency: "EPA report omits climate section." The most fun part of this story was learning how it was the American Petroleum Institute who had questioned a well known study showing that global temperatures had spiked sharply in the past decade compared with levels over the past 1,000 years. So, that fact was deleted from the draft of the EPA report. 

The EPA report is on the state of the environment, but the White House was heavily involved in editing the climate section: The New York Times reported, "risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs." 

The result of today's energy policy, the same policy that this country has always had, means disastrous breakdowns of the transportation, agricultural and electric utility systems in the U.S. and elsewhere. That is what your country is doing for you. We already know what it is doing to the rest of the world: burning it up for profit.  

The above does not take into account that the drones and clones slaving away in the work place may be unhappy with their lot: cancer, lack of time with family and community, and being divorced from nature. The workaday existence in consumer boxes called homes, despite the amazing technology that our ancestors did not have, is a dead end. Although many revel in it, the plans that Big Oil and government have for all of us is more of the same, and who voted for this? Global warming, no thanks. No more oil wars. 

It's time to individually chart our own destiny, and that might mean working closer to home or moving closer to the job. For more ideas that the powers that be do NOT have in mind to explore or encourage, see our website at, and talk to your family and neighbors about options--unless Alan Greenspan is your daddy. 

June 27, 2003

See Citizen Petroleum Councils (CPCs) (Culture Change Letter #11
See Jan Lundberg's speech to The Institute of Petroleum (Culture Change Letter # 12)
See Fall of Petroleum Civilization
See our donations page mentioning CPCs

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Jan Lundberg's columns are protected by copyright; however, non-commercial use of the material is permitted as long as full attribution is given with a link to this website, and he is informed of the re-publishing:


Articles of interest:
Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results.  WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California . Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)



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Culture Change (Trademarked) is published by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) California non-stock corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.