James Howard Kunstler appeared on the Colbert Report today promoting his new novel about a world without oil. Kunstler claimed we have hit the peak of oil and now we must get off of oil and abandon our Wal-Mart suburbia ways.
Kunstler is mistaking economics with physics. There's a finite amount of oil, but that's not what we care about. We care about energy. As the price of oil rises we find new sources of electricity. We improve wind, solar, nuclear, coal, geothermal, and oil efficiency. We find new deposits, including things we never considered oil before. Someday we will not use oil, but it will be phased out, not ripped away. Kunstler imagines the oil wells "drying up" will come as a surprise--a paradox concerning that's what everyone talks about. Assuming ignorance on the part of the oil companies (who's fortunes are made on the stuff) is patently absurd.
Colbert wisely (though I doubt he meant it this way) brought up the terror of Y2K, asking "When's that going to hit?" I remember the scares of the millennium bug vividly, the concern that planes will fall out of the sky and the world will suddenly end. It didn't. No one wanted to go back to the Stone Age so programmers fixed the problem. Now we are better off than we were eight years ago, and the Y2K scare a distance and quaint memory. Kunstler's novel will surely follow the same path.