Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Autos and Housing

If you have been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I have stated time and again:  we (the U.S. and the world) do not need a SINGLE NEW CAR ever again - that the inventory we have is sufficient to finish off ALL of the remaining oil in the world.  And then some.

Today, I was reading Tom Whipple's stuff, as I do every week.  Tom is a retired CIA analyst.  He should have worked on Wall Street - we might have been better informed if he had.  Alas, it was not to be.

But I digress...

The U.S. already has some 250 million 2-axle motor vehicles (cars, light trucks, vans) running around and sitting in traffic jams (and only 200 million licensed drivers). With some tender care and adequate spare parts, this inventory easily could be useful for another 20 or 30 years considering how much less they are going to be driven once gas prices go up. Even the most optimistic do not see how there will be much oil around for powering private cars 25 years from now.

When one considers that we already have in operation more than enough cars and trucks with low mileage internal combustion engines to last us through the rest of the oil age, the only logical thing to do is to stop making more. That's right --- stop building and selling anything that consumes liquid fuels at anywhere near the rate consumed by our current fleet of vehicles.
See... the CIA knows Autos (and everything else  that depends on cheap and plentiful gasoline and diesel - including housing) are doomed.  The CIA reports to the POTUS.  The POTUS at this moment is Barak Obama.  Mr. Obama is, by all accounts, as sharp as a TACK... 

But I digress...

Chrysler is going to be liquidated.  G.M. is going to change its name to General Motorcycle and Moped (credit the Mad Scientist with that one).  Ford will survive as a manufacturer of heavy duty work vehicles.  

And you, my friend, are going to have a new title.  



We met a delightful family from Mexico this week at the farmer's co-op.  I was putting up a sign for a part time farm hand when a young man speaking broken English approached me, and together with my broken Spanish, I solved my problem by hiring his small construction outfit to help with repair work around my place as well as feeding my animals when we are in Florida.  

He invited me to his home, a 5 acre farm which turned out to be the epitome of self-sufficient.  Upon arriving we were treated to Cabritto (Roasted Goat) from his herd.  My wife declined but I fell to with gusto.  Burning hot salsa, fresh tortias, and incredibly seasoned goat flesh with coffee strong enough to clean New York City taxi bumpers under my belt and we were ready to take in the spread.  

Not a square inch was wasted.  Corn grew in 2 acres as well as every nook and cranny.  A 1/4 acre vegetable garden.  Fruit trees rather than decorative bushes surrounded the house.  The remaining area held their goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens.  The farm provided all of the family's milk, eggs, meat, and most of their fruit and vegetables.  

But here comes the good part.

The "family" was my new friend's wife and 3 kids, his brother and his new wife, 2 cousins and their new wives, and his father.  12 people lived in this home that was perhaps 2,000 square feet, and by my reckoning they probably produced half of their own food.  He was planning on renting a neighbor's 10 acres to expand his farming operation.

They slaughter and butcher their animals themselves (I had always contracted out this work). He and his brother are coming over later in the week to help me put 2 goats into the freezer, and to share the family recipe for Cabritto.

These folks are from a remote place in Mexico and were raised without benefit of running water or electricity, but are not Amish about it.  They are very happy to have these services in their present home.

What an eye opener.

Mentatt (at) yahoo (d0t) com


bureaucrat said...

Those of us who live on a 33' x 150' lot in Chicago aren't entirely helpless. I have three big pots for my potatoes this year, potatoes which lasted me three months during the winter (too small to do anything other than peel and boil.) And while I can't deny you the "down on the farm" advantages, city life allows you to walk a lot, to the restaurants, to the lake for water, to the food stores, medical, postal boxes, car repair, charity work, and just good old exercise walking. "Farmer Bureaucrat" ain't gonna be able to grow much or build a wind turbine, but city life has its "after-the-oil-shock" pluses too.

Anonymous said...

I was reading Whipple's article and he talked about how GM could use it's resources to make something other than autos. Perhaps they should think outside the car and do something along the lines what Micron is doing here: converting fab opertions over to making solar panels.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I prefer city living, especially when I was young, single, and childless.

I was only sharing the experience of spending time with folks whose entire concept of BEING is providing for oneself - no food stamps, no medicaid, no packeged/process foods, no a lot of stuff American poor and working class would riot about if deprived of. They hold full time jobs off of their "farm" (a 5 acre plot is hardly a farm) to provide cash but then come home to their "other" job which they seem to enjoy immensely.


U.S. manufacturing WILL WITHOUT DOUBT reorganize and produce that which is needed. The only "fly in the ointment" is the government and its "central planning". THAT is what would do the most harm.

Be interesting to see how that works out.

bureaucrat said...

I'm still waiting to see how the Chevy Volt works out. That is 100% electric (will have a small gasoline motor to generate electricity when battery is low). GM hasn't made a Volt yet, and it is "first generation," so anything can happen. The auto industry will retool to make them, or something like them. The bigger problems are that: batteries cannot hold a charge the way oil holds energy, and the electricity industry says they have the capacity to charge up a lot of cars at night -- has industry ever been wrong? ;)

kathy said...

You made my day with this post. We have a small farmstead and manage to grow a lot, even in Massachusetts. My son asked that we contribute to his son's car fund for his first birthday. They are putting away his college money but though that grandparents might provide a car for college if we didn't bother with traditional birthday and holiday gifts. When I told him that I suspected that teenagers would not be driving private cars in 17 years I was met with silence. The parents went home and did their first internet search on peak oil. For the first time, I think they get it.

Anonymous said...

Electricity comes primarily from coal, gas and nuclear power. May as well turn coal and natural gas to liquid fuel. Approximately the same efficiency, if nuclear or wind or solar power is used for heat to drive the conversion process. Has anyone looked into the stress that building all those high capacity batteries would put on the environment? My money is on diesel hybrids at 60 or 70 MPG.


Coal Guy

derestricted said...

Within most towns in Europe there is great public transport and you can get by better without a car as the cost/hassle of parking and slow speed in traffic outweigh any benefits. if you dont like public transport a bicycle is fast, cheap and keeps you fit. One step up is a moped or motorcycle which are more fun, faster and also pretty cheap. There are electric version on the market with more arriving soon, but so far they are too slow to charge and too expensive to buy. Not worth it with fuel at this price, or even 4 times this price.
In northern Europe the weather is the one major downside to bikes.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


Most folks looking at peak oil miss the 800 pound gorilla in the room: The economy is going to contract WILDLY, and all of those social programs in Europe are going to undo them. Public transportation is wonderful, but our economy is dependent upon the automobile - unless you are going to take a 50" flat panel TV home under your arm on your bus ride.

Perhaps you say we don't "need" flat panel T.V.'s. How true. We don't need a lot of things: Deordorant, daily showers, toilet paper, disposable diapers, soda, porn, alcohol, drugs, pajamas, dental floss, nail clippers, tennis shoes...

"Need" is a funny thing; especially when it comes to the economy.

Anonymous said...

Greg and all,

While not related to today's story, here's a 28-minute PBS interview (Bill Moyers) that should (IMHO) seen by all Americans. Give it a try--two minutes (at least) and pass it on.

oOOo said...

Greg, I wrote public transport, but its really private for the most part. the metro system etc you have to pay for. Its just a cheaper faster alternative to getting around in a city like frankfurt or barcelona or london etc., but you do still buy a ticket.
You also rarely buy a flatsscreen TV so thats not really an issue. You can always take a taxi if need be on the rare occasion you buy something massive.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


Again, you are speaking about functionality in your "need". The economy does not comprehend rarely. It only knows total sales.

I am an anti consumer. SO WHAT? THIS economy hates guys like me. Consumers NEED the ability to make rash and silly and unplanned purchases that they then pack home in their cars. No car, no rash purchases. No rash purchases, and the economy and the SOCIAL PROGRAMS OF EUROPE and America's Medicare & Social Security and Pension System go ka BOOM!!

We will get by, those of us that survive the multiple shooting gauntlet. This is going to be EASY as PIE for young, single, healthy males. Little old ladies on a fixed income about to evaporate? Not so much.

Peak Oil aware folks are usually young, educated, MEN, and they tend to think about the issue from their perspective. When you are young and tough, you can adjust to anything. Unfortunately, 10% of Americans are on food assistance, 85% of senior citizens live entirely on their Social Security, etc... these programs will not survive the economic contraction. What about the people we have addicted to these programs?

oOOo said...

Well, I was talking specifically about the offered travel options here which everyone pays for, not all the other stuff you mention. There is no stigma attached to getting around on the metro or bus here and you always see people with all their weekly shopping on the bus. These services used to be Public run services which you paid for, now they have all pretty much been privatised and you pay a little bit more, for a slightly better servcice. I have a car now, but until recently I didnt and got around great without one for many years. As do all the old peeps you see travelling on the metro and buses here. Anyway, I know this is the 'The American Energy Crisis' blog but my point is, in European cities, you do NOT need a car. In Manhattan and I am sure some other cities in the USA you dont either.
Out of curiosity have you ever been to Europe?

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I am nearly 50 years old, and have traveled extensively all over the world, except Australia and Antarctica.

And not at the Four Seasons, either. I walked most of it.

But that ain't the point. The U.S. is 25% of the WORLD economy. If they get a cold, the rest of the world gets the flu.

sharon said...

thanks for sharing.......

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