Commentary on the Flux of EventsNovember 9, 2005
Remarks by James Howard Kunstler
The American public's failure to pay attention reached supernatural levels this week as our mass media gloated over falling gasoline prices -- down 24 cents, average, to pre-hurricane levels. The news media took this to mean that all the end-of-the-summer trouble is over with and things can now get back to normal, including especially an economy based on trade in suburban houses.
What they failed to notice is this: since the hurricanes shredded our Gulf of Mexico oil and gas capacity, Europe has been sending us 2 million barrels of crude oil and "refined product" a day from its collective strategic petroleum reserve. The "refined product" includes 800,000 barrels of gasoline, plus diesel, aviation, and heating fuel. Meanwhile, US domestic production has fallen to around 4 million barrels of conventional crude a day. America uses close to 22 million barrels of oil a day. Bottom line: post-hurricane, total imports have accounted for 80 percent of America's oil consumption..
Now, the important part of all this is that last week the International Energy Agency (IEA), Europe's energy security watchdog, declared that it would now end the 2 million barrel a day shipments to the US. Not because they are hateful meanies, but because, after all, it is Europe's strategic reserve and they can't sell it all to us because, well, some strategic emergency might come up for them, too.
It will take a few weeks for the last of Europe's tankers to offload supplies and for the various fuels to work their way through the US fuels retail system. With US production and refining still crippled, we can look forward to watching the price of gasoline, heating oil, diesel and aviation fuel kick back up through Thanksgiving and on into the heart of the Christmas shopping season. At the same time, homeowners will be getting their first substantial heating bills of the season.
This will be very bad news to the guys in charge. The Hooverization of George W. Bush will resume and accelerate.
Meanwhile, the new uprising of Islamic youth in France shows no sign of letting up and, in fact, is growing in both intensity and venues. If it continues along the same upward arc, the authorities may soon start making martyrs out of the young car-bombers. The action could spread to Holland, England, and elsewhere across Europe. The potential for wider scale insurrection and systematic terror operations such as bombings is obviously huge. Anybody can get instruction in bomb-making off the Internet now. People and materials move easily over a united Europe with fewer border controls than in the old days.
Europe knows it can ill-afford antagonizing the Jihadi factions beyond its borders. With the North Sea oil fields depleting at rates as high as 20 percent a year, Europeans have little local production to fall back on if, say, regular tanker shipments of Middle Eastern oil through the Suez canal were to be interrupted for some reason. England's methane gas production is at especially alarming low levels.
Europe -- France and Germany in particular -- have enjoyed the luxury of laying back since 9/11 and allowing the US to rumble with the Islamic world, while the Europeans enjoyed a comfortable sense of moral superiority about their supposed peaceableness. Those pretenses seem to be reaching an end. So now that Europe has gallantly spent down its strategic petroleum reserve for our sake, it will be interesting to see how soon they may need it themselves.
I wouldn't venture to guess whether the young rioters of France are getting help and encouragement from somewhere outside, but there certainly are enough Jihadi professionals and cheerleaders on the sidelines to support this new frontal action in Old Europe. It is going to be an interesting holiday season all around the western world.
Remarks by James Howard Kunstler
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