Why Kunstler Is Right (or, a Rare Post on Politics and the Economy)

This is a dumb post by a pretty smart guy. Speaking about “peak oil” and what James Kunstler calls “the long emergency,” Yglesias writes:

Obviously, this would result in some economic hardship for many families, but it’s hardly an “epochal shift.” Indeed, even current gasoline prices are actually quite low as a share of household income by historical standards so even if plug-in technology doesn’t materialize (which is hard to believe) we’re not on the precipice of such never-before-seen apocalypse.

Earlier, he points out that given hybrid car technology, the average commuter could keep the overall cost of living in suburbia and working elsewhere relatively stable. What he forgets (and as numerous comments point out) is that a rather large portion of our entire economy is dependent on fossil fuels, most notably our food supplies. As fuel costs go up, even people who don’t own a car will feel the pinch, since the cost of transportation will rise in kind (and I haven’t heard much about the development of hybrid 18-wheelers). I may not be entirely on board with Kunstler’s doom-and-gloom predications, but I do think things will be changing in the near future, whether we like it or not, and we need to change the way we think about things, especially the “size” of our world.