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James Kunstler offers a decidedly darker view at Aspen forum

ASPEN ” Social critic and author James Howard Kunstler single-handedly offset all the rosy predictions about the clean energy future dominating the Aspen Environment Forum with his incredibly bleak outlook in a presentation Friday.

The economic pains the United States has experienced in the last 18 months are nothing compared to what is coming, he claimed. Kunstler expects economic Armageddon to start in about four months. People are fooling themselves that the economy is showing true signs of recovery, he said.

“The American public has no idea what it’s moving into and how disturbingly different it’s going to be,” Kunstler said.

Here is a sample of what he sees: the multitude of companies that are struggling to prop themselves up now will “roll over and die”; the stock market’s “final rope-a-dope sucker rally” will fail and send it tumbling to the 4,000 level by the end of the year; other nations will no longer invest in U.S. treasury bonds, stripping the stimulus effort of fuel; and, in a prediction that hit the clean energy advocates at the conference hardest, the capital for investment in giant solar and wind farms won’t materialize.

Kunstler has a running feud with the environmental movement, “especially at elite places like Aspen,” as he says on his website, and he took a shot at the presenters and conferees at the environment forum.

He claimed they live in an “energy fantasy world” for thinking that used french fry oil can power the world’s vehicles and that we can resume our consumptive lifestyles after a short period of adjustment.

Kunstler argued in his book, “The Long Emergency,” that every aspect of our lives will be overturned because of “peak oil” ” the declining production of oil that looms on the not-so-distant horizon. The network of interstate highways and roads that carried the country’s economic growth after World War II and sparked flight to the suburbs and exurbs will be virtually useless. The recent volatility in oil and natural gas prices will become the norm.

Solar power, wind power and other renewable resources will be employed, but not at a level to offset the inevitable changes, he said. The events that are occurring now are a way of telling us that the American standard of living must “drop between 20 and 50 percent,” he claimed. He sees the industrial society evolving to be agrarian or semi-agrarian.

The recession, which he called a depression, has destroyed so much capital “that no amount of phony-baloney capital that the federal reserve creates can overcome the amount that’s disappeared.”

In his view, President Obama doesn’t realize the severity of the economic revolution or doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

“We literally cannot restart the growth thing,” Kunstler said. “We really can’t restart the consumer credit thing. Even if the bank wanted to lend, we’re not going to lend more people money to buy more flat-screen TVs.

“It’s basically over,” he said.

Kunstler details his views at his web site, http://www.kunstler.com/.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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