Wall Street Journal
By Anthony Kaufman
04 November 2009
Independent journalist Michael Ruppert predicted the global recession. Now he's foreseeing an imminent energy crisis
Michael Ruppert proudly claims that he predicted the global economic slump more than four years ago in his self-published "From the Wilderness," a monthly news publication and Web site. A narcotics investigator for the Los Angeles police department in the 1970s, Mr. Ruppert left the department and spent years trying to expose links between the CIA and drug smuggling; after 9/11, he wrote the 2004 bestseller "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil," published by New Society Publishers and a favorite among conspiracy theorists.
Mr. Ruppert, 58 years old, has since moved on to what he believes are more pressing matters: oil and energy. ("I walked away from 9/11 five years ago," he says. "I have nothing to do with the 9/11 truth movement.") He has a new self-published book, "A Presidential Energy Policy: Twenty-five Points Addressing the Siamese Twins of Energy and Money," and a critically acclaimed new movie, "Collapse," in which he is the sole star and commentator.
Michael Ruppert, Collapse
Directed by documentarian Chris Smith ("American Movie"), the film consists mostly of Mr. Ruppert speaking about the dangers of peak oil and the looming catastrophe that declining oil reserves could bring. The film opens Nov. 6 in New York and on the new video-on-demand channel FilmBuff.
"The power of 'Collapse' is that Ruppert ... never sounds like a crackpot," Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman wrote after the movie's Toronto International Film Festival premiere in September. "You may want to dispute him, but more than that you'll want to hear him, because what he says—right or wrong, prophecy or paranoia—takes up residence in your mind."
But as with "Fog of War," the Oscar-winning documentary about former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Mr. Ruppert comes across in the film as both authoritative and dubious, leaving the audience open to make its own judgment of the man and his ideas. The Wall Street Journal sat down with Mr. Ruppert to discuss oil, Wall Street and the "imminent collapse of human industrialized civilization."
The Wall Street Journal: What is the central message of your movie?
Mr. Ruppert: It is not possible to continue infinite consumption and infinite population growth on a finite planet.
WSJ: So what do you believe needs to be done first?
Mr. Ruppert: Two things are critically important: A real worldwide transparent effort to determine how much oil is really left. Screw state secrets. I don't care what the Saudis, Russians, BP or Chavez want to hide. We have to clean up those books just exactly as the same way that we need to clean up the books on Wall Street. Secondly, we need to establish a second strategic petroleum reserve of refined product for state, county and municipal use because I really foresee a serious oil shock coming as soon as this ersatz recovery starts to push up the global GDP and demand for electricity. We have to make sure we have basic services.
WSJ: In no uncertain terms, you discount all alternative fuel options in the film, calling clean coal a contradiction and ethanol a "joke." How can you be so sure?
Mr. Ruppert: With 800 million internal combustion-powered vehicles on the planet and the fact that oil powers 90% of transportation, there is nothing that replaces what oil does. And transportation, of course, is what makes everything work, from shipping products to shipping people. And you cannot plug any alternative technologies into a 2008 GMC SUV or a 747 airplane. One of the things that I've also stressed is how much energy goes into making products: There's seven gallons of oil in every tire, and all plastics, paints and resins are made from oil.
WSJ: Do you think there's a greater chance of things turning around under the Obama administration?
Mr. Ruppert: No, it's not a matter of political party. It's a matter of energy. And money is useless without energy and money has no respect for power or ideology. We have to reconnect with the requirements that we're living on a planet that's falling apart. And we have to maintain some relationship that's separate from the illusory power of money. Clearly, the power in this country is not in Washington, it's in New York, with the Fed and with Wall Street.
WSJ: How do you see Wall Street playing a role?
Mr. Ruppert: Until you change the way money works, you change nothing. The current economic paradigm calls for infinite growth, from fractional reserve banking to compact interest. So Wall Street needs to somehow help us find an economy that works without requiring more and more consumption.
WSJ: You've been called "a purveyor of amazing tales" as well as a crusading investigative journalist. What's your response?
Mr. Ruppert: I have two responses: One is that I don't matter. You can focus on me or not, or you can focus on the likely imminent collapse of human industrialized civilization, and I think that's the more important story. On the other hand, I have been severely mistreated. I have been tied up with legal attacks for five to six years and there's only so many I can take on at a time. So I can take away time from reporting and spend time protecting my reputation. And I just made the tactical decision that getting the message out was more important.
WSJ: There's a great irony revealed in the film where we learn about your own economic collapse. Are you still behind in your rent?
Mr. Ruppert: Yes. But people are stepping up to help. We raised $17,000-$18,000 for the legal defense fund for this absolutely crazy ruling in Oregon. [Orgeon's Bureau of Labor and Industries has ordered Mr. Ruppert to pay damages for an incident of workplace sexual harassment.] So I have a lot of support out there. I'll just do whatever I have to do.
Source: Wall Street Journal
May 3, 2009
A Presidential Energy Policy by Michael Ruppert
American culture and consumption has become Public Enemy Number One in the global growth paradigm. People are realizing that the American Dream is murder....Unless a fundamental change is made-and quickly-the only available option is collapse and implosion; the bursting of the human population bubble; or, as people in the Peak Oil movement call it-the Dieoff. The sole purpose of this book (and my life) is to prevent that, or as much of that death and misery, as is humanly possible.
~ Michael C. Ruppert~
This is probably the most important book review I've ever written because A Presidential Energy Policy is unquestionably the most crucial book for anyone aware of the collapse of civilization, which is well underway, to read and understand. It is second only to Mike's first masterpiece, Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of The American Empire at The End of The Age of Oil (2004).
I could have said, "Ruppert's first masterpiece", but Mike is my friend, yet that does not in any way deter my objectivity when assessing the inestimable value of what this book offers the world.
I do have a small quibble with one concept near the book's end on which I will comment later, but first, we need to acknowledge what Mike establishes in the first pages: "...oil price spikes in June and July of 2008 broke the backs of over-extended consumers who could no longer meet their (sub-prime) mortgage payments and that this-and this alone-triggered the great economic crash which began in September and October. Energy and money are inextricably connected in very profound ways...." Furthermore he notes, "The current economic implosion will and can only result in the greatest-and longest lasting-economic depression in human history-a new Dark Age, especially if some fundamental sea changes are not made immediately."
Is gross mismanagement of the nation's energy policy an impeachable offense? 18July2006 :: PeakOilRSA :: BriefingPaper
In the first chapter, the connection between money and energy is solidly established, but more importantly, the need for leadership and the reality that the plan to deal with the problem has been kept secret from us largely, as Mike documented in Crossing The Rubicon, by the National Energy Policy Development Group of 2001, chaired by Dick Cheney. Presumably, one of the first steps in providing leadership to address the inevitable catastrophic consequences of Peak Oil would be to uncover the truth about oil supply and what contingency plans were formulated by Cheney's group.
Mike asserts that his status as a non-partisan expert on energy depletion with lifelong experience with government, frees him from having to "play nice" with political groups and parties. Consequently, the contents of this book and his expertise offer the leadership desperately needed to authentically address the crisis. Fundamental to doing so, he says, is the need to abandon arguments about offshore drilling and face head-on the reality that the current economic crisis "is a global economic meltdown. No nation gets out unscathed. Nothing can grow forever."
Not willing to ever consider himself a candidate for any elected office, Mike states unequivocally that A Presidential Energy Policy has been written for Barack Obama and will be successful even if it does nothing more than open the door to genuine dialog on energy and money; "one cannot be discussed without the other."
Nor does this book adhere to the agenda of any political party. As with nearly all of Mike's writing over the years, some parts are resoundingly liberal and resemble FDR's New Deal, and some parts echo a conservative Republican or Libertarian approach simply because Mike's overarching concern has always been to "implement policies that will keep the nation functioning and that will protect the American people and the world as a whole." Having said this, he asserts that no president can protect corporations and banks with taxpayer money and at the same time allow the nation and its working and middle class citizens to fail. Unfortunately, that is currently what Barack Obama, despite political rhetoric to the contrary, appears to be doing.
Today, 6.5 billion humans depend entirely on oil for food, energy, plastics & chemicals. Population growth is on a collision course with the inevitable decline in oil production.
Concluding Chapter One is the familiar hockey stick diagram depicting population growth which of course correlates exactly with the dawn of the age of oil. While the reader may be tempted to overlook this important diagram, Mike returns to the population issue later in the book, and no reader should take the correlation lightly. The fact remains that human population has grown to its present level precisely because of cheap and abundant petroleum, and when that form of energy is no longer available to our species, the consequences in terms of how many of our numbers endure is obvious-a reality reiterated many times in A Presidential Energy Policy. It is therefore crucial that human beings begin to openly and honestly discuss the issue of population and commit to reducing it through means that are as humane as possible lest through our resistance to doing so, nature takes the matter into its hands and reduces population in ways that are horrific and unimaginable.
In this book Mike is thinking like a president and asks the reader to do the same. He also asks us to abandon all of the hype about alternative energies, green technology, and magic bullet solutions to the realities of Peak Oil and boldly confront the fact that "It is not possible to use enormous amounts of resources to address a resource shortage." While Obama and subsequent presidents will be faced with unprecedented energy crises, Mike reminds us that this is not just an American crisis and that the ramifications of burgeoning population growth alongside a decline in cheap fossil fuel energy spells nothing but doom for the human race unless it begins immediately to intelligently and humanely navigate what Mike calls two sides of a giant claw tightening its grip around all of us.
Therefore, the energy policy of the United States cannot be created in a vacuum. All countries, not just our own, depend on petroleum from other countries, and any president must thoughtfully ponder this fact and detach from wishful thinking about so-called energy breakthroughs, especially since the United States represents 5% of the world's population but uses 25% of its energy. He or she must also understand that oil depletion is happening far too rapidly to naively believe that switching to some attractive alternative is even possible.
SIAMESE TWINS, CHICKENS, AND EGGS
Truth & Lies of 9/11, by Michael Ruppert
In this book Mike is thinking like a president and asks the reader to do the same. He also asks us to abandon all of the hype about alternative energies, green technology, and magic bullet solutions to the realities of Peak Oil and boldly confront the fact that "It is not possible to use enormous amounts of resources to address a resource shortage."
In the "End of Suburbia", Richard Heinberg states unambiguously that Peak Oil will bring about a recession that never ends. In A Presidential Energy Policy, Mike Ruppert points out that:All the new money being printed out of thin air is going to service a $700 trillion derivatives bubble to keep banks and lending institutions afloat. All that money is doing is enabling the financials to try and make their minimum monthly payments on a credit bubble they created.
In numerous places, including "The End of Suburbia", Mike has reminded us that the books on oil have been as cooked as the books on Enron, but it is now time for every country to know with certainty how much oil it has left. A key player in the ongoing mystery of how much oil remains on earth has been Saudi Arabia, and there is abundant evidence that that nation's oil supply has peaked, thanks to the brilliant research of Matt Simons, chairman of the world's largest energy investment bank and author of Twilight In The Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and The World Economy.
But not only must a president know how much oil his/her country has, that chief executive must carefully assess the limitations and disrepair of America's energy grid. While much of the nation's infrastructure has been and is being privatized, this does not mean that grid efficiency can be achieved within the next few decades, especially when skyrocketing energy prices will exclude many citizens from being able to afford the delivery of that energy at all. For as Mike notes, "A spike, even back to $3 a gallon will cause more hardship in 2009 than $4 gasoline did in 2008." Additionally, when assessing infrastructure, a president must include the costs of asphalt (highly petroleum intensive) and the loss of land which is very likely going to be needed for growing food. When infrastructure isn't rebuilt because of "lack of money or materiel, civilization starts to break down."
GEOPOLITICS, FOOD, CLIMATE CHANGE
Lest the reader infer that A Presidential Energy Policy deals only with domestic energy issues, Mike has included a chapter on Iraq and on Saudi Arabia, a separate chapter on foreign policy, and numerous articles by Mike regarding energy and geopolitics written in recent years are archived at the From The Wilderness website. In fact, he may know more about pipelines throughout the world and the geopolitical implications of them than anyone.
I must also mention that for me, no discussion of the collapse of industrial civilization, energy depletion, or economic meltdown can be complete without a discussion of climate change. In this book, Mike integrates the relevance of climate change in both his consideration of Peak Oil and the current economic depression. In this way, he offers a holistic assessment of what I have been calling for years the Toxic Triangle of collapse and what others have been labeling the "Triple Crisis": energy, economics, and the environment.
Eating Fossil Fuels, by Dale Allen Pfeiffer
And on the topic of environment, Mike says that "if there is anything that must be understood with regard to energy it is its relationship to food." Additionally, "If there is any issue which will reveal whether an American president is serving corporations or the people, it is food." Included in his chapter on food, are articles on the use of ethanol as an energy source, as well as one of the most important articles ever published by From The Wilderness, "Eating Fossil Fuels", by Dale Allen Pfeiffer. Connecting the disastrous use of ethanol with population dieoff, Pfeiffer presents us with three choices regarding population, that is: Facing and acting on our dilemma and consciously, voluntarily limiting population growth; allowing the government to regulate population growth; or allowing nature to perform unspeakable acts of suffering and death.
Having adamantly warned us for years not to be seduced by promises of alternative energies which they are incapable of delivering, Mike reiterates his cautionary assessment of them. As he has stated many times,"...there is no alternative energy or combination of alternative energies, that will permit current consumption and lifestyle to continue-let alone provide for the compound growth we are wedded to in the current economic paradigm." The supreme reality of Peak Oil is that we will be downsized, whether we intend to be or not. To deny this fact is tantamount to assuming that Disneyworld can be run on a handful of flashlight batteries.
But Mike doesn't present these facts without also clarifying specific criteria for choosing energy options. Carefully contemplating them is beyond sobering; in fact, it is chilling, especially when one considers the touting of so-called solutions like shale and the electric car-both large consumers of water, which like every other resource on earth has also dramatically peaked. Should anyone doubt this, I suggest the films "Thirst" and "Flow" which unequivocally document the decline of water worldwide. The last thing our species and the earth community needs is another form of energy usage that further depletes any of myriad disappearing resources on this planet.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, by Community Solution
If the rest of A Presidential Energy Policy were not so incredibly juicy, Mike's laundry list of so-called energy alternatives alone, and his analysis of them would be worth the read. But he doesn't leave us there because he takes us into what I believe is the absolute crux of the book, namely, localization as "the alternative to the alternatives." As I write that, I'm reminded of some local farmer friends of mine who are off the grid raising three children and who do all their farming with draft animals. They're fond of pointing out that what we have become accustomed to calling "alternative energy", namely solar and wind, is the only tangible energy there is and that all other forms are, in fact, alternative. They do not, however, proclaim solar and wind to be the magic bullets that many others do. What they do proclaim and live, is the localization of all resource options.
In the Localization chapter, Mike advises the president to understand that:...your first awareness is that the federal government cannot and will not take on the role of solving problems in cities and townships. That would be inefficient and inappropriate on every conceivable level. Only the people in each locality know and can decide what they need most. Each location has different needs. Your second awareness is that if localities fail at the bottom, the nation will fail at the top.
The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were amongst the first people to recognise the importance of the Soldiers of the Soil. In fact Cleopatra declared the earthworm sacred, and anyone trying to take them out of the country was subjected to the death penalty. Tests carried out in the Nile valley by the US Department of Agriculture in 1949 proved that the great fertility of the soil there was due largely to the work of earthworms.~ SQ Worm Sosiety
Moreover, says Mike, all local responses to a tightening of oil supply will be dictated by the degree of self-sufficiency to which each community has liberated itself from dependence on anything from outside. Dear reader, please take the time to read that sentence again. The implications of this are jaw-dropping-and-absolutely necessary for us to wrap our minds around and implement, now. One implication is that globalization is dead. How well I remember Mike's statement in "End of Suburbia" that Peak Oil would absolutely reverse globalization. So hello human race, here we are with those giant parking lot gluts of cars all over the Los Angeles area, not to mention the Port of Long Beach, that no one will buy. For the same reason, when I enter a J.C. Penny's store, the walls and doors are covered with "70% Off" signs. Globalization, R.I.P.
As Mike points out, many individuals and families have relocated to areas where they can make themselves less dependent on fossil fuels and the goods and services of civilization. What is also true is that while we have organizations like Community Solutions and the Transition Town movement with which I am deeply involved in my community, those endeavors are still largely educational and have not been fully implemented. One stellar exception to this is Willits, California which has had a head start on localization for some time.
However, Mike adds a caveat with which I could not agree more, namely, that "There is no hope for any of us outside of a community." Here, it is important to broaden our definition of community because it does not necessarily mean a living community but rather, a group of folks in our local venues who are collapse-aware, who are working to gain self-sufficiency, and to do what is necessary to support each other in the face of collapse.
Hence, at this point I must raise the only quibble I have with A Presidential Energy Policy. In this must-read articulation of everything a president, and a nation's citizens must understand about energy, Mike has left us with what I consider a scenario that is less than feasible:Whether as a result of the collapse of industrial civilization, the total insolvency of the United States government, the economic crash that is just beginning, or climate change (or all of the above), the effects on the United States government are going to be profound. Services are going to be cut. Bureaucracies are going to remain that may not be needed any longer, while some that may be desperately needed will not exist. At some point it will become necessary to put everything on the table and reorganize the government entirely. The imperative first-place-to-begin is the Executive Branch, which should be created anew from a blank sheet of paper.
In a subsequent paragraph, Mike states we may need to design and build a new Executive Branch of government that reflects the new paradigm being born and that for this, we will need new Jeffersons and Madisons-new founding fathers and mothers. While I do not rule out the possibility of this eventuality, I certainly do not believe it is probable. The very sea change that Mike has been brilliantly describing throughout the book dictates that we are now and will be in the days ahead, traversing territory that is absolutely unprecedented in modern history. For example, if we holistically consider the Triple Crisis, Toxic Triangle, or whatever we choose to call it-energy depletion, economic meltdown, and global climate change, then we must consider that any or all of those could radically alter not only the existence of a federal government but the very geography of the continent itself.
Last year I relocated from the Southwestern United States to Vermont. My reasons for doing so are legion, and I discussed some of them in my June, 2008 article "Location, Location, Re-location." Famous for its intense winters and high unemployment even in good times, Vermont is not for the faint of heart, and I do not recommend it unless one has job security and the ability to navigate a treacherous winter.
That said, one attraction to this sparsely populated state with its abundance of water and arable land is that it has always been a bastion of independent thinking and has today one of the strongest movements for secession in the nation. No, I'm not referring to some Rick Perry quip like "Texas might secede", but rather I'm referring to a group of thoughtful individuals who have been observing and preparing for collapse for several years. I happen to serve on the editorial board of their outstanding newspaper, Vermont Commons, the only statewide independent newspaper in Vermont.
While I am not personally a rabid secessionist, I have come to believe that preparation for the radical alteration of geography as a result of the Triple Crisis is essential for everyone who wishes to be self-sufficient. In this state, as in I would imagine all others, there are pockets which might be completely cut off from other areas as a result of natural disasters or collapsed bridges or other infrastructure which cannot be repaired-eventualities to which Mike referred in his wonderful book. I believe that not only is such fragmentation likely, but that those disconnections might become so severe that a federal government would become completely irrelevant to and out of reach for the citizens in those areas who might be cut off from the rest of the state and nation by circumstances which we cannot now fully imagine. In other words, "secession" may not the only means by which a community becomes radically self-sufficient. In my opinion, therefore, it behooves us, if we are truly committed to localization, to focus our energies accordingly, rather than on the remapping of the Executive Branch of the federal government. It is also entirely possible that no either/or will occur and that both scenarios will deserve our attention.
Revisiting The Limits to Growth, by Mathew Simmons
What Mike has emphasized repeatedly throughout the book is an urgent transformation of our thinking-a mentality that has left miles of unsold new cars sitting in lots all over Los Angeles-cars with seven gallons of oil in each tire. Only a profound soul sickness could create and maintain a civilization that is destroying everything in its path with little thought to the suicidal trajectory into which it has become locked.
I ask you to read A Presidential Energy Policy as soon as possible and share it with your friends and family. Share it with your elected officials and your neighbors and begin now to educate your community in preparation for the inevitable consequences of the Triple Crisis. Unquestionably, we are entering a new Dark Age, but the information Mike has offered, if heeded, could punctuate the darkness with a thousand points of light.
Richard Heinberg comments that "This book, recently reviewed at length by Carolyn Baker, describes the essence of our global energy predicament for a mass audience. Ruppert ties together the issues of oil depletion, resource geopolitics, population, climate, world currency/banking systems, and global food supplies, showing how perilous our current path is, and what we need to do to change direction. Short, readable, and clear, this is an ideal book to give to friends, relatives, or political representatives who don’t yet “get it.”"
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., manages Truth to Power at http://www.carolynbaker.net/ and is the author of the just-published Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse. She is an adjunct professor of history and psychology and is the author of U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You, (2006), endorsed by Mike Ruppert. Carolyn is also a former writer for and Managing Editor of From The Wilderness.
Source: Energy Bulletin