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Peakniks, Doomers, and Wall Street’s Itchy Trigger Finger Ronald Lairchild (December 7th, 2005)

For years the term “Peak Oil” was a sort of economic bogeyman, used by high school teachers economics teachers to frighten their students into recycling every week. From time to time people would use it to inspire movies from Road Warrior to Syriana video games like Fallout. When Hubbert presented his theory the E.R.O.E.I. or “Energy Returned On Energy Invested” was something like 50 barrels reapeded out of the ground to every barrel used to pump the precious resource from the ground (1). With the arrival of Hurricane Katrina the U.S.A. was forced to take yet another good hard look at oil and it’s effects on everyday life (i.e. trying to get to work on less than $40 worth of gas).

Back in the 1980s an entire generation of school children was exposed to the full force of what the media was quick to call “The Green Revolution”. This revolution introduced North America to things like recycling, composting, solar panals, the ozone hole, and turning off the TV when one
leaves the room. After the dust had settled most people forgot about being green and decided to buy an suv. Of course, not everyone decided to let the Hummer and pick up truck go to their heads. Two such groups of people are called Peakniks and Doomers.

Peaknik is a variation of the Peacenik, which is a variation of the name Sputnik. Sputnik (or more importantly “Sputnik 1”, launched in October 1957) was a satillite created by the USSR during the cold war. Sputnick 1 is important historically because it was the earth’s first artifical satillite and because it but the fear of God into the U.S. and its space program (2). Sputnik became linked with communism, and so anyone who wasn’t “with the team” became “them”, and so people who wanted peace with the USSR (and so making themselves look like commy-pinko-sympatisers were then called peacenicks (the were also beatniks of the Beat Generation and Pinkniks who were oppresed homosexuals) (3). People who want to wake peace with Peak Oil and not wage and Oil War (see: Urban Warfare) are therefore called Peaknicks. This term, while lighthearted, is also calling people who study Peak Oil communists. Peakniks are also the kind of people to build their own solar powered cars and race them across Califronia, just to prove a point.

A Doomer is someone who… yes, the gaming community does recognise this as someone who likes playing with their BFG all day… but the word is also used to describe people who look at Peak Oil like a modern day Armageddon, and such people suffer from a over active imagination and the newly coined term “Apocophilia”, which is the “An attraction to, or taking pleasure in,
end-of-society scenarios, such as global nuclear war, or worst-case peak-oil or global-warming.” (4) There is also the concept that, uncorroborated as it is, the word Doomer is connected to the word Boomer, which is a person who was born as part of the Baby Boom which took place after the end of World War II and America entered its golden age. A sign of guilt perhaps? Let us
not count our wells before they are drilled.

Both Peakniks and Doomers have realized the same thing as all of the environmentalists we ignored during the 1980s and 1990s… that non-renewable resources are in fact… wait for it… non-renewable. While it is true that the amount of oil left in the OPEC is a closely guarded secret, it is also true that OPEC declined to increase output to help the U.S. after Katrina hit New
Orleans. Many took this as a sign of a “fossil fuel collapse” and a sign of another Energy Crisis (5). Wall Street took this as a sign that it had the planet’s permission to raise the price of oil as high as it could… which is very important.

No one is really sure how much fossil fuel is left on our dear little planet, and of course no one will every come up with a hard and fast number. New sources of oil are being found while old sources of oil are running dry and all the while books are being cooked for reasons both political and economic. The capitalists of the world (namely those who sell sweet crude) aren’t waiting for a answer, and they are more than happy to charge you a thousand times the price even if it means they have to walk home (i.e. a capitalist will sell you the rope to make his noose). While an energy crisis isn’t necessarily going to happen over night a economic crash can! We can
take the emergence of Doomers as proof that paranoia is on the increase. It takes a lot to make the average person paranoid, and most people are able to ignore the blatantly obvious for a very long time, but when the public begins to react it does so on a massive scale… like fleeing, rioting, and selling stock. All Wall Street has to do is pull the trigger.

Chris Rock once said that America (and perhaps North America) worships at the church of ATM. He said that the banks close on Sunday because if they didn’t the churches would be empty. It is written on an American $1 Bill that “In God We Trust”, and one could believe it when you see how middle class America is willing to spend it’s resources. You would think that a self-professed “lighthouse of liberty” would want to liberate itself from something as potentially explosive as the fossil fuel industry, but then again its hard to argue when you’re warm and snug inside a McMansion.

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_Oil
2 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik
3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatniks
4 - http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=apocophilia
5 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_crisis

By: Ronald Lairchild

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