The Corner

Re: Patrick Deneen On Peak Oil & The Culture War

Jonah: Prior to the peroration, the article that you quote says this:

Peak oil and climate change are fronts in the culture wars, and to some conservatives, watching the price of oil rise as the Arctic ice melts, it might feel like being in Germany at the close of World War II, with the Russians advancing on one front while U.S.-led forces come from the other. The propositions that cheap oil is running out and the world is getting hotter — as a result of our own activities — threaten a whole way of life. 

This is pure emotionalism.  Global warming doesn’t come close to threatening “a whole way of life”.  Its expected impact is to make a much richer world 100 years from now ~3 percent poorer.  Protecting ourselves against the outside risk of much worse effects mostly requires some prudent investments in fallback technologies as insurance.  Crude oil production will reach a maximum at some point in the future.  I don’t know when that will happen, and the record of those who have tried to forecast this not been very good over the past 70 years or so.  When that happens, the price will probably rise.  We will develop technological alternatives and find substitute fuels.  It’s not time to start burying Krugerrands in the backyard.

There are real, inevitable tensions between markets (which is to say, freedom) and traditions.  There are also, however, ways in which they can be mutually supportive.  Further, neither tradition nor freedom is an absolute good.  Actively trying to create a party of “conservatives” and a party of “live now’ers” could easily be called “fissionism”, and would represent the unwinding of the coalition that National Review was established to build.

Jim Manzi is CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company.

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