Rod Dreher: Peak Oil is Coming, and we’re Unready

great article over at DallasNews.com . Just read this excerpt.

Maybe we’ll come up with a new wonder drug to fight the superbugs. Maybe we’ll invent some new way to meet our power needs when oil can’t be had cheaply, or at any price. Maybe Wall Street will come up with some new financial instruments that will make us solvent again. It could happen.

But there are no guarantees. The thing is, we’re living as if we are guaranteed to go onward and upward into a better and brighter future. Our nation’s (relatively short) history encourages this fallacious thinking. Like spoiled children, we want freedom without responsibility. But that’s impossible. You cannot defy the law of gravity forever.

To be truly free is to be responsible. To be responsible is to make choices today that demonstrate wise stewardship of our resources and our liberty. To be responsible is to see the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. To be responsible is to sacrifice now, as previous generations did, so as not to bind future generations to the tyranny of debt, poverty, foreign powers or their own appetites.

A famed U.S. military leader has warned that the fossil-fuel supply on which American civilization depends utterly will run out someday in the 21st century and that our nation cannot afford to place our hope in “the sentimental belief that the things we fear will never really happen.”

“I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants – those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age,” said Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, father of the nuclear Navy.

In 1957.

We’ve wasted a half-century of precious time, another non-renewable resource. We probably don’t have another one to spare.

Portion of Median Daily US Income Spent on Gasoline

Portion of Income Spent on Gasolinefrom MountainSentinel.com

At $4 per gallon, gasoline consumption will take 11% of daily income. It is expected that gasoline prices might rise above $6 per gallon by the end of summer. Such an increase would require 17% of daily income to meet gas needs. The percentage of income spent on gasoline climbs over 20% as we approach $8 per gallon. And a price of $12 per gallon would eat up fully a third of the average income. Half of the average income would disappear into the gas tank at $18 per gallon. And at $36 per gallon there would be nothing left of the average income.

Now, let us bear in mind that this average income is a median. That means half of the population earns less than that amount. The rise in gasoline prices will have a much more drastic effect on this half of the population. To see how it will affect them, let’s look at the minimum wage.

Gasoline vs Minimum Wage This portion of the population is already spending at least 17% of their wages on gasoline. By the end of summer, they could be spending over a quarter of their income on gasoline. And, at $12 per gallon, they will spend more than half of their income putting gas into their vehicle.

I can think of nothing better to demonstrate what a travesty is our current minimum wage. For those who argue that a rise in the minimum wage will hurt employers, I point out that as gasoline prices rise, the minimum wage will literally amount to a slave wage. It will not be long before no one can afford to take a job for minimum wage.

Both of the above charts also point out what an insult is the Bush tax rebate. At $4 per gallon, this rebate amounts to enough gasoline to meet average driving demands for 75 days. Or 50 days at $6 per gallon. For those who only receive $300 in their tax rebate – that is, for the minimum wage earners, Bush is offering to subsidize their gasoline for 38 days at $4 per gallon, or 25 days at $6 per gallon. It would be better to apply this money to the record budget deficits resulting from Bush’s illegal wars.

As gasoline prices increase people will have to take money from some other part of their family budget to pay their gas expenses. The following chart contains the Bureau of Labor Statistics average US cost of living statistics.(8) The dollar figures are from a suggested yearly income of $30,850.64.(9) This figure is much higher than the census bureau’s median income.