by K. Gurunathan — May 31st, 2004
Soaring petrol prices have hit a global 21-year high. In Kapiti, as in the rest of
the country, families are paying about $8 per week more to fuel their cars. In addition,
rising transport costs mean the same families will be paying more for their weekly
groceries and services.
The bad news raises a simile on the face of Peka Peka resident Robert Atack. For
him the dark clouds come with a silver lining. For the last five years he has been
totally committed to warning people and the country’s decision makers that an oil
crash was imminent and the consumer culture of New Zealand and the world was not
His in-your-face single-minded approach was literally sign posted everywhere. Just
out of Wellington’s Victoria Tunnel Robert Atack’s trademark website www.oilcrash.com
competed with the city council’s street names. In Kapiti his website
signs hitched a ride on Kapiti Coast District Council’s water conservation campaign
You key into a radical Maori current issues website called www.tinorangatira.co
and Robert Atack is there mixing it with those debating about who owns the foreshore.
His is more fired-up than any born-again Christian. “I’ll go into a paedophile website
if I need to to get the message out. The repercussions of the coming oil crash is
bigger than all these problems put together,” he said.
His abrasive Prophet of Doom style has alienated even those on the side of green
politics. He has hammered the Green Party and their supporters, accusing them of
pandering to trivial issues and not concentrating on theoil crash. His conversion
has been nothing short of dramatic.
Just five years ago he was a consumer with a passion for fast motorbikes that guzzled
petrol in return for the thrill of rubber, asphalt and speed.
Then one day he locked on a website
www.dieoff.org run by self-made millionaire Jay Hanson
and it changed his life.
“I learnt the basic economics of oil. That it is a non-sustainable mineral with a
fixed supply. All the cheap sources of oil have been discovered and almost used up
and it is going to cost more to find and process the remaining stocks from tar sands
and shale rock. Globally we consume four barrels of oil for every one we discover.”
“Our whole civilisation is built on cheap petroleum products. Practically everything
on your supermarket shelves is made from or wrapped in it. There are 500,000 so called
essential oil based products.”
“Like every where else New Zealand’s agriculture is based on fertiliser and pesticides
made out of petroleum and gas. You take the oil factor out and everything will collapse
like a pack of cards. It is a frightening prospect...so frightening that politicians
and governments are too afraid to tell the truth,” Mr Atack said.
A builder by trade, Mr Atack lives on a nine-acre organic farm in Peka Peka with
his partner Jill. “It is the children and the future they will inherit that concerns
me,” he said.
“Without cheap oil this country can only sustain a population of two million,” he
said and questioned the economic policies of the government, the opposition and the
business sector as completely unsustainable and “cuckoo-land stuff”. “What we are
seeing today is not a repeat of the oil shocks of the 1970s when middle-east politics
pushed oil prices up. This is the supply of cheap oil running out with no cheap alternatives
developed or available.”
“It is coming at a time when the huge Indian and Chinese economies are fuelling greater
demand. Between 2005 and 2010 demand will outstrip the global wells capacity to supply.
The natural gas supply will peak between 2020 to 2025 and then decline.”
Over five years Mr Atack has poured more than $7000 of his own money into his campaign
and an average of 4 hours a day. His latest is a book by American Matt Savinar
called The Oil Age is Over: what to expect as the world runs out of cheap oil
which he is reproducing and distributing.
The book is a mind-boggling analysis that exposes the wheels within wheels conspiracy
of the world oil companies and the global powers like the United States which are
using military means to secure what remains of the world’s scarce cheap oil.
“If you still think the United States went into Iraq to uphold democracy you deserve
to spend the rest of your life stuck in the traffic congestion on SH1,” said Mr Atack.
“Look at the big picture and you realise how laughable the debate over Transmission
Gully or the four laning of SH1 really is. We need radical rethinking but I am afraid
that we are rapidly approaching the place of no return,” said Robert Atack.