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KAPITI OBSERVER

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 sustainable.
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 signs.
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.