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The Legendary Dave Howell interviews Tate Ulsaker
August 2005 — by Tate Ulsaker


Recently, I was honoured to meet another giant of the Peak Oil truth movement right here in Moscow.

David Howell, co-authored the classic “Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction” way back in 1974, during the early days of our now rapidly escalating energy crisis.

A quick Google search will pull up thousands of references to David Howell’s book, still being quoted and referenced by organizations like: www.urbanecology.org.au and www.co2andclimate.org.

Local bookstores might not stock it as often as they used to but you can buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. My copy should be coming to me by mail in a few days.

I have not yet read the book, but I did meet with Dave Howell. It seems to me that Dave’s views basically parallel the current leaders like Kunstler, Campbell, Heinberg and others. Basically, we all realize that we are face-to-face with a multi-headed dragon that humankind has never dealt with before.

Since the publication of Dave’s book 30+ years ago, he has watched with concern as generations of presidents and peoples in the US and the world have chosen lifestyles and policies, totally ignoring the message within his book which is prominently displayed on the front cover with that ominous title: “Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction”. The message can’t get any more succinct and it can’t be any more right. Paradoxically, it can’t get any more ignored. To our peril, we have lost our chance to avoid a face-to-face confrontation with the multi-headed dragon called Peak Oil. But we did not lose our chance to survive.

Survival was precisely the topic of interest discussed between Dave and me. The following discussion takes the form of an interview. Dave suggested interviewing me on the subject of avoiding the coming collapse and we focused upon Russia as a post collapse survivor nation.

Dave and I were introduced with help from a moderator of EnergyResources (ER), a popular newsgroup at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/, where we both have contributed opinions.

The following 17 questions were provided to me by Dave via email. Subsequently, we met over a beer and talked for several refills worth of issues. I am humbled that he would interview me on a subject that he knows so well. The following is not an actual dialogue but a set of questions concerning Peak Oil today and how it will likely impact Russia VS the rest of the world.

Dave Howell: Tate, I’m bringing up the oil-peak question and post-oil-peak possibilities with increasing frequency among my students. Most of the stuff that I read; e.g., on the Energy Resources (ER) site, is focused on the impacts on America, so I’ve got some pretty good ideas of what life is going to be like there. What I can’t give my students any guidance on is what they can expect.

You’re in the business of consulting with and giving advice to many of Russia’s largest and most influential Western businesses, and to do that you have to have your ear pretty close to the ground. I know that you are also very much up-to-speed on the issue of peak oil and on the nearing global warming crisis. And of course as a Russian ex-pat you have more than a passing interest in the art of survival here. So from your unique vantage point, your educated guesses would be very helpful in providing me ˆ and my students ˆ with some broad guidance about how these upcoming developments are going to uniquely affect Russia. So I’m very grateful for your taking your time to think about some of these questions.
Tate Ulsaker: Questions from you Dave give me reason to reflect. You have been aware of Peak Oil for decades and you have a lot to teach others. I will try to support that effort with your students.
Dave Howell: Question 1: Somebody on the EnergyResources site recently speculated, “Perhaps the greatest threats to the U.S. in the coming decades are Europe and Russia.” Do you agree with this?
Tate Ulsaker: Dave, I don’t agree at all. It seems to me that Russia is not threatened nor does Russia have any advantages in threatening the United States. Besides, no nation on earth is doing more to destroy the United States than the United States. Our currency markets have nowhere to go but Weimar, we produce almost nothing of exportable value any more, our borders are wide open even as we wage expensive resource wars with expensive resources and we have built economic bubble upon bubble. There is no way out of our mess from this point except through collapse of our currency, stocks, housing, and industry. Eventually, society and civilization as we know it will follow. This process has already begun. I believe that we have reached Peak Oil or will reach it this year. Russia and the rest of the world know what to expect from a US collapse so they will benefit by simply waiting for opportunities on the geopolitical and economic landscape as the US falls into the junk heap of post-empire status.
Dave Howell: Question 2: But some people believe that Russia is a threat to America still. If that were true then where exactly could that threat potentially come from? Energy? Military? Social? Competition for resources?
Tate Ulsaker: Well, that is a good point on a few levels. Political minds in the United States these days believe that a sovereign country is “threatening” the viability of the United States whenever that country refuses to sell raw energy resources at the volumes and price levels so required for United States global hegemony. Americans are right to fear collapse, but the only real solution is to eliminate the need to steal resources from weaker countries through unfair political, economic and military pressures.

I am just now discovering that resource wars are nothing new. Resource acquisition, I am finding, has always been a central part of any war strategy, regardless of the official reason for waging war. Many times, resource acquisition is the primary purpose for waging war in the first place. The history books print the officially stated reasons that one side will declare war on the other side. Many times, this is necessary to garner public support for an unjust resource war that would otherwise fail to win moral support for the many sacrifices to be made. And who benefits?

Most Americans are only aware of the good side of US policy but they discount or fail to consider the dark side of US policy that arguably began with wiping out American Indians using small pox-laden blankets and extended from there to every corner of the globe until we find ourselves now spraying thousands of tons of radioactive depleted uranium into the Iraqi cities, food supply and water supply. The official reasons for waging war change through time but the central purpose seems to be largely about resource acquisition. Americans have stopped asking the question “who benefits?” They have stopped thinking for themselves and are therefore easily misled into wars that don’t make any sense upon even cursory analysis.

So on that level, yes, Russia can easily be painted as a threat to the American people because Russia may be in a position to deny America oil in the very near future as demand outstrips supply. America is not a good partner for Russia because America has nothing to give Russia in return for petroleum. After the dollar collapse, the US is finished except for nuclear weapons, bravado, and misguided policies.

So, back to your question about a potential threat from Russia against the US. The biggest threat coming from Russia would be if Russia would simply curtail sales to the US in preference for a more sane policy of internal economic and social development.

If president Putin were drunk enough to listen to my advice about all this, and if I was not in fear of losing my life for inadvertently insulting him, here is what I would say:

«Mr. President, do what is best for Russia because what is sane for Russia is sane for the world. Go ahead and start decreasing US access to your oil. Why sell a finite and dwindling and much demanded resource prior to the biggest bull market in the history of mankind?

«Russia is the world’s only energy exporter with a military power of significance. The US is not your master. The US is on the verge of the post-imperialist junkyard and blind to that impending certain fate. Your country has the potential to do what the United States failed to do in 1973.

«Mr. President, we Americans have failed to develop a sustainable society and so our leaders are driven mad to secure ever-dwindling supplies just to prolong the coming collapse. Their choices are limited to resource wars today because their vision was limited to a mindless petro-growth 30-years ago. Russia can either follow the path of the United States towards guaranteed collapse or Russia can find her own path towards possible peace and prosperity.

«With Peak Oil’s evident arrival in 2005, America is poised for a mighty collapse on a level commensurate with her status as the world’s sole superpower. Until now, the world has been foolishly following in the unwise footsteps of America towards greater industrialization and increased dependency on the dwindling supplies of petroleum products. Resource wars are no solution, but they tempt leaders to engage in contests that waste the very resources being sought in the first place.

«The direction of the world is clearly undesirable, but Russia has a different possible destiny. Perhaps using the collapse of America as a tool for social change, Russia might implement programs that depopulate mega-cities, empower vast agricultural zones with a fair homesteading act and new regional powers

«No country on earth has the combination of land, energy, educated peoples and political will to do what Russia can do right now at this critical juncture of civilization. Mr. President, you have a chance to break away from this highway to destruction and to chart your own path towards a secure future for your people.

«If successful, your legendary status would be sealed in history as a pivotal figure of hope for all mankind, of no less stature and respect than India’s Ghandi.

«With your political will, the coming crash of America will spark a move inward for Russia, rather than outward to additional resource contests involving China, India, Europe and others. Let the nations of the world continue trading the blood of their peoples for dwindling resources if that is their desire. Russia can begin building a nation that will last far beyond these temporary resource wars.

«And with each success, Mr. Putin, please don’t forget to seal your borders…»

(at this point I would raise my 100 grams of vodka up with a gesture to make a toast)

«…because a sustainable Russia with a prosperous, peaceful, self-governed, expansive, organically producing series of agricultural communities will be the desire of everyone in the world in the post-petroleum stone age…»

(Then, following the distinctive clink of our respective shot glasses, we steep our glasses upward and gulp down the fuel while exhaling through our teeth… Then I look up and to my surprise, I see that I have been given space to add one more memorable phrase. I seize the moment.)

«…and Russia will be the desired place of everyone in the post petroleum world by the same token as your would be partner, America, was the desire during the age of oil.»

(And then I woke up from that strange dream with a blazing hangover and I wondered what am I doing on the floor by the computer at 3:00 AM?)
Dave Howell: Question 3: What do you think is the future for ex-pat Americans here?
Tate Ulsaker: I will answer a bit later Dave. I think my wife has some remedies for this hangover in the kitchen.



The interview goes on here.