- - Tuesday, July 8, 2014


By David Archibald
Regnery Publishing, $27.99, 203 pages

Since the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, and the market crash of 2008, Americans have fewer reasons to brush aside warnings such as those in the title of this book. Yet abundance and domestic peace have been mostly taken for granted, as post-Sept. 11 fears have faded. However, assurances that “everything will be alright,” according to an informed researcher, reflect an unwarranted optimism. We can do something to avoid an approaching disaster, but only with a generous dose of reality.

The early years of the 21st century greeted us with the realities of an attack on the continental United States and a misnamed economic “recovery,” where large unemployment figures are becoming the “new normal,” and are viewed by many experts as preludes to far worse damage to the republic.

In “Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will be Nasty, Brutish, and Short,” David Archibald stresses the disasters awaiting us (unless we reverse course on several fronts) dwarf anything we’ve previously experienced. That would include two world wars and also a “Cold War,” which generated geographically smaller but mostly longer wars, plus the unremitting push by a determined enemy to plant a toxic ideology worldwide.

This time, according to the author, our threats (here at home and from abroad) could confront us with energy shortages, food riots and nuclear wars.

Mr. Archibald is an Exxon-trained geologist, a financial-industry analyst and a scholar at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, where he teaches a course in strategic energy policy.

“Climate change?” Check (sort of). Right problem, wrong temperature. Yes, we do face “climate change.” That has been drummed into our ears almost 24/7. What’s different about Mr. Archibald’s approach is that he cites chapter and verse to back a claim that we are on a path toward an “entirely predictable but potentially catastrophic global cooling,” not global warming.

“A colder world,” he warns, “will be a hungrier world.”

“Current grain stocks held by countries around the world,” the author goes on to say, “assume that tomorrow will be much the same as today,” when in reality “the highest solar activity for the last 8,000 years is now past.”

Actually, “the climate for grain growing will continue to get worse,” and “cold-driven reductions in grain supply will be quite distressing even to those who are prepared. The unprepared will become quite dead.”

Furthermore, he claims, only one country in the world has an energy policy adequate for the future: China. Alas, that country wishes the United States ill.

In terms of armed conflict, the author of “Twilight of Abundance,” sees China as the main long-term threat. The Chinese were “late to the industrial party,” he says. Accordingly, they “prefer that other nations be deferential to them in a hierarchal arrangement with China at the top.” The Chinese perceived lack of the respect they deserve even generated an official National Humiliation Day holiday for 13 years. Determination to overcome the inferiority complex accounts for historical and recent Chinese aggression, notably in the South China Sea.

To erase the stigma of its “century of shame, China will need to have an unequivocal victory over somebody,” Mr. Archibald writes, citing what he believes is “the Chinese dream of a quick war with the United States.” His book lists “four main factors that will influence the timing of China’s attack,” all of them related to energy and military readiness and the U.S. political calendar.

In the final analysis, an energy policy is seen as the cornerstone for avoiding disasters specified in the book title. There is no alternative to nuclear power, he emphasizes, or to “uranium-burning light-water reactors.”

Mr. Archibald opines that in “the very long term,” we can develop the newer “thorium salt nuclear reactor.” His outlook is that “when all the fossil fuels are exhausted [as he says will happen someday], nuclear power at 3 cents per kilowatt hour can be used to produce hydrogen.”

The process would also involve carbon from biomass and municipal waste, diesel and jet fuel at a cost of around $120 per barrel, or at a retail cost of around $4 per gallon.

His conclusion: “Civilization at a high standard of living could go on indefinitely.”

Note: The current oil “fracking boom” that is set to make the United States the world’s leading exporter of the “black gold” has given us more time to prepare for defense against a dark future. Mr. Archibald cites progress toward using nuclear power without the environmental and political difficulties of waste.

All of this will require a political leadership willing to engage in serious energy projects rather than installing wind farms or attempting to shut down the coal industry.

Controversial? Of course, but it requires an open mind, which will be vastly more difficult if our leadership insists the debate on climate change “is over.”

Wes Vernon’s broadcast career included 25 years with CBS Radio. He is now a Washington writer.

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