Commentator James Howard Kunstler, the author of The Long Emergency, laid out what to expect, now that we are on the brink of global peak oil production. He predicted a long arc of depletion that will cause great hardships to the American economy. Suburbia, he declared, "is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world," and will be particularly hard hit because it depends utterly on supplies of cheap oil. Its destiny is to become "dysfunctional and devalued," he opined.
Yet large cities won't necessarily fare better in an era of energy shortages, he noted. The most successful places to live, he believes, will be smaller towns and cities that are in close proximity to local farms. "The age of the 3,000 mile Caesar salad is coming to an end," Kunstler quipped. American society will be "compelled to reorganize itself" focusing on localized efforts, he added.
National retail outlets like Wal-Mart will hit the skids by the end of the decade and regional areas dependent on cheap air conditioning such as the Southwest will face severe troubles, he forecast. Leadership in facing this upcoming crisis is lacking, said Kunstler. As a first step, he advocated for the restoration of a passenger rail system in the US, that would be akin to the efficient trains of Europe. This would help to boost national morale and get rid of the incentive to build more urban sprawl, he argued.