Car Wars

Name: Car Wars, by Steve Jackson Games

Type: Board/Roleplaying Game (armored and armed car warfare on the dystopian highways of a future America).

Written in: 1980, to begin with; there have been multiple supplements since.  1996 is the publication date of the latest roleplaying supplement (GURPS Autoduel).

Set in: 2030-2046; I'm doing this one because according to the official timeline Rounds One and Two of Everything Turns To Crap were supposed to have happened by now.

Why it's a dystopia: For our purposes?  Well, at this point the country's supposed to have lost Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana in a civil war; legalized blood sports; watched the environment go Full Metal Ehrlich; and suffered through a decade of domestic terrorism.  And this is the part of the timeline that the future inhabitants are going to be nostalgic about.

Why it's significant: Honestly?  Much as I love this game - and I do, I do - I'm doing it because it's a handy referent to peak oil in popular culture.

What happened?  Well, the environmental estimates were as accurate as they always were - for some reason, radical Greenies really do tend to forget that rich people breathe oxygen, drink water, and metabolize organic material, too - but it's the peak oil thing that is probably the tell, here.

The short version of the peak oil theory: take a commonsense observation (there's a finite amount of oil on the planet), add DOOM, and you end up with peak oil... which is to say, at some point the oil wells run dry, society collapses a la Mad Max, human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria.  My colleague Steve Maley has a pretty good critique of the theory over at RedState; without getting into that too deeply, suffice it to say that peak oil pretty severely ignores economic factors.  Simply put, the basic theory assumes that increased demand/price, or improved technologies, will almost never be a factor in determining the availability of a particular hydrocarbon supply - including those currently scored as officially 'depleted.'  This assumption, by the way, makes professionals in the petroleum industry laugh like loons.

Some people are probably fuming a little at that laughter, mostly because it implies that radical environmentalists aren't nearly as good at science and engineering as they think that they are.  They certainly aren't good at predictive modeling, as witnessed by the aforementioned lack of violent secessionist movements and general environmental mayhem resulting from all the oil running out in the 1990s.  Remember: this is the Litany of Failure, and it's the Failure of the Greenies.  After all, in 1980 SJG had every reason to think that resource depletion would be a plausible scenario by the mid-Nineties: they were being told so by folks who had what looked to be good academic and scientific credentials.  But those folks turned out to be wrong; and they never said "Sorry about that," either.

IOW: again, what we're doing here is getting it on the record that various doom-and-gloom merchants' track record sucks...