BEST CASE Having launched exploratory drilling in Sarah Palin's backyard, Exxon taps a gusher that blows billions of gallons of black gold skyward, simultaneously launching her house smack into the middle of the barren Siberian tundra. Meanwhile, American productivity goes through the roof, as, able to fill up their tanks for 33 cents a gallon, drivers spend the extra money on 20-ounce cups of Dunkin Donuts Turbo Hot coffee.
WORST CASE We run out of oil. No one can go anywhere or do anything. All there is to do is sit around our moldering suburbs and exurbs while a gloating James Howard Kunstler (author of The Long Emergency) reminds us all that he told us so.
BEST CASE Obama makes good on his promise to create five million new "green-collar jobs." All across this great land, solar panels soak up the sun, turbines churn happily in the wind, and hydro power surges a dynamic new economy. But, not content with just one green revolution, Obama sets about fomenting another. Recently, the number-one question on his transition Web site, change.gov, was "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion-dollar industry right here in the US?" After thinking it over, he answers in the affirmative. Millions of stoked citizens are legally juiced by another type of "hydro" power.
WORST CASE Smog blots out the sun, the sky is filled with char and ash, and Dick Cheney prowls the inky night seeking sustenance by sucking the earth's black blood.
BEST CASE First, it would be nice if fewer people got sick. Barring that, at least, it would be terrific if everyone could afford to get the best possible version of the treatments they need. Even better would be a single-payer system not unlike the one in Sweden. Best of all, of course, would be more Swedish fish, more Swedish meatballs, more Swedish black metal, and more US tours from pulchritudinous Swedish power-pop sirens Sahara Hotnights. In short: more Sweden.
WORST CASE Everyone gets really, really ill. In short: more medieval England.
BEST CASE People start poring over print journalism again! Newspapers stop hemorrhaging millions of dollars with every passing second! The Chicago Tribune bounces back from bankruptcy! The Detroit Free Press is black and white and read all over! Out of Town News in Harvard Square is saved! The Boston Herald, rejuvenated and still scrappy, picks wildly entertaining dogfights with the BostonGlobe on a daily basis and the Boston populace is endlessly entertained by the lurid headlines, screaming in 96-point font, that arrive with a thud on their doorsteps each morning, all of them turned into crazed news junkies wiping their sweaty, inky hands on their jeans in delirious excitement!
WORST CASE There are no more newspapers. You'll miss them when they're gone. Trust us.
Mike Miliard can't decide what to have for lunch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.