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Page added on July 27, 2014

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Peak Oil: Thinking Ahead

General Ideas

There’s likely to be little disagreement that for most of us, the current economic, social, and political issues and conflicts we’ve been mired in for the past six or seven years are the most challenging set of conditions we’ve ever encountered. Even those relatively untouched by the hardships (are there any such people?) are no doubt weary of the trials and tribulations of our economy and the nonsense emanating from Congress (read: Republican Party).

It’s safe to assume that almost no one is looking for more calamities. Doom and gloom prophecies aren’t likely to captivate many followers. Climate change heaped atop all of the financial stresses is bad enough.

We should also recognize that there is a broad gulf between conditions today and what we’ll all be facing in the years to come. That applies to all of the challenges, including what happens when the reality of arrival at a peak in the rate of oil production and the ensuing, broadly-felt impacts.

It’s an expanse which affords us abundant opportunities to not only address the challenges we’ll face by decreasing oil production and increasing world-wide demand, but also to create entire new industries and ways of life well beyond what we may now envision.

Peak Oil need not be a catastrophe.

What it means is that just as we have throughout history, we’re going to have to adapt, to make changes which in the abstract seem both incongruous as measured against our current definitions of prosperity, and overly daunting. Much of what needs to be done will serve the interests of adaptation to climate change as well. (Duly noted that too many right-wingers can’t bring themselves to accept facts. They’ve been given too much attention as it is.)

The truth is that we would not be where we are now had our forefathers at various stages in our past decided that society as it stood must remain as is, and that opportunities for growth and advancement were choices easily declined. If we are open to becoming better informed about Peak Oil, then adaptation is more easily attainable. Not easy, of course, just easier than if we choose to ignore and deny. Choices….

That process of transitioning away from over-reliance on fossil fuels surely won’t be pain-free given how dependent we all are on inexpensive oil to provide for our ways of life, but it certainly need not be the Apocalypse, either. We’ll all have a say, and we’ll all have roles to play. Opportunity, or Disaster?

While acknowledging that I’m tiptoeing along a thin line between prophecies of doom and a hopeful if idealistic vision for the future (I’ve always believed that optimism is a better choice than pessimism), I think it’s imperative (and honest) to express a legitimate concern in the face of Peak Oil: Life as we know it will change.

As much as we all fervently want the opportunities for growth and prosperity to just return to the way they once were, Peak Oil is going to have a pronounced effect on those expectations, and sooner than we’d like.

Americans do not like hearing “no,” and we surely don’t like suggestions that unlimited growth is no longer an option. That’s served us quite well throughout history, but it’s not absolute dictum. Our way of life has been premised on the beliefs that technology will always save the day because our ingenuity, work ethic, resources, and talent will create/provide whatever it is we need to sustain an unending lifestyle of convenience and comfort.

There’s an underlying sense of entitlement and expectation that may not always be in our best interests. We may be surprised at how Peak Oil’s onset interferes with those entrenched beliefs.

Any notions that unlimited prosperity (as we’ve all come to characterize it) is no longer an available objective won’t be received very well. Most peak oil proponents will tell you that this is a common and frequent obstacle in their quest to inform. It’s a daunting burden to contend with.

The media’s inability or unwillingness to give due consideration to the topic has not helped, and there’s no doubt that many base their decisions on what is or is not important by what their preferred media tells them is important … or not. An unpleasant truth, but one we must acknowledge. And another truth is that we see very little from our government or business leaders by way of explanation or even discussion. The topic of Peak Oil often seems radioactive.

Life as we’ve known it may be different in the years to come, but there’s no reason why “different’ can’t be prosperous and fulfilling, too. “Success” is not limited to the examples from our past. The truth is we’ve always changed, we’ve always redefined success and prosperity, and there’s no reason to believe we won’t do more of that in the days to come. We’ll have increasing opportunities to revise and expand those terms as Peak Oil prompts changes in our ways of life–and it will.

I believe our attitude and approach to what we’ll need to do will play a crucial part in determining the ultimate course of our society..

If we want a future we can live with, and a sustainable future we can pass on to our children with pride, then we’re all going to have to learn how to become more responsible in all its shadings. (Me, too!) We’ll still have the chance, as John Maynard Keynes once proposed, “to live wisely and agreeably and well.” Another choice we own.


19 Comments on "Peak Oil: Thinking Ahead"

  1. Makati1 on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 8:50 pm 

    Intelligent choices are made by rational, mature people. We are being lead/driven by psychopaths that meet neither of those definitions. The huge investments in BAU will keep this runaway train on the extinction track until the track ends at the cliff.

    You can talk about “transition” as much as you want, but it will only be taken seriously by less then 2% of the population. The other 98% will be the desperate hoard that will likely try to destroy what the 2% try to save.

    This is a small world, and there are no ‘Galt’s Gulch’ to run to. The last days of the US, as portrayed in the novel, ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand, gives a good parody of the days ahead and our current government. Hopefully it will collapse before we get to that point, for my families sake.

  2. Plantagenet on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 10:50 pm 

    The whole idea that the transition away from oil “needn’t be unpleasant” and “need not be a catastrophe” is just silly. Oil hasn’t even peaked yet, and already the world is mired in a slow-growth scenario that is causing job losses, increases in poverty, more dependency on welfare and other forms of government dole. Oil wars in Libya and Iraq are raging, and Russia is trying to recreate the glories of the USSR in eastern Europe while China plots to steal huge expanses of sea floor and their oil and gas resources from Japan, Korea, VietNam and a handful of smaller countries.

    Once global oil production actually peaks, things will get much worse.

  3. Makati1 on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 11:23 pm 

    Plant, real oil HAS peaked. The addition of all other oil like liquids to keep the numbers up is a deceitful lie. NET energy from oil recovery has been declining for decades. THAT is the important number, not barrels of flammable liquids. It took 1 barrel of oil to get 100 barrels of oil in the beginning. Now it takes maybe 10 or even 30 barrels of oil to get those 100 barrels. See the difference?

  4. MKohnen on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 11:39 pm 

    Well, this article certainly is upbeat. What it doesn’t address is the really ugly aspect of rolling down the opposite slope of peak oil: peak population. If we can get a few billion people to just willingly agree to starve, we’ll be just fine. Even if we implement a policy of “agriculture first” for FF’s, that will only save the population status quo for a small amount of the journey to the bottom of peak. Since I don’t really know where a few billion “volunteers” might come from, it’s more likely that massive civil strife leading to major war will break out. Then we’ll adopt a “military first” FF policy, which will only make the starvation situation worse.

    But hey, who expected us to act rationally?

  5. Davy on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 5:34 am 

    MK, you certainly hit the nail on the head with a few billion volunteers to take the brunt of hunger, sickness, and deprivation. We are close to that descent so unless you want to get volunteered make some preparations. If nothing else at least have good awareness to react when the time is necessary and in the correct way. I believe a must will be securing food then it will be a climb up the ladder of needs of lesser importance. I highly recommend finding the right location first. If you live in Las Vegas run for the hills. MK, another good point is the word “Making” FF 1st. My point being martial law and centralized command economy where the authorities will have the desire to control and the ability. Some areas are just going to be left to themselves for survival. Initially it may be subtle abandonment like spotty power, potholed roads, and lack of security. Triage by the military/civilian leadership of martial law will be the norm. I say triage because a population in overshoot with an economy less than full potential will have scarcity and lack of investment. Let us face it a command/control economy will not be as effective at production of all the varied and numerous products needed by a large population. Command/control economy is not compatible with globalism. Do you want to invest in an economy with martial law if you are a foreigner? We are talking the end of consumerism and mass production of the many and varied products of all kinds. No more easy access to plastic and cheap consumer items from Asia but also the high tech items like IPhone. How about rationed liquid fuels disrupting the family vacation or weekend getaway. These things hopefully will gradually occur but it is possible you will wake up one day like 2008 with all the talking heads clamoring to explain a crisis of confidence with no real answers this time. No Paulson before congress asking for money just the authorities behind closed doors not saying much.

  6. paulo1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 8:40 am 

    I know this will sound like Plant, (Hi Plant-Man), but can you imagine an Obama in the WH when the effects of PO really begin to swing events?

    “Gone golfing, I’ll deal with it on Monday….after the fund raiser.”

    Or fossilized McCain? This is scary stuff. People are tossing about ideas like ‘military law’. Curfews and travel restrictions in a system that funnels dinero and influence to corporations and select insiders? People will tear cities apart, imho.

    re: “Americans do not like hearing “no,” and we surely don’t like suggestions that unlimited growth is no longer an option.” Children don’t like the word, “no”, either. Time to grow up.


  7. JuanP on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 12:26 pm 

    Davy, Location, location, location. The fact that is I can’t make up my mind. I want to stay where I am because my income sources are here. I could buy the 10 acres I want anywhere reasonably priced in the US, I have the cash, but I have been postponing it for a long time. I wouldn’t want to have to drive more than 100 miles to get there, so that means South Florida. Within this range, the central highlands lakes area on the limestone ridge would be the spot. I feel the moment is getting closer fast.
    Your other point was food. I have years of long shelf life food, mostly Mountain house freeze dried and grains, tools, materials, and supplies stashed at three different locations, my home, my best friend’s farm South of Orlando, and a storage halfway there. All I need is to buy the land.
    That covers my location dilemma and food preps, the third thing to consider is water sources, storage, and treatment.

  8. tahoe1780 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 12:48 pm 

    Population adjustment?

  9. Steve on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 2:39 pm 

    Juan that sounds like a tough choice….I have spent a lot of time in florida and it is a heavily populated state….WSHTF they are going to be running north like locust…destroying everything in there path…Can you imagine south florida without air conditioning? I believe the states will break down into countries…Smaller populations with lots of resources are the way to go….I thought about moving back down south but with my kids here I am stuck to hunker down in MT….not a bad place to be but every place has its drawbacks…I guess you have to think with a military mind and fortify your defenses…Are there nuclear power plants in Florida…

  10. Steve on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 2:39 pm 

    Also I might add no man is an island…you will need friends and family….

  11. Davy on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 3:25 pm 

    Juan, I have been in central Florida and there is some good land there. You got citrus and could have some cattle. You and I are on the same page with the Long shelf life food. We have talked about that before. Remember to keep it somewhat climate controlled for longer life. I look at the #10 cans I buy (Thrive Foods) as good barter material also besides food for personal use.

  12. steve on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 4:13 pm 

    Holy cow! Florida has almost 60 nuclear power plants! Better add Potassium Iodide to your prep list and lots of it!!!

  13. MKohnen on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 4:25 pm 

    I’m located up in the Interlakes region of Manitoba, Canada. The area I’m in, the R.M. of Grahamdale, covers 2,384 square kilometers with a population of less than 1,400. We’re surrounded by large lakes and vast forests. Fish are plenty as is all manner of wild game, and there is ample ranching territory. Additionally, we’ve managed to fully purchase our little house in our town of approx. 30 people, our expenses are very low, and we’ve managed to find ways to make our living out here. So I feel rather set.

  14. JuanP on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 4:32 pm 

    Steve, I have considered the evacuation of my 10 million neighbors in what I call the Southeast Florida metropolitan area, comprising three contiguous counties, and it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t made up my mind yet. But there are a few spots that are well protected by the Everglades. I’ve had Potassium pills for many years, I live 25 miles from a nuclear plant.

  15. JuanP on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 4:43 pm 

    Davy, the food is all air conditioned for the time being and I buy more regularly when I find it on sale. I will visit that site you mentioned right now, Thrive Foods, thanks. My plans are for five people in my direct nuclear group and investing in our neighbors to try to create a network of at least 50 people that can communicate and count on each other and work as a tribe in time.
    MK’s place sounds remote and wild enough.

  16. Harquebus on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 5:39 pm 

    Another load of rubbish. Population reduction is the only viable option.

  17. Davy on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 6:24 pm 

    MK, my kind of place I google earth’d Grahamdale. I bet the winters can get trying but you are correct you are set.

    Juan, I would have some worry about the mega metro called south Florida and all the NUK plants but there is lots of food potential in central Florida. Tough call on relocation to central Florida or beyond. I like your idea of creating a tribe of sorts. That is something I have not been able to get organized.

  18. MKohnen on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 1:24 am 


    You’re absolutely right about the winters. But keeping food stored is very simple with winters like ours. When you want to use your meat, take it from outside and put it in the freezer to thaw.

  19. Davy on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 7:40 am 

    MK, IMO, living where you do with the winters like you have is good training for what is ahead namely less with less. Our modern world is too complex and moving along too quick. We are going to reset at a much lover level of all kinds of activity. These thoughts remind me of the mentality you have to have in Manitoba in January. Not that you are not busy, you are, surviving, but there is only so much you can do at 20 bellow.

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