Monday, December 13, 2010

Peak Oil Ramblings

So, I read Kunstler's book- The Long Emergency.
Wow. That was scary. I mean, really, really scary. So I got to thinking about the problem.
To sum it up, the world as we know it ends, and we are back to living with candles and bicycles, and eventually horses.
I looked around the Internet for some more information. And I realized something- all the doom and gloom-sayers kept on putting down renewables by saying things like "to maintain present levels..." or "to replace all our oil..."
And I got to thinking. Well, who says we need to maintain present levels?

How much electricity do you need? Do you really need all the juice you use? Probably not. A few lights in the evening, maybe listening to the radio... We could get by just fine with a fraction of the electricity we use, as long as it is constant.

I worry  that the nations are too big. Especially the US and Canada. If the electrical power grid can be maintained, even at a much lower level, they stand a chance. Radio news/shortwave radio will become a powerful force keeping nations together. Consider buying a shortwave radio now.

Health Care-
Well, frankly- and it scares and saddens me, but a lot of people are going to die. Diabetics, people dependent on medicines. Lots of preventive medicines will disappear. And also, a lot of people will just give up.
Eventually, the population will stabilize. Good news is the obesity epidemic will be over. 

And as to daily life-
After the peak, life will become based around largely self sufficient small towns. Move to one.
Since won't be able to afford food from a supermarket, you will try and grow some. You won't be able to buy chemical fertilizer, but people grew crops for thousands of years without it. You won't be able to grow your whole diet, but every bit helps.
Fairly quickly, the supermarkets will go out of business- they can't function without cheap oil. So neighborhood markets selling local goods will spring up. You could start one, there will be dozens. Once people have no choice but to walk or cycle to the market, they will choose the closer over the slightly cheaper.
People will still need things like soap, candles, beer, maple syrup, clothing- lots of business opportunities. But you should start learning something now.

On future occupations:
Farmers and hired hands- the ultimate growth sector after peak oil. Just make sure to unionize so you don't become serfs.
Electricians will still be in high demand- especially ones who can build a windmill or micro-hydro system from scraps. Also to repair and maintain existing systems.
Mechanics will be needed to keep the remaining engines working, and to modify existing engines to work on ethanol, biodiesel, or wood gas (start studying now)
Of course carpenters and masons will be needed.
Traders and Merchants to bring and sell goods not available locally.

And a slew of old occupations will return in force-
People will need charcoal and firewood, for heat and cooking, so the forester and charcoal maker will come back.
When traveling between cities means days instead of hours, innkeeping will return.
Blacksmithing will be back of course- making and repairing tools.
People will need new dishes, bowls, etc eventually, so potters will resurface.
Tinkers, cobblers, soapmakers, brewers, seamstresses and tailors, handymen, cigar makers, paper makers, weavers, journalists, and herbalists...

Actually, I think there might eventually be less unemployment after peak oil than there is now, simply because we will need so much human power to replace the oil power. There may not be as much glamor or leisure, but there is still satisfaction in using your own muscles to make a living.


  1. I read Kunstler's book also a couple weeks ago. It hits your assumptions about the future right in the solar plexus doesn't it?

    I also read a couple of his novels about the future - Hand Made and something else. They're a little weird with Psychics and Witches thrown it (not sure why he did that) but they were entertaining - not sure how accurate anyone can be on how this stuff is going to play out - will it be a smooth transition or a chaotic, violent collapse?

    Another good read on the subject is by Jeff Rubin former head of the CIBC who explains the problem from an economic point of view that gives you a pragmatic viewpoint of how it's going to roll out. It too is frightening.

    I agree with many of your points. The changes to life with less or no oil doesn't have to be a bad thing. It would be healthier physically and mentally less stressful than the lives we've created for ourselves today.

  2. Your last point about unemployment reminds me of a bit in Farmers of Forty Centuries, where the guy is talking about the ship's coal stocks being replenished at a port in Japan. He mentions that in America they would have used a conveyor belt, but that in Japan (in 1911) it was cheaper to pay workers to haul it in baskets.
    While at Ecology Action we had electricity only for lights, water pumps, and computers, and none at all in our cabin. I can tell you that from a quality of life perspective, electricity is totally over-rated.