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Author Topic: From Prudent Home on SB's links: Mad Max or Amish...  (Read 4469 times)


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From Prudent Home on SB's links: Mad Max or Amish...
« on: February 22, 2009, 06:41:14 pm »

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When one speaks of an oil shortage, it evokes for many of us the film "Mad Max II" which is based on a similar scenario. Without falling into an extreme catastrophism, what would be the consequences of a decline in energy resources in the short- and medium-term?

Ah yes, the Mad Max scenario. The good news is that the reality will bear no resemblance to the movie!

A better place to look for clues is history. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea no longer had access to cheap oil. Both suffered, but Cuba (whatever you think of its political system) responded in a positive way - changing to a more organic form of agriculture and sharing the burden. (See the film "The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil"

For the developed countries, we have precedents in the 1973 oil crisis and World War 2.

For the Global South, we have precedents in what went on last year, when rising prices made oil unaffordable for many.

I think it's important to distinguish between a temporary oil shock, such as the 1973 oil crisis, and the long-term decline of oil production. Temporary shortages we've seen before. They mean disruption and economic turmoil, but they can be managed.

Declining oil resources is different. Obviously prices will rise ("the end of cheap oil" is how oil companies phrase it). Transportation will be hit since our cars, trucks, etc. depend on liquid fuels, Manufacturing will be affected since petroleum is an input for many products. Most importantly, agriculture will be crippled since industrialized agriculture is based on oil, for machinery, pesticides and food transport.

And here's the double-whammy. Just when we need to switch to rebuild our infrastructure and develop new energy sources, we'll find that the job will be much more expensive. High oil prices mean higher manufactuing and transportation costs.

For this reason, people who believe in peak oil are urging their governments to start making the transition now. Google on the "Hirsch report" for a more complete explanation.

The bottom line is that the consequences of peak oil are not preordained. Far-sighted national policies + an educated public = a difficult but doable transition. We would even find some benefits (better health, a re-discovery of community)

"Peak Oil" is a theory that never appealed to me, it would seem the market will create something else to power the formerly petroleum burning vehicles, however a destruction of the Global Economy could make high consumption of fuels abate.
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