Major Problems Of Surviving Peak Oil
Interesting and scary scenario,
Major Problems Of Surviving Peak Oil
18 October, 2006
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell
people what they do not want to hear." -
Rob Hopkins says in 'Why the Survivalists Have Got It Wrong'
that he has very little time for the survivalist response
to peak oil, and refers to 'Preparing for a Crash: Nuts
and Bolts' by Zachary Nowak.
Rob may well be partially right but he, like Zachary Nowak
and many other 'community' minded people tend to miss or
are just in denial with the true reality of what the effects
of Peak Oil will really mean.
One of the words that seem to go with 'community' is
'renewable'. These words seem to go hand in hand, so
let us take a look at them starting with 'renewable energy'.
There are many fascinating and exciting renewable energy
developments from wind turbines, solar energy and biomass
etc. These are all important energy sources for the future
and they could help keep the electricity grid going to some degree!
The popular assumption is that these renewable energy sources
will smoothly replace fossil fuels as these become scarce,
thanks to our inherited technological expertise. However,
although these all produce electricity they are not liquid fuels.
On top of this we must remember that the energy budget must
always be positive and output must exceed input. Too much
tends to be expected of renewable energy generators today,
because the contribution of fossil fuels to the input side
is poorly understood.
For example, a wind turbine is not successful as a renewable
generator unless another similar one can be constructed from
its raw materials using only the energy that the first one
generates in its lifetime, and still show a worthwhile budget
Or, if corn is grown to produce bioethanol, the energy input
to ploughing, sowing, fertilizing, weeding, harvesting and
processing the crop must come from the previous year's bioethanol
production. Input must also include, proportionately, mining
and processing the raw materials and building the machines
that do the work, as well as supporting their human operators.
There is nothing that can replace cheap oil for price, ease
of storage, ease of transportation and sheer volumes in the
timeframe we need.
SO WHAT ABOUT 'COMMUNITY'.
In Powerdown, Richard Heinberg states, "Those who already
enjoy a measure of self-sufficiency, such as ecovillages
and other kinds of sustainable intentional communities
will already have some of the skills and experience needed
He also goes on to say that, self-sustaining communities may
become cultural lifeboats in times to come and that "Our
society is going to change profoundly-those of us who
understand this are in a position to steward that change.
We are going to become popular, needed people in our communities."
Now this may be true but no matter how prepared an intentional
community or organized neighbourhood may be, it will still
be adversely impacted in some way. The changes that are about
to effect the world will also affect these communities.
Experts suggest several possible scenarios for the coming
energy decline and any of these scenarios will present
significant challenges for intentional communities.
Even in the "soft landing" scenario, there will still be
massive structural changes in society and being in debt
may be the undoing of many. Common advice among many Peak
Oil experts is to get out of debt!
Let's say for example, that a community is deeply in debt,
and is still paying off its property purchase loans.
Let's say the community loses its financial resource base
-if members lose their jobs or if a weak economy reduces
the market for the goods and services the community produces
-the group could default on its loan payments, and may have
its property seized by the bank or other creditors.
A property-value crash may worsen the debt situation for
intentional communities. If a community's property value
falls below their equity in the property, they won't be
able to save themselves from defaulting on loans by selling
off their land, which is typically the last resort of farmers
All the shortages and systems failures that can affect
mainstream culture can affect intentional communities as well.
A community may not have enough foresight, labour, tools,
or funds to create alternatives to whatever their members
use now for heating, lighting, cooking, refrigeration,
water collection, water pumping, and disposal utilization
of gray water and human waste.
Then there's the matter of community security-a subject many
find "politically incorrect" to even consider. If the
government fails; if the law and order system falls apart,
there can be various kinds of dangerous consequences.
Desperate, hungry people can loot and steal and take
what they want from others.
So we can see that although 'communities' are all very nice,
and lets be honest, if everybody was a nice, honest, law
abiding, thoughtful and loving citizens then 'community'
would stand a chance. But we are not, we are generally
self centred, selfish and only interested in self preservation,
so 'communities' are going to be just as susceptible to the
same problems others will have during the collapse.
They are also very likely to become the focal point for those
who have got nothing or have done nothing and this is when
those dangerous consequences may happen.
How reasonable do you think people are going to be when
their children are dying of dehydration, they can't take
a bath, they can't cook a hot meal? With our interdependent
society once the power (electric) goes then other services
like water and sewage will be close behind.
Most people have never had to cope with sustained, substantial
levels of fear, either in themselves or in others in close
proximity. I will say I believe you should be prepared to
see and deal with behaviour you would never have believed
possible from civilized humans. The reason you should avoid
crowds has to do with the fact that individual frustration
is one thing, but the frustration of many people feeds
individual frustration and fear, which, of course, feeds
the frustration of the crowd.
The cycle will feed itself until either the root source
of frustration is relieved or there is a catastrophic
event, such as a riot or even worse.
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I think that author, like so many others - including the survivalists - miss
It is not like peak oil = instant crash.
The decline will be gradual, probably over the next 30 to 75 years. It is
not like you will wake up some morning and all the oil is gone.
It will gradually get more and more expensive, while at the same time demand
is ever increasing. At some point, maybe when gas hits $0 a gallon and
heating and fuel oil for generating stations is the same, things will start
to fall apart. But then again it will be gradual, at least up to a point.
So there is time to plan for it, and maybe fix it, but but so far I am not
impressed with the efforts to do so. Most of the so-called solutions are
more political and agenda based than practical and real.
The politicians efforts to "fix" high gas prices is not to solve the basic
problem, which is that oil is disappearing faster than it is being found,
but to promise subsidies, yet more "investigations", and other maneuvering.
None of which address the fact that oil will continue to go up in price.