Preparing for peak oil
This article has been making the rounds:
“Convinced the planet’s oil supply is dwindling and the world’s economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn’t prepare.
The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.
These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.
Some are doing it quietly, giving few details of their preparations – afraid that revealing such information as the location of their supplies will endanger themselves and their loved ones. They envision a future in which the nation’s cities will be filled with hungry, desperate refugees forced to go looking for food, shelter and water.”
I don’t know much about peak oil, but one doesn’t have to be a radical environmentalist to understand that there are limits to natural resources. Fossil fuel may be technically “renewable”, but the jury is still out as to whether its natural renewability can keep up with our very un-natural level of consumption. I tend to think not.
But whether or not peak oil brings on a crisis of the magnitude described in this article, there will be hardships and adjustments to be made when a ready supply of cheap oil finally comes to an end. In my opinion the scenario need not be dire. We can make adjustments. The key – to get back on the old hobby horse – is to return to regional economies and societies.
Technically, we live out in the country. When we decided four years ago to “flee to the fields”, I really wanted a place much further away from civilization. But as Providence would have it, we ended up only three or four minutes outside of a small city of 7,000. Today that strikes me as a good place to be. The town is close enough to be a convenient source of supplies, services, and potential customers for our produce. And it is small enough not be a source of hungry, desperate, marauding and pillaging gangs in a time of crisis.
We will be forced at some point to keep more of our business and interests here in Orland. Presently we drive to Chico – a metropolitan area of 100,000 about 30 minutes away – five or more times per week. Between work, church, music lessons, and shopping we spend most of our money in another county. So do most people who live here.
The biggest challenge will be finding viable work close to home. At present, the opportunities here in town are slim. But I expect that to change as local residents re-direct their dollars, time and activities due to the high cost of commuting. Although many Orlanders work in Chico, a surprising number of Chicoans also work in Orland. If fuel prices continue to climb the Chicoans will opt for Chico employment, opening up positions for locals, and vice versa. Furthermore I expect that some employers will relocate to Glenn County where unemployment is higher and wages are comparatively low.
Eventually the large commercial farm operations, with their heavy dependence on diesel fuel to operate fleets of trucks and other equipment, may find that economies of scale aren’t what they used to be and will downsize. Combined with continuing increases in the price of food, we may witness a revival of small-scale agriculture and the return of the family farm.
In short, the consequences of “peak oil” or something like it may not be so bad. There will be hardships and re-alignments, certainly, but in the long run perhaps we will all be better off.