Rolling Stone on Peak Oil
Rolling Stone has an interesting, if not sensationalist, article about peak oil. While it tries to scare readers, it should be required reading for all Americans. One thing it points out is that even renewables can't save the American lifestyle. This is true and is something that is not often mentioned. I advocate renewable energy use, but I also realize that it is just a stopgap and we'll also need to reduce consumption. Americans can't drive 50 miles to work; there won't be enough oil and we won't be able to produce enough biomass to support it. As a culture, we need to move away from this disposable, waste-creating lifestyle.
However, I don't believe the future will be as grim as the article portrays it. First of all, stuff is becoming ever more efficient, and we will still be able to use biomass to generate a lot of energy; at least enough to grow and transport food. The eminent energy crush may, despite what the article predicts, actually generate an increase in the standard of living. We will be forced to live in smaller areas and interact on a more local basis. Food generation and manufacturing would also be done on a more local scale. While at college, I usually stay within a mile of my dorm, but I see and interact with lots of people and have many resources at my disposable. Some days I bike or bus downtown, about four miles each way. I feel much better, despite my lack of mobility, than I do in suburbia where my public interactions are limited. I could travel 30 miles around the Eastside and feel emptier than I would walking one mile downtown.
"How can I prevent the fall into serfdom that the author predicts?" you may ask. Well, I see some valid options, but many people wouldn't like them. What you want to do is wean yourself off oil and excess energy use. Move close to your work, preferably in an urban area. Use your car less and, if possible, consider selling it. You will be inconvenienced, I must admit, but it will save you large sums of money in the long run, especially if oil prices continue to climb. Get a bike and start riding. If you are able to get in shape and accustomed to riding around the city, you will be at an advantage later (plus, it lowers the inconvenience of not having a car). If you have a house, consider investing in solar power/hot water; this will isolate you in case rolling blackouts return. In fact, use your car savings to buy the solar equipment. Also, consider creating a relationship with a local former through a community supported agriculture program. Having an existing relationship with a farmer will make it easier to reserve food if/when this forecasted civil collapse occurs.
There are some things our government can do as well. As in my last post, if the government removed subsidies that support sprawl and energy waste, the populace will start making the move themselves. Once people realize how costly their lifestyle is, they will make efforts to improve. I see this as the best, albeit least likely to happen, encouragement away from sprawl and waste. Some of these steps may seem radical, but they might just save your ass if the future is a Mad Max-esque battle for energy. Of course, there is one bright side to all this: with the lack food and oil for transportation (no more SUVs), the obesity epidemic in America is sure to go away.