More information on Peak Oil

I don’t plan to spend much more weblog time or space to Peak Oil, it just happens to be a topic I am looking at right now. One thing I have not found yet is a thorough and sensible examinations of the likely consequences of no more oil; if I find one, I’ll pass it on.

The single best summary I’ve found of the Peak Oil situation is the long article by Matt Savinar featured on his website Life After the Oil Crash. Savinar is an attorney who is very skilled at sorting through the information available online and assembling it into a comprehensive overview of the situation. The article is structured as a series of questions and answers; the questions are just the questions one would ask when first hearing about Peak Oil, and the answers are not only straightforward but contain many, many links to sources which back up his statements.

Oh, and I finally found one bit of info that is very helpful in interpreting the numbers: each $25 of crude oil price translates roughly into $1 of gasoline price, e.g. today’s oil price is approaching $70, and the price of gas is hovering around $3.

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2 thoughts on “More information on Peak Oil

  1. Rick,

    What does this all mean for you? What specific steps are you going to do to prepare? What impact would this have on selling products from the farm?

  2. Jeff,

    Understand that we’ve only been thinking about this for a month or so, and have a long way to go before we’ve traced out all the implications. But here are some observations about our own situation.

    • The mileage we put on our cars is in fact way, way down since we moved to Kentucky; we really do stay home most of the time. And we could do a lot more to decrease our trips to town by planning better, stocking up more, and further reducing our need for store-bought stuff.
    • Our major discretionary travel right now is either to visit friends or to play music. Those things would be cut back as gas prices rose, but even eliminating them altogether would not be a great burden.
    • We are still too dependent on cheap store-bought clothing, but a good deal of that is used (i.e. bought at thrift stores) and I figure there will be a decent inventory of that as we continue to make the transition to homespun.
    • Fuel use around the farm is relatively limited, gas for the mower and small tiller and diesel for the walk-behind tractor. If costs become prohibitive we will certainly shift over to using draft animals. I also need to follow up on a comment made by the Northern Farmer awhile back about converting older gasoline engines to run on moonshine; we don’t need to operate a tractor extensively, and so it might work to use one running on home-brewed fuel.
    • We’ve made good progress on feeding ourselves, not needing to buy beef or chicken or eggs or or milk or cheese or butter or most of our vegetables. We’ll continue to diversify, adding some sheep and pigs soon. We do need to focus more on breeding these animals ourselves.
    • One of our increasingly important income-generating activities, growing food for market, will I think continue to be a viable business. We are seventy-five miles from one major market (Lexington), ninety miles from another (Louisville), and less than 150 miles from two more (Nashville and Knoxville). Provided that small cities continue to exist, I don’t think it will be too much to expect that they will have to import their food from 75-150 miles away. Cost of importation will rise as gas prices rise, but that will be factored into the price of the food, and large operations will not be any better positioned to keep fuel costs down.
    • Selling products directly off the farm, something we’re not all that enthusiastic about anyway, will probably not be feasible, since it depends on many individuals making separate long trips to make relatively small purchases. More workable would be a scheme where orders could be taken in advance, assembled here at the farm, then taken to the city where folks would have a much shorter trip to pick them up. I’m currently working out the details of that kind of operation.
    • Our bookstore will probably not survive long into the emergency, since it critically depends on a huge book wholesaler, cheap shipping, and the internet.
    • I agree with Kunstler’s point that there will be much potential in reviving junk and in keeping things running longer. We will be learning to repair small engines and bicycles, and to fabricate parts for them.
    • We already believed that the best investments were in tools and materials we could use productively, and we will continue to shift our savings in that direction as it makes sense.
    • Just as an exercise, we have been looking at the useful things that surround us to determine how much oil content they have (both direct as with plastics, and indirect as when fabrication is critically dependent on oil) and to figure out what it will take to replace the oil-dependent ones.

    Those are the things that come to mind right now. So you can see that mostly the effect has been to sharpen our thinking about things we already planned to do.

    Two things I’d like to point out are (1) we are concerned but not especially worried, since we are already on a path that will work well in the new era, if and when it ever comes; and (2) we haven’t thought much about what it will mean for folks who are walking a different path, and don’t really plan to. For those two reasons I won’t be sounding alarm bells meant to change the minds of our urban friends; the facts are straightforward and easily researched, and it is certainly possible to interpret them differently than I have. I’m sure enough of the situation to commit my own family to a certain path, but not so sure that I am ready to exhort others to do the same.

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