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Friday, September 7, 2012

Peak Oil - Part II: How Will This Effect Us?


     This is part two of the peak oil series. In the first part we looked at exactly what peak oil is, when it is happening, and where our oil supplies are at right now. It is becoming increasingly obvious that we have either hit peak oil or that we are very very close to doing so. This means that at least half the oil in the world is gone, and what is left is going to be harder and harder to get to, and more expensive. So how much in our lives is really dependent on oil?

     More than most people would even realize. The first and most obvious consequence of Peak Oil is our dependence on it to fuel transportation. Just about everything that moves, from cars to boats to airplanes, runs on on oil. In fact most of the oil that is produced goes towards transportation. As the price of oil goes up, the price at the gas pump will also go up and it will become more and more expensive for these vehicles to run. In recent years we've seen hybrid vehicles, and electric vehicles starting to come on to the market. These however are only a way to mitigate the damage. Higher fuel efficency means less gas being burned so it will in theory last longer.



     However, with a lot of emphisis being put on electric cars, people seem to have forgotten about one thing. Where does the electricity come from? We don't have solar power plants up all over the country. Instead much of our energy comes from nonrenewable sources, with sixty percent of that being from oil and natural gas.  The cost of electricity and power is going to go up.  Its going to become more expensive to turn on the lights, and heat our homes, and even our water for a shower.  Very little of our energy comes from renewable resources like wind and solar, and there is very little movement towards making that happen.  Its something that is going to start to hit us hard when we realize that we're running out of what we use to make energy, and we don't have the infrastructure ready to get energy from a different source.

     Now what about other things that are around us? How much is dependent on oil? Just look around you. Do you see anything made of plastic? Oil is neccessary to create plastics, and we have plastics everywhere. Oil is neccessary for so many products in our daily life. Deoderant, toothbrushes, garden hoses, insect and weed killer, tires, asphalt, computer components, nylon, plastic bags, and thousands more. Oil is such a normal component in everyday objects that if oil dissapeared tommorow, we would lose most of the things we take for granted in our regular lives.

     Food will be effected by peak oil. Some of you may be saying, this can't effect food. We don't eat oil. How do we grow our food though? To run a tractor you need oil. To have fertilizers and insect killers you need oil. Much of what is involved in farming these days, requires the use of oil. Once you've harvested a crop, you then need even more oil, because food then needs to be transported.

     Where does your food come from? If you go to the grocery store and want apples, you can probebly get it. The apples don't have to be in season, and there didn't have to even be a good crop of apples that were grown anywhere near you either. Apples can be shipped to your grocery store from all over the world, and to do that oil is requried.

     Then what are you going to take your groceries home in? Were the apples packaged in something? If they were, there is a good chance its plastic, and then you'll take it home in a plastic bag too. The plastic also requires oil. Therefore as the price of oil starts to go up, the price of food will follow, because it will become more expensive to produce the food and to transport it.

     So all of a sudden three major areas of our lives have been effected. Transportation, energy, and food. What else? How about where you live. If you live in a suburb, your life is dependent on oil, because living in a suburb requires that you drive just about everywhere. Most people who live in the suburbs need to drive to go to work, to the grocery store, to the hospital, and to really any other destination. Suburbs were designed as large spread out spaces which means people have to travel more in between places. As we go further and further down the other side of peak oil, living in a suburb is going to become less of an option for people, because they simply won't be able to afford to get to work, the grocery store and everywhere else.

     Peak oil is going to slowly but surely change the way we live, just as oil changed our lives when we first started using it. The most noticable first change is likely going to be that people will be less mobile. As oil prices rise, it will be more and more expensive to travel and people will start doing less of it. People will move closer to jobs so that they can walk or perhaps bike to work rather than drive.

     In the communities gardens, and local farmers will begin to prosper, because it will be too expensive to ship food in from Argentina or China. People will also start to eat with the seasons again, because you won't be able to get food when it isn't be harvested. Likewise products and services will become more local.

     Also we're going to have to find alternative materials for many of the products we use. No more plastic throwaway water bottles, but ones that get refilled instead. We will also have to find alternative forms of power, like wind and solar energy, if simply because it will start to become cheaper than the forms we use now.

     Peak oil is here, whether we like it or not. There is no going back, and there is no creating more oil. It would be nice to say that there was a solution to peak oil and that we will be able to keep the lives that we have been living, but thats just not going to be the case. Peak oil is going to slowly but drastically alter the way we live.

     There will be kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth along the way, because people don't like change.  People don't want to change.  They like their big suvs, their highways, and their plastics.  They like the way of life they have now, but it won't change a thing. We are starting on the downward side of Peak Oil, and the only thing we can do now is start to prepare for it, become more self-sufficent, and to be knowledgeable. The transition will be hard for many, but less so for those who know Peak Oil is here and are prepared to face the changes that are coming with it.

     This may seem like it should be the end of the Peak Oil series, but it isn't. There is one more part to come, which will not really focus on oil at all, but rather the idea of peak oil, applied to all our other resources, and what it shows. Stay tuned here at the Paracord Project for the third and final installment of the series and other posts to follow.

~Sara

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