Saturday, April 10, 2010
After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Towards Social Collapse?
US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015
It's the old "Mad Max/Water World" scenario: social collapse, followed closely by ranging gangs of thugs with anachronistic technology wreaking havoc across the countryside. Just the sort of picture the military would like to get their creepy claws into.
But first, a couple of reality moments, those banes of Republican visionaries.
First: Peak Oil does not mean the moment when oil demand exceeds oil supply. That may come and go. Peak Oil means the moment when world oil production begins irreversible decline. It will do so when supply still exceeds demand and may continue to exceed demand for some time, especially if demand drops in response to oil prices., as it did at the beginning of the current recession.
Secondly: despite the popularity of disaster movies, it is not a given that Peak Oil will cause social collapse, at least not as envisioned in Hollywood. That depends on many other factors, chief among which is the response of the military and the public constabulary to perceived threats, coupled with the speed and extent of economic decline due to oil decline shocks.
Demand reduction will certainly do much to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil, as will substitution of renewable energy sources, which, admittedly, cannot hope to replace oil kilowatt for kilowatt. Nevertheless, it need not be a sudden and absolute collapse. A gentle slide to a stable, steady state is possible.
It is certainly to the advantage of those who strive for power to...well, welcome, shall we say, any breakdown in popular control, requiring the imposition of centralized control to "keep the peace." Security staters since J. Edgar Hoover have slathered over the possibility of long term Martial Law in this country. Plans are afoot, no doubt, for some form of pre-emptive martial law, just in case things look like they just might, with a little nudge perhaps, get out of control.
All the more reason to localize control of our energy and food sources, solidify our own local support systems, take care of ourselves and our neighbors. Then, if nothing happens, at least we're better off than before we started.
Self-sufficiency is its own reward.