Sent: Monday, April 30, 2007 9:44 AM
Subject: first thoughts
If the prices are only those you pose at the top of the page, that's a pain for some, but those are less than what Europeans pay now. If those prices escalate to $5 or, to be really pessimistic, $10/gallon (oil will never really run out, but it can become unaffordable) things will begin to get dicey. Beyond the obvious recognition that driving less, avoiding optional travel, finding alternatives for heating, basing consumption on renewable resources, etc., there are a number of ancillary problems that will be seriously challenging.
Cities are supplied by transport (trucks, trains), fueled by oil. Costs of everything will rise, and cities may not be able to afford to feed or supply their citizens (starting with those growing megacities in developing countries); city operating costs for essential services such as police, fire, ambulances, public transport, will go up; unless new revenues are found, discretionary services will lose funding. Cities may not be able to afford themselves, and where can the residents go? A city-based economy seems to be destined for a crash.
Suburbs have perhaps worse problems. Shopping, medical visits, getting to work, even getting to school, all now run on oil. As the suburbs get too expensive, moving closer to those services becomes desirable, but getting rid of your house might not be possible. Suburban housing will become undesirable; moving to the unsustainable city will not necessarily be a good idea. It might be smart to head for a rural area with potable water and availability of local agriculture; make it relatively flat and get a bicycle. However, if tires go flat, parts wear out, how do these get re-supplied if transportation costs are prohibitive? Might be better to invest in a horse or live close to the small town where everything is within reasonable walking distance.
In the countryside, loss of oil-derived fertilizers may mean lower crop yields. Harvesting yields and getting them to market may have to revert to horses and/or pushcarts. Furthermore, the countryside can't afford too many ex-city folks -- especially if they have no useful skills such as farming know-how, or creative repair abilities. Rural communities can always use teachers, doctors, dentists, librarians, but the numbers are limited.
Where on the priority list do we put asphalt? Road repairs may become prohibitive. Can we learn to live without plastics? Should we reserve the dwindling supply of oil for pharmaceuticals? The distribution of goods may become limited or impossible over any great distances. Can a local community diversify its production of goods enough to supply things like clothing?
Without oil (or gas, or coal), demand for biomass for energy may quickly use up the local supply, so a judgment must be made about the limits of community size for a sustainable future. Current technological fixes such as wind turbines, photovoltaics, etc will work fine for a while, but maintenance and repair become problems if new parts aren't being manufactured and distributed because industry also runs on oil.
The future may lie with those in the simpler communities -- "blessed are the meek....", but a lot of us are unprepared, or have the wrong skills, to help make those work.
Given all of the above, there's a lot to be said for a simpler, less consumer-based lifestyle, and those who adopt this the soonest increase their odds of being among the survivors, because if all members of the current population tried this, there is not enough space. It's not a good time to be under 40!!