When times get tough, or winters long, farmers eat the seeds meant to be buried in the spring. Often this is a preface to calamity. Keep a handful of seeds, and you can grow more.
We could have done anything with our oil endowment. Benevolent utopia could have flowered. We’re the smart ones, right? Standing at the peak, and looking back down the way we came, it becomes apparent that humanity took the callow path of least resistance. Utterly.
Our intricately structured global economy is stupidly buttressed with one thing. More oil, every year. You need oil for agriculture, and oil for the trucks that deliver strawberries from Mexico in December. Oil to power fifty million cars, each pulling a grinning monkey. Let us not forget oil for drugs, and piles of plastic crap. Oil is electricity. Electricity is ephemeral. So is oil, when you burn it.
Yank out the carpet. Hubbert’s Peak locks in, and right quick every bank realizes they can’t extend more credit, to anyone. No one, no country, will have the ability to pay back their obligations. There will literally be less of everything. Less food, water, drugs, and energy.
Bam. Money will be printed. It is the only graceful way to draw down unpayable debt. Money, in the sense that it isn’t a fiction, will suddenly be less valuable. In the sense that it is a fiction, you will see people hesitant to trade dollars and euros. They’ll barter instead. I’ll decorate your Hummer as a studio apartment if you give me a bushel of corn — that kind of thing.
Look, when it really gets bad, you’re going to be spending most of your time within ten miles of your home. No more pokemon. No more Australian wine. Just where do you live? Is it near a farmable river valley, and do your neighbors like you? Buried gold, did you? Got a shotgun? Survivalists make me itch, but odds are we will be stuck in a survival economy in the near future.
Sure, there will be an oddball steampunk parody of our current economy, and dribbles of oil wealth here and there. We’ll be stuck with the painful knowledge of what we did, and did not do. Our decadence will astound our children.
You’ve got something jingling in your pocket right now. The petro dollar. Right now you can literally use it to buy things of lasting value. This icon won’t hold value forever. A penny saved is a penny burned. Buy real things. Swords and plows. Seed corn.
Oil itself is not part of the living Earth. Buying a cell phone or a new TV is like planting a dollar bill in the ground. It will not grow, it will not bear fruit.