Peak oil jobs #4: the camping site owner
It must take a peculiar state of mind to see Peak Oil and its ramifications in everything you see and do. It must be the first signs of nail chewing paranoia or calm presience. So it was that one seemingly unconnected event brought some thoughts to mind.
I have just returned from a camping holiday in some far flung corner of the country surrounded by rambling hills, lowing cows and bounding rabbits (in various stages of myxomatosis as it turned out).
I had reached my destination by car having driven for just over an hour fully loaded with family and various camping utilities ranging from the tent down to the humble but essential can opener.
Having arrived at the camping site, the most difficult task of unpacking and erecting the tent began in earnest and was completed in an hour or two. We could now sit back and enjoy the holiday.
Once I settled into a reflective state of mind, I thought backwards and then forwards into time. I recalled how my uncle used to go on annual camping trips to France for years with his family. I also recalled that he had a successful job as a regional manager in a roofing company. I wondered why he didn't enjoy the fruits of his labour and go somewhere more exotic with his family?
Furthermore, I remembered my wife's recollections about how her family went on simple holidays along the Scottish coastline to the same humble caravan for two weeks a year. This was also an annual event for as long as she could remember. Her father was also a successful high level manager at an engineering firm.
Both these men were on good salaries with small families, why did they opt for low cost holidays when something more luxurious seemed within their grasp? The answer became apparent when I calculated the years both families would have been heading for these low profile destinations - it was the late 1970s.
Inflation was in the double digits and interest rates were being set to match these money eroding forces. Energy costs had tripled only a few years before and were due another heart stopping run up to $40 with the Iranian revolution. Mortgage costs were going up and up while striking workers were demanding pay rises of 20%, 30% and even 40% to match the raging inflation that can only come with fiat money.
I could only assume two things of my elder relations. The high cost of living was forcing speding cuts or the need to save against an uncertain future was forcing spending cuts. Either way, disposable income became essential income.
When Peak Oil begins to grind the economy down slowly and remorselessly, be prepared for a rerun of the 1970s - and that would just be the beginning. As people tighten their belts, holidays will take on a very economical aspect. Gone will be the cheap flights to distant sun kissed beaches and remote palm tree'd villas. In will come the tent and the caravan as they experience a renaissance. Our tent vacation was cheap by any standard - no hotel tariffs and no restaurant meals. In their place came the pitch fee and a gas cooker to prepare our own meals. Is this the shape of things to come?
One simple rule of thumb regarding Peak Oil is to view it as a film of society running backwards. The cheap air flights all reverse forever into their hangars and the large hotel complexes of inexpensive Mediterranean resorts are unbuilt to the ground. Meantime, the local resorts within a few hundred miles or so become more and more teeming with activity and the tents and caravans (or mobile homes) begin to proliferate on empty fields.
Some things will change within these genres. My father-in-law didn't haul a caravan to his destination, he rented one on site. When fuel costs rise painfully, that wisdom will become more apparent. The vacation villa will not disappear, it will just simply be nearer. However, they will not be owned as a second property or a timeshare for the impending end of the real estate bubble will bring that form of holiday investment to a long term ending.
And what of the camping site owner mentioned at the top? He may be a farmer with some spare land to use (apart from that now allocated for increased local produce) or a former property developer who sees the future in vacation homes rather than residential homes. If well timed and well located, these pieces of land could be guaranteed generators of income. When the number of vehicles on the road begins to decline and land prices are also declining, then would be the time to move into that line of business.
Peak Oil is obviously a big problem, but as the motivational speaker may say, it can be turned into an opportunity for those with the foresight and dynamism to see its ramifications. After World War II, when blitzed London was being cleaned up, two men began buying up derelict land about the city. Their sanity was questioned when they said it would be used for car parking but out of the gloom of a bankrupt Britain, they were prove right as their NCP car parking business went on to become the leading British car parking provider.
Ominously, this company that symbolises cheap oil has just been sold for nearly a billion dollars.
When the exact opposite begins to happen, look upon those plunging land valuations as your NCP opportunity!