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The Problem, Its Causes, Timing and Effects

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Two centuries of oil

There are three major factors coalescing to destroy our lifestyle. (1) The continuing debasement of our currency, as we print more and more money to pay our increasing national debt, will result in the dollar losing its unique status as the world’s reserve currency, so that everything we import (including food and oil) will go up in cost and down in its availability to us. (2) Oil as an exhaustible resource is now entering a decline in global availability and quality; those who produce it will tend to keep a larger share of their production; no viable substitute is in sight; therefore everything we use petroleum for will become less (or un-) affordable. (3) Our government (and most others) refuses to initiate a gradual transition toward a more nearly sustainable lifestyle and therefore ensures that the change when forced upon us will be more like a crash than like a downhill slope.

When and how rapidly the economic downturn will proceed is unpredictable. Global talks have been held without our presence on replacing the dollar with a basket of currencies for international trades, and China has begun the process of reducing its very large holding of US notes, but we cannot know how rapidly this will proceed.  It is clear that businesses in other countries are less willing now to accept payment in dollars. Perhaps one of the most important factors could be the general public awareness of what’s in store; this could lead to reduction in voluntary expenditures, e.g., for vacations, more ride sharing, etc, as well as to selectivity in investments, e.g., less stock market exposure, more to gold and silver.  This awareness could feed on itself as the economic consequences would be apparent and this would lead to more awareness. The peak in oil production is considered past, and the downside of the production rate for an oil field is faster than the upside, and the cost of extraction is greater and the cost to process the lower quality crude is greater. Food will be one of the real flags as the cost of importation grows and the costs of (highly mechanized) growing and getting it to market become apparent to all.

There is a plethora of info on the internet about the consequences, and one particularly good recent reference on the overall effects is a German Army report in the Energy Bulliten To become a choice source of info on the individual effects as well as what one could do about coping with them is a major objective of OEIC. We hope you can help us meet this objective, for the benefit of all of us.

Don White was a physicist in GE’s R&D Center, retiring in ’85. He and Nancy currently revel in their new solar home. He enjoys gardening, where he pays special attention to berries and to shade-loving plants, with a particular focus on ramps, ginseng and eleuthro (formerly Siberian ginseng).

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