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The dark shadow of Peak Oil looms ominously over America

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Petroleum is the force that drives the world's economies; it fueled America's industrial engines and created the world's foremost economic power. It was also the primary reason that the American lifestyle became the envy of the world. Now in a startling turn of events petroleum is destined to be a major cause for a dramatic change in the lifestyles of the American people.

For those still unfamiliar with the issue of Peak Oil and its implications for the future of the world, especially America the world's largest user of petroleum, here is what it entails. Most of the world's prominent geologists and petroleum experts now believe that we are nearing the point at which the total world demand for oil will overwhelm the world's production capabilities; the point at which production will have "peaked", quite possibly in the next five years.

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This developing problem is accelerating due to the fact that there have been no significant discoveries of new oil fields for decades and, as a result, the remaining oil reserves in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Venezuela and other oil-producing nations have steadily been depleted. Couple this with the fact that as more and more oil is extracted from a field the remaining oil becomes extremely expensive to extract; often the energy used to extract it costs more than the oil is worth.

For those who scoff and say that Peak Oil is a misguided, unproven premise and that it's only a matter of time until we see the development of alternative energy sources, they do so at their own peril and ours. This development currently is unable to gather any momentum because of the massive lobbying efforts of the big oil companies and the lack of action by the U.S. Congress which bends to their every demand. Even when alternative sources are developed the scarcity of oil in the world will be so widespread that the alternatives will not be able to offset the huge losses for many years. These naysayers, many with connections to Big Oil, do not fully understand the many ramifications of this issue and totally ignore established facts.

Peak Oil is going to happen and we are in the beginning stages. So how will this entire scenario evolve so that it will directly impact our current lifestyles? Well, as the demand overwhelms supply the competition between the major oil consuming nations to acquire oil, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, and the European nations, will become very tenuous. At the same time the oil producing nations will cut back on oil exports to guarantee their own supply into the future. And, when these events take place, the entire world will realize that it has entered the era of Peak Oil.

As the process evolves shipments of a wide array of products and other goods via tanker and cargo ships will begin to decline and the entire world, so heavily dependent upon petroleum for their manufacturing sectors, will experience a shock to their economies. Petroleum and its byproducts are used for gasoline, motor oil, tires, asphalt, shingles, fertilizer and a myriad of products. Petroleum has become the most important resource in the world as it is the major factor in the world's manufacturing processes.

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Here in America, the diminished supply of oil will have the biggest immediate impact on our transportation systems, primarily autos, trucks, airlines and railroads. The big winner will be the railroads as travel by auto will rapidly decline, interstate truck shipments will see a significant drop and airlines will cut back on their flight schedules to a great extent. And, because of that, the great beneficiary will be the railroads which will see their freight and passenger business rapidly grow, a natural result because railroads' cost per transport mile is so much lower than other forms of transportation.

Unfortunately, these shortages of oil and the intense competition to acquire it will lead to resource wars between nations; the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just the precursor of these resource wars. Many nations who have no history of waging wars of any kind may have to resort to them as a means of survival. But, every cloud has a silver lining and that same decline in the supply of oil will also make it more difficult for nations to fuel those wars that divert money from their domestic needs.

In years to come we will see an end to suburban sprawl when living "out in the country" becomes prohibitive as the costs per gallon of gasoline skyrocket. Many huge suburban malls will become eroding eyesores, following the small businesses and "mom and pop" stores that they eradicated, into oblivion. The future of Wall Mart and other giant chains will be at great risk as the significant reduction in ocean transport will interrupt their normally steady supply of imported products from China and other overseas nations.

The diminished oil supply may bring a feeling of pain to our lifestyles but it will have some positive benefits; it will result in the rebirth of the American manufacturing sector. As the entire world is forced to adjust to the decline in oil production and supply, this Peak Oil phenomenon will bring an end to our current failed system of Globalization. The amount of raw materials, manufactured products and other goods that are normally traded between nations will be severely curtailed, thereby creating a need to manufacture more products in America. Those same giant transnational corporations that outsourced multi-millions of American jobs overseas will have no choice but to pour huge amounts of capital back into American manufacturing and rehire American workers.

Some of the tradeoffs we will be making: suburban sprawl for city living or suburbs close to the city; long distance trucking for rail transport; long trips on interstate highways and expensive crowded airports and planes for fast intercity transit and maybe even bullet trains; congested bumper to bumper, 60-90 minute, one-way car commutes for suburb to city transit systems; giant outlying malls for in-town shopping; Chinese products in Wal-Mart for American manufactured products in independent, owner-operated businesses; planet-destructive fossil fuels for environmentally safe alternative energy sources; and last and best of all; the massive amounts of petroleum that fuel our wars will dramatically shrink and, hopefully, wars will be replaced by peace.

Therefore, there is no need to fear the coming era of Peak Oil because it gives every appearance of being a natural evolutionary change in how this nation and our society must adjust in order to function effectively in the future; the only danger will come if we continue to remain totally unprepared and be blindsided when it happens. But if we fully understand what is coming our way and begin the process of accepting and dealing with it, this change in our lifestyles might be the best thing that has happened in America for a very long time.

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Michael Payne


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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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