Mrs ERJ and I were coming back from my parents home. We take them dinner on Fridays.
I noticed the gas gauge was low. Very low. I took a detour on the way home to hit a gas station. I rounded a corner and started accelerating up a hill. There was nothing there. Then a little sputtering. Then nothing.
We coasted up over the top of the hill. Hills in Michigan usually don't amount to much.
Then the fuel sloshed far enough forward for the fuel pump to grab some and make the motor happy. It was a mile to the gas station. We made it.
Prices are set by the margin
First of all, I think it is juvenile to dream that "the economy" will go away. It is just as productive to dream that we will one day wake up in a parallel universe. Governments can mandate and the economy will bend...but it will not be replaced.
I also believe that we have enough oil for the next thousand years to supply the very highest value end-uses. That will be things like pharmaceuticals, optical grade plastics, herbicides and insecticides and fiber.
Mrs ERJ's vision
I asked Mrs ERJ what her vision of a end-of-oil future might look like. Her insights are worth considering since she just came off a month without her own, personal vehicle. She pretty much lived this experiment.
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We will go shopping less often. We will eat soft fruits like strawberries and blueberries and banana less often. They will be a treat. Sturdy fruits like apples and no-refrigeration-needed vegetables like cabbage will become more important. Meat will become a luxury item. Larger meat animals, like hogs, will become seasonal or slaughtering one will occasion a huge, neighborhood feast similar to Potlatch Culture.
Driving less means we need fewer vehicles. The Amish often pool their resources and will have one vehicle (typically a full sized van) for eight or ten families. You can haul a LOT of groceries in one of those. An even lower cost approach would be to have a standard vehicle and a medium size trailer to pull behind it.
Robert's Rules of Order
Like Potlatch Culture, shared vehicles place a premium on robust, community mechanisms. Knuckleheads will not disappear if/when oil becomes expensive. In fact, they will become FAR MORE VISIBLE than they are now. People will need starch in their backbones. The takers, resource hogs, manipulators, people with personality disorders cannot be tolerated or the fragile, nascent community ventures will collapse into rubble. We will no longer be able to afford to subsidize their fantasies.
The issue of mental illness is a very big deal. If one person in twenty is afflicted with mental illness to the degree where it is incapacitating, then a group of ten families (nominally 20 adults) has a 50% chance of having one of those fruit-loops and a 25% chance of having two of them.
Gardening will become more popular.
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Everybody will have a bicycle and we will ride them.
The heated and cooled portions of dwellings will be smaller, or at least there will be less square footage per person. Most of the area in our homes is dedicated to "stuff". How much of that "stuff" requires climate control?
We will dry our clothes on the line. We will watch the weather and do laundry only when favorable for line drying.
We will plan more. We will keep lists. We will be less spontaneous. Daffy people will struggle because there are few resources available to support their Plan B.
That is about when we pulled into the driveway.