Peak Flows

9 07 2008

Here’s an interesting analogy from Jim Brown:

Think of it as though you were one of 100 people shipwrecked on a desert island. The only water source on the island was a small spring fed pond and the spring only produced enough water each day for 25 people. The accumulated water in the pond could supply everyone for a couple days but eventually it would be gone and the spring the only source. The 100 people would begin to consume the pond water on demand as soon as it was found. As the size of the pond begins to shrink and they realize there is only a few days of accumulated water remaining they would implement rationing. Everyone gets a reduced amount each day as the supply diminishes. As the pond becomes a mud hole and the people realize that the daily supply cannot support everyone the law and order quickly breaks down. Arguments flare as everyone tries to justify their daily allotment. When that fails brute force prevails with the strong taking what they need. The weak form alliances with the strong and those that can’t provide a needed service eventually die off. As the remaining alliances begin to struggle as supplies dwindle wars would break out. Again, the strong would survive and fewer service providers would be allowed to exist. Eventually only enough people would survive as there was water to support them. Every drop of water would be rationed and spread among those left as though it were more valuable than gold. In reality it is move valuable since all the gold you could carry would not be worth the daily ration of water to keep you alive.

The important difference to note between this analogy and our oil flow situation is that we do not need oil to survive. But the response to reduced supply will be very similar, and we see the early signs of this in the riots in Europe. It seems the best plan would not be how to obtain the biggest share of the dwindling and more expensive flows, but how to avoid to the fight for them. In other words, make other arrangements – before they are made for you. Don’t die or go bankrupt trying to maintain a way of life that has no future.

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