Friday, June 12, 2009

Peak Oil, Market Forces and Social Change

Kevin Carson at Center for a Stateless Society makes the following prediction about the relationship between peak oil, environmentalism and social change in the coming decades. I respect someone who will stick their next out and make a bold prediction or two, even though I am less convinced of the logic of the market than he appears to be. I would certainly like to see some of the changes he foresees taking place.

Based on the premise that oil will become increasingly expensive to extract, thus raising prices dramatically, Carson predicts:

So we can count on the coming astronomical increases in energy prices, through the good old-fashioned laws of the market, to spur people to increased energy efficiency without any help from the government. We’ll see most of the long-haul truckers abandon their rigs, and most airline routes shut down. In manufacturing, we’ll see a radical shortening of supply and distribution chains and a relocalization of production. We’ll see trucked-in out-of-season produce become a luxury good, and vegetable production in backyard gardens and in local market gardens increase by an order of magnitude. We’ll see people gradually moving closer to where they work, and an explosion of production in the informal and household economies as suburbanites move production closer to where they live. We’ll see housing contractors discover the market value of passive solar heating and cooling technology. We’ll see the recycling of industrial waste heat become economical.


And it will all be done by the free market, because people motivated by old-fashioned self-interest will follow an economic law older than the internal combustion engine: when something costs more, people use less of it.

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