One of the common themes of the oil depletion crowd is how we all must do a better job of harnessing alternative sources of energy. Biofuels, natural gas, wind, hydro, solar, you name it. If there’s a way we can get some energy out of something we’re bound to try it. Most pundits on the pro-peak oil side of the spectrum think that no combination of alternative energy sources will be able to make up all of oil’s positive attributes, namely that it can be relatively easy to produce, easy to store, and that it packs a whole lot of energy into a single gallon of liquid.
There’s an interesting post over at Cleantechblog.com discussing energy’s relative worth compared to human labor. It’s very enlightening, and if you think about it for a while, it becomes apparent how much we have come to rely on our ‘energy slaves’, and how we take them for granted due to the cheap prices we pay for energy compared to what we’d pay to have people accomplish the same thing.
Being somewhat cynical by nature, I pondered this point a bit longer, and the thought came to me about how this ties in with the slowly unfolding economic crisis surrounding the fall of the dollar. The economy continues to ‘grow’ while the Fed continues to flood the market with more and more virtual dollars created out of nothing (4.7 billion dollars last week alone). If the stock market rises by five percent at the same time the US money supply is being inflated, are we really growing, or does that simply reflect the need to take all of this new money and do something (hell, anything) with it?
The downside of all this money creation is that it waters down the value of the existing dollars at the same time, and that makes the holders of these dollars, like China, who’s got nearly a trillion of them, pretty unhappy. China is sending out more signals that it intends to diversify it’s FOREX holdings, and that will likely result in the dollar losing even more value, if not outright collapsing either from hyperinflation, or a simple glut of dollars created by all of the central banks of the world trying not to be the last bank holding the proverbial bag.
If the dollar does crash, many if not most Americans will be financially destroyed. Those at the top will suffer, but still retain their relative advantages compared to the masses, while those at the bottom will see their safety nets disappear. We would return to a nearly feudal society, with the privileged few at the top, and large numbers of poor, indebted and probably desperate people at the bottom, and we have the beginnings of a quasi-police state to keep them all in line and stop them from rioting and/or revolting.
Combine this with rising energy prices due to falling oil and natural gas production, and suddenly having access to a huge pool of people willing to do pretty much anything to feed themselves and their families will be seen as a boon to those at the top. When you’re willing to work for food & shelter, what constitutes a ‘living wage’ changes drastically and makes the costs associated with utilizing large amounts human labor much, much cheaper. Depending on the legal arrangement, you could call this labor pool serfs, peasants, indentured servants, or simply slaves. Most of the middle class of America and elsewhere came from the lower class, and we could be headed back there unless we hold our leaders accountable and force them to adress the economic and energy-related issues that we have seen fit to ignore for far too long.