Peak Oil: Implications for Preparedness and Self-Sufficiency

By James Wesley, Rawles — Editor of

I’m often asked about Peak Oil Theory, (or “Hubbert’s Peak“) and whether this is valid. Let me start with a little background, courtesy of the hive mind at Wikipedia:

“In the context of Hubbert Peak theory, peak oil is the date when the peak of the world’s conventional petroleum (crude oil) production rate is reached. After this date the rate of production is predicted to enter terminal decline, following the bell-shaped curve predicted by the theory.
Some observers such as Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, and James Howard Kunstler believe that because of the high dependence of most modern industrial transport, agricultural and industrial systems on inexpensive oil, the post-peak production decline and possible resulting severe price increases will have negative implications for the future outlook of the global economy. Predictions as to what exactly this negative effect will be vary wildly. More positive outlooks, putting the peak of production in the 2020s or 2030s show the price at first escalate and then retreat as other types of fuel sources are used as transport fuels and fuel substitution in general occurs. More dire predictions which operate on the thesis that the peak will occur shortly or has already occurred predict a global depression and even the collapse of industrial global civilization as the various feedback mechanisms of the global market cause a disastrous chain reaction. The shortfall will either have to be mitigated through conservation or through alternatives.”

Some proponents contend that the oil production peak has already occurred, we are now on the downhill slope, and this will result in global economic troubles at best, and a total socioeconomic collapse in the worst case. Other folks (including myself) contend that there will indeed be an oil peak but that it will not occur for another 10 to 50 years. And a third camp contends that there never will be an oil crisis because either A.) alternative energy sources will be exploited, or B.) Oil is still being generated in the Earth’s crust. (The “abiotic” or “abiogenic” oil theory.) There are lots of ongoing arguments on the Internet, supporting these positions. Some of the best Peak Oil web sites include The Oil Drum and Matt Savinar’s Life After The Oil Crash (LATOC)

With all these arguments aside, my stance on Peak Oil is simple. It is essentially the same as my position on Y2K back in the late 1990s, and also for the more recent concerns about a possible global influenza pandemic: The threat could be huge, or the threat could be hugely overstated. But even if the threat is minimal, it is still wise to prepare. By preparing to survive in a post-Peak Oil world, you will also be prepared for a myriad of other inimical circumstances. I strongly encourage all SurvivalBlog readers to both relocate to safe, lightly populated agricultural areas with plentiful water, and to strive for self-sufficiency. Statistically, life in the hinterboonies will be much safer, regardless of what happens.

If you take Peak Oil Theory seriously, then you should embark on some active measures to prepare for a multi-generational societal collapse. The preparedness and self-sufficiency measures for Post Peak oil are just about identical to what others recommend for long term TEOTWAWKI planning, as described in great detail in SurvivalBlog’s daily articles and posted letters.Post-Peak Oil preparedness does have a few peculiarities. For example, you will likely place a stronger emphasis on fuel storage and energy self-sufficiency. And if you think that transport will be adversely affected in the long term, then you might want to choose your retreat locale either inside or in close proximity to a community that you believe will fare well following a post Peak Oil crash. You need to find a community that has the potential to be fully self-sufficient in the absence of outside commerce. Some of the communities mentioned in my Recommended Retreat Locales web page may match that requirement.

In my estimation, those preparing for post-Peak Oil are not much different than folks that are preparing for other scenarios. Most of them, I have found, are a bit naive about the threat of societal unrest, dislocated populations, and looting. For this reason, they don’t view high population density with the same alarm that I do. Many “Peak Oilers” have chosen to relocate to Texas, California’s Central Valley, and the Southwest, with the fair assumption that the warmer climate will require less home heating, and the high number of sunny days will facilitate photovoltaic power generation and solar water/space heating. They certainly have that right. But given the high population density of Texas and California, the illegal immigrant population throughout the southwest, and the arid climate in most of the region could pose problems in the event of a grid-down collapse. (Much of the region is dependent on electrically-pumped well water. In the event that the western power grid goes down, even the “farming country” in most of the southwest would soon revert to desert and hence there will be massive numbers of desperate refugees. Even if you have a self-sufficient farm with a photovoltaic power well pump, nearly all of your neighbors won’t. Odds are that when the grid goes down, they will be hungry, thirsty, and desperate. My general guidance is to relocate to the Inland Northwest region. This lightly populated region has more plentiful water than the southwest. Granted, there are fewer “solar days”, but I’d rather have plentiful water and less worry about huge waves of refugees.

For further details on how and where to set up a self-sufficient survival retreat, see my nonfiction book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.

Copyright 2007-2014. All Rights Reserved by James Wesley, Rawles – Permission to reprint, repost or forward this article in full is granted, but only if it is not edited or excerpted.

About the Author:
James Wesley, Rawles is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and a noted author and lecturer on survival and preparedness topics. He is the author of the novel “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse” and is the editor of–the popular daily web journal for prepared individuals living in uncertain times.