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Peak Oil Preparedness
at the end of the world, will you feel fine?
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peakoil_prep
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So what changes are people making right now/these next two weeks in their lives in light of the likelihood that Greece will leave the Euro, that the Euro might collapse, that BHP has today cancelled $80bn worth of projects etc... 

I heard yesterday (in a television report about the declining rate of cheque usage in Australia) that Australia only has about 12-16% of it's 'currency' in actual cash, the rest is electronic.  This is making me consider plans around having healthy access to cash - particularly in smaller bills (and the plans have to be about realistic security related to that too).  Not a lot of cash, but enough to get through a week or two if there is an electronic failure (we've seen a few big banks have total electronic banking failures of one kind or another in the last couple of years, largely due to the older IT programs they have built over and onto like a card house).  This is different to stock holding/cash hoarding though.

Also have made a decision to always keep the car fueled now with enough to go back and forth to our country location/nearest city.

Have noted that the large shipping companies have declined to return to Australia to resume the live cattle trade our PM so stupidlyspectacularly stopped.  Wonder what else might get similar treatment.

What else are others doing out there in light of current changes?  What am I missing?
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I've spent a good chunk of today resting my bad knee reading up on tiny houses. Micro houses. The ones that fit onto a trailer and can be towed about. 

There's a couple of things I like about them, and a few things I don't.  There's some novel ideas, awesome ideas around living simply, living with less and so on.  Storage seems to be a key issue. 

Obviously they are very low cost - you are building something the size of a postage stamp, so your material costs are fairly low.  That said it doesn't seem like many are built on standard sized woods etc (or at least not standard sizings in Australia, although I could be doing an imperial vs decimal misunderstanding).

They seem to be largely built out of wood.  Is this because it's a home handyman DIY dream?  Every one of these looks like a roving snack box to termites to me. Nom nom.  And isn't the ongoing maintenance of wood a bit of a PITA - sealing, painting, water proofing, ant proofing, hard to seal tight etc?

If you are putting them on trailers and towing them around then they seem very bulky, chunky - all the wood - what about using sleeker materials, slim steel supports would get you as far with a lot less bulk - or is it again the aesthetic and the home handyman thing?

There are some great designs out there that are doable in a post peak oil world (or largely) - and can be built for under $300 USD.  Generally they are using recycled housing materials, 'natural' wall components (clay, hay etc).

It seems most of the American ones rely heavily on modern technologies still - heaters/fires, airconditioners, chemical toilets and water heaters.  Most are two story (to get the bed space in) - they are building up instead of out.  If you are building in the wilds why make it that you have to climb a dinky ladder to crawl into a bed space that you can't sit up in? Why not add a wider floor plan and have a subsequently larger roof for more water collection.  Which is another point - none of these (fixed ones) seem to have a water tank.  Or even gutters. Or solar panels for roofing.  Why not have solar panels for roofing, and the water runs down into a tank?

Finally - many of them are overly ornate. Complicated roof structures, dicky little porches, odd shaped windows. Not easy to construct (and partly why I'm confused these are in wood/for the home handyman), and turn from functionality to 'tweeness'.

I'm tempted to build one as a guest house/studio, and see how I like it - but the argument I'll have with my husband is "we've 5,000 acres, why build something so small and just have to come back and add onto it later?".

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I am really very fortunate. I live debt free, and our family has a small business that is very financially stable and makes a profit.  It's costs are directly linked to it's ability to make profit, and as such even in lean years we do fairly well.

I also live in a AAA rated country that has weathered the last financial storm well, and will probably hold together better than most during this current/next one (Australia) - and to top it off I'm in the boom state (of WA) and we all can earn loads of cash here. (Whether the state government spends it's profits from the boom well is another story entirely.)

Where's all this self love leading? Well... I was chatting to my husband the other day in the car (about the book "World Made by Hand") - about who amongst our friends we'd invite to live in our Mad Max world hippy commune. And I realised it isn't just who we'd like to live with us, but who would be in a position where they felt compelled to choose that life. Ie who would be with such limited resources that they would be forced to consider packing up and moving to land they don't own (because we do) to build their own house (probably out of materials we supply, and therefore would retain ownership of the house into the future), in the hope for a better future, which ultimately means giving up their autonomy.

It left me with some questions, and I'd love some thoughts or resources or ideas around the following questions:

When one finds out their friends are doing asinine things (like buying/taking out mortgages on houses just past the peak of the stupidly huge housing boom, in a country that doesn't let you ever walk away from your debt, just as the world finances are sliding lower than a millipedes butt again)... what do you say to them?  

If you were to consider setting up your own transition movement what would you do? How would you structure it? How would you involve others from your friends circles who lived in the city when you lived in a country town? 

Hippy communes. Otherwise known as "living in community for the common good".  In a future world how can you see these working, what sort of social, moral and ethical questions need to be asked, and how does one manage resources, ownership of property etc?
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theheretic
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theheretic
I've been posting for a year or two now about motorcycles and scooters for future transportation needs, because they offer a much better power to weight ratio and still allow you to get to work, using Much Less Fuel. It could save our civilization (economy) and allow for some happiness while we transition into purely electric grid-based vehicle networks (streetcars and electric passenger trains). Scooters are the bare minimum of vehicle that don't require human muscle power (bicycles) to operate. They let you get to work without being physically drained, so you can do your job to the satisfaction of an employer expecting you to do physical labor. As that's likely the primary occupation of our future (physical labor) getting there without being tired is really important.

Scooters. They're based on a small engine attached to the rear wheel on a step-through frame with front shields to keep the slashes off so you arrive with clean clothes. Not for short skirts, but those aren't really appropriate for manufacturing are they? The most basic scooter was air dropped by the million over Europe during WW2, and the tiny 49cc engine is approximately the same power as you pedalling a bicycle, and that design gets you around 120 mpg. They've been like that for most of a century. Its well proven technology, fully mature. A couple italian veterans invented the Vespa scooter using that air dropped engine and an American patent for an automatic transmission for ease of use and suddenly a very fuel efficient vehicle anyone can use with a few minutes training was born. Of course, this is where the irony comes in. The primary manufacturer of Scooters is in Italy, a nation that is heavily invested in Greece, a nation about to Default. Italy is expected to do the same, perhaps later the same day. Parts for export may not be around because they'll end up dumping the Euro (currency) in the Default and go back to Lire. Italy, being as Globalist as any other nation, also manufactures many scooters in China then puts their badge on them. You would think this would be a good thing, but getting replacement parts for these is troublesome since the contracts seem to be limited rather than ongoing, as the cost of Chinese-made Italian scooters (Vespa) is a huge markup meaning they end up Toys for rich people rather than transportation for poor people. Parts delays are measured in weeks, not days. Taiwan only ships parts by air freight (they also make scooters) but for some reason can't get them onto a plane in less than 5-6 weeks. The only cheap scooters are offbrand Chinese made ones, with no replacement parts at all, and are famously unreliable so wrong for transportation to a job you actually want to keep. Japan used to manufacture scooters and cars in a district called Saitama, which got slammed by a Tsunami last March and is still rebuilding and might not end up making frivolous vehicles like scooters when all is said and done.

The irony is that the vehicle we need to get through Peak Oil may no longer be available due to natural and financial disaster. Unless domestic scooters are manufactured in each nation who wants to use them, we're going to be bicycling or walking to work. Lovely.
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I am curious what your various countries refugee and immigration policies are, and how you see them changing in the future.

l am in Australia, and we have about 400,000 immigrants a year in (most from sth africa, uk etc) and about 12,000 genuine refugees from around the world - mostly war torn middle east, increasingly from africa.  We have free form transfers between New Zealand and here, but everyone else needs visas etc.

We have huge media fear mongering around boat people - usually Sri Lankan, Iranian or Afghani refugees who come down through Asia to Indonesia and then get on crappy little fishing boats to limp to Christmas Island - an Australian territory in our far north.  The number of people each year varies depending on government policies (some policies have reduced boat people more than others) but is usually less than 1,000.

Once someone lands on Australian soil they are entitled to the full legal system, so people found not to be genuine refugees are appealing for years and years in courts.  Another issue is that boat people are seen as queue jumpers, who come out on boats after spending several years at least making there way here (some for economic reasons rather than safety), meaning a genuine refugee from somewhere else in the world doesn't get their plane ticket yet.

Australia is listed as one of the top two destinations in the world for many people relocating for economic, social or safety reasons (Canadais the other country) ....  what does this mean for us in the future.  How will this work ina peak oil world?  What about the argument Australia does not have enough water (and therefore food etc) to support many more people, let alone many many more....

What does your country do? How does it manage illegal people in a legal sense? Do you have mandatory detention? What works? Are you in a country that will have to rethink due to a perception that younare the land of stability, milk and honey? Or will your country be the sinking ship parties flee?
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theheretic
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theheretic
I have a friend who is a famous survivalist. Just released his second novel. I helped him write the first one. Good times. While his documentation of the economic collapse has been fantastic, and his initial concern, years ago, that economic collapse would lead the way into very stressful situation (which it is), I just can't agree that we'll all be toting .45's around openly a few years from now. Too many of the loners who get transfixed by the idea of living in a post-apocalyptic world where their limited people skills (some have ADD, ADHD or OCD) and paranoia are rewarded instead of punished like they are now... sigh. It just makes me sad. I suspect many of these folks, instead of buying guns and canned food, put the same effort into starting up a small business and forced themselves to politely interact with other people just to get business done, without picking fights, without antagonizing people (I do that, I'm guilty as well), and calm the f down, maybe then they could start thinking longer term than a carefully ordered suicide. Using a gun is a great way to spend a year in jail and court and go broke defending yourself legally. Really dumb idea. Lock your door, call the cops, let them deal with it. If it's truly valuable, don't park it somewhere it can be stolen, or learn to get by without it. I remain daily surprised that my car is still there when I go out for my daily commute. See, I'm an optimist!

A friend of mine at work announced he wants a firearm. My response was: "Move to a better neighborhood and you won't need one." A discussion followed.
"I want to protect my family" 
"You just got married. You don't have a family yet," I pointed out.
"I'm worried about mobs, like in Egypt. What if the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads?"
"Are they at the Pacific Stock Exchange and the Chicago Merchantile Board? No? Then stop worrying." Yeah, me telling people not to worry. What is the world coming to?

I eventually talked him down from a .44 Magnum revolver, whom another friend I mistakenly got into shooting sports described as having the recoil of a .22 LR. It doesn't. A proper .44 load kicks like being hit by a car or a baseball bat, right in the hand. I don't recommend it. Most .44 owners shoot light .44 Special loads, which kicks much less. The last thing I want my friend to do is shoot someone. He's already had a firearm accident, nearly killed a friend. People who grab a gun by the trigger end up killing someone. It is one of the NRA no-nos, and whatever you may think of the NRA's public statements, remember that their primary purpose is firearm SAFETY which they actually do as their primary job. I suggested, since he's so persistent about all this, a shotgun. It can't be concealled so it will stay home where it belongs instead of slipping into clothes resulting in an arrest or worse a confrontation that gets him killed. I find people picking fights in hostile territory under the excuse of "what if I go to this dangerous part of town at night?" hypotheticals to be asinine. Don't go there. Duh! He probably won't buy one and will probably get the .44 under that bad info from our mutual friend. Sigh. Newbies.

I got out of guns years ago. I have the skill and the knowledge. That's enough for me. Knowing about chickens is more valuable. Knowing how to can foods at home is more valuable. Knowing people at the city council and attending meetings, being part of the community volunteer network is WAY more valuable. Cops will actually care about you when they arrest you. My friend who only has fanciful ideas about self defense? He'll be shot dead. How is his new wife going to cope? I really hope he moves and stops picking fights with the world. It is always cheaper to change your life than it is to get into a fight and have to defend yourself in court.
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theheretic
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theheretic
Peak Oil back in 2007 caused some funny and unanticipated side effects. One of them was the distraction of free health care. This resulted in Very Expensive Health Care, which we pay for now. Just to make things worse, now that it's too late to re-establish trust with that industry, the Supreme Court is being asked to check the constitutionality of the original law that made things go FUBAR. Any guesses as to what will happen? I think we'll see its illegal but the health care industry won't care and rates will stay astronomical, because as we all know, things Post Peak just get worse, not better. Isn't that fun?
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For those of you still reading this community I've got some news and opinion pieces to cite regarding the EU, which is unlikely to survive past the end of this year. Greece remains days or a week away from Default, with Italy in the same position. I just learned that France is very heavily invested in both (double what Germany put in) so their collapse would also topple France, and Portugal and Spain were counting on French bailouts. The money is going everywhere that was a bad risk in the first place. I used to think the nonsense of investing in overpriced homes here in the PRK was nuts (which is why I still rent an apartment instead of being underwater on a mortgage for a place in Stockton or Tracy which are both longish drives from the Bay Area jobs and completely dependent on cheap oil to afford it) but the EU nations seem to have taken the crazy and emphasized it into a really bad one. Conservatives in the UK are demanding a referendum on EU membership per Treaty of Lisbon guarantees, since the whole EU is playing chicken with their national economies. If they stay in the EU, they will get forced to bail out bad economies that will almost certainly default anyway. Greece is NOT going to get better or recover without tourism, which is their sole economic value, and nobody wants to go to Greece when the students are rioting and there's crime because all the tourist money went away. Self reinforcing problem that gets worse and makes itself worse every point of the way. They've got no exports but olive oil and the population are effete snobs who don't speak the Lingua Franca because they're living in the past, which is why people go there in the first place: to stare at the achievements from two millenia ago. That's not helping them now, is it? The Bull Market is also doing a great job of reinforcing the negatives, as market after market reminds the world that the stock markets reflect the real economies and realization that everything is a house of cards means they keep going down. The US stock market hit 11,300, down 2% again. I sometimes wonder if the 2% bounce that's going on in the market is going to end up dropping the market down to a more rational stock value range. The old school rule of "never buy or own a stock with a Price to Earnings P/E ratio of more than 14" should be taken as gospel. During the heyday of the Dot.com bubble, there were stocks with 259 P/E ratios. They crashed, btw.

The EU has some big problems. Its possible it will muddle through disingenuous plague-like bankruptcy/defaults and drag the whole EU down with it into general poverty and Depression if the member nations opt to decline bailing out. Its not in the best interests of stronger nations, of which the UK is NOT. The UK got their money from cheap oil in the North Sea. Otherwise they'd still be stuck in Thatcherism's malaise of high unemployment, high crime, and despair. It wasn't fun Top Gear till Cheap Oil, after all, back in 1997. The oil money funded all the banking excesses which lead to million dollar supercars like the Veyron, which is fantastic as an engineering marvel but not an actual serious commuter vehicle or anything but a collectors item. The world needs poverty vehicles now: Tuktuks, Scooters, 3-wheeled trucks, auto-rickshaws. That's our present and future. Not 243 mph supercars, as fun as they are.
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Along the lines of more fuel efficiency, though that's Not the only subject to be discussed here:

Duke Engines 5 cylinder rotary engine. A strange design with some upsides and some flaws. Higher compression is a good thing, since that's far better efficiency. But cooling, in particular, would be difficult to accomplish. Might want to add additional cylinders so there's a cooling cycle, and water injection would also help, as that is used in airplane engines. Yes, that sounds weird, but I'm not joking. Airplanes also have dual plugs per cylinder so there's additional power and a backup in case of failure of one system.

The Duke engine reminded me of the OPOC engine, whose website sounded like the good doctor had taken Bill Gates' money and ran away. Turns out not to be the case. They're still moving forward, having gotten manufacturing contracts to build it in China (of course), and they've got a new CEO and CFO so it will stay in business. I really hope the actual production model gets out there and running so we can learn if its biodiesel compatible (as claimed), powerful, and in scooters (as planned). The 50cc 2-stroke model should run like a 200cc four stroke, which is plenty of power for a scooter. Two of those using the intended clutching system and necessary connecting bits would still be a dandy motor for efficient power for cruising and climbing. I'd love to see one of these climbing the Sunol Grade or Donner Pass while still smelling like fry oil. Lots of potential. With $33/gal diesel coming, sustainability will be about the compromises and this would work. This sort of engine is being made, or was originally planned, in three sizes: 50cc, 400cc, and something bigger for ships and trucks. The modules can be attached to others and electric clutches allow them to turn on and off without operator input other than pressing the accellator or RPM demand. Hit a hill, the second engine starts and runs till you crest it, then shuts down again, saving fuel. A nifty idea, if it can work reliably. The big problem with lots of moving parts is they are more points for potential failure, and more maintenance is required to keep them working.

I post these links and comments because as cool as they are conceptually, they aren't proven in the real world, in real driving conditions, and roadside repairs take years to percolate down to the masses. Conventional 50cc 2-stroke scooters have been around for 120 years and get 130 mpg with carburetors and standard poor quality gasoline. The OPOC and such are interesting, but almost certainly more expensive. When they cost $40 like a cheap Chinese 50cc scooter engine does, I'll be more impressed.

Good scooters with good reputations for real world riding: Piaggio Fly 150, Aprilia Scarabeo 200, Aprilia Sport City 125, Yamaha Zuma 125, Kymco People 150, Kymco Agility 125. I'm leaving off the Vespa, Honda, and Genuine/Buddy scooters because they're thousands overpriced. Note that I'm ignoring the 50cc scooters because they won't climb hills and half the USA is mountains and hills. A 2-stroke 50cc will do it, but most are not clean enough for EPA and will probably be banned in the near future. The bigger scooters (200cc+) cost as much or more than a proper motorcycle, which is more difficult to operate but better in every way for safety, terrain handling (suspension, wheel size), and have similar or better fuel economy than the big scoots. There's little point buying a 250cc scooter for $5K when $4K can buy you a decent 250cc motorcycle (Honda CBR250R, Suzuki TU250X, Kawasaki Ninja 250) all of which are proven machines in the real world. Remember that bigger wheels are safer, and the tires are less expensive too. I'm reasonably sure that paved roads are one of the things we'll remember fondly, like ice cream and cold fizzy drinks in a disposable aluminum can. Someday our beer will come in kegs at the local brewery and big glass bottles with a hefty deposit. Laugh now. Go ahead.

Someday we'll be driving 3-wheeled trucks a couple times a week, or paying those who have them in eggs or beer or a box of veggies for their loan to pick something up or drop something off. Our lives of indpendence and convenience are ending. Getting along with neighbors will be the hardest thing we've had to do in our whole lives. I think we will find that independent living was the real luxury of the 20th century.
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If you're like me, you don't yet own a house. You knew that the Housing Bubble was insane so didn't buy one and are waiting, cash in 401K ($20K is untaxable for first time home buyer from 401K). I chafe at living in an apartment, but that's what I've got to do. The ARM adjustments end in 2013. Those still owning homes but underwater will likely hang onto them sacrificing their savings on unaffordable payments as less well defended buyers bail out, driving down prices even faster, until all the pre-Crash ARM-loan buyers are foreclosed. This is important. There's a kind of inertia that takes place in systems, and mortgages are a hell of a system. They govern the place you live, where you keep your stuff, where your neighbors and connections to the community are. People hang onto their homes longest of all. The Euro may die this week. The Germans are having a court case where a judge decides whether Merkel had the right to force the Germans to bail out the bad loans to Greece or whether the bailout violates the Maastrict Treaty, on which the EU is based. This is really important. If he says Violation, Germany pulls out of the EU effective immediately by refusing further coverage of other member state's bankruptcies, leaving Greece and Italy to default. Both are likely to take as much money as they can then cut loose from the EU and reissue their original currencies, poke their fingers in their ears, shut their eyes and go "LALALLA!" really loud. That's what the USA is doing, btw.

Why does it matter to you? Well, two reasons. One, those two dominoes were enough to topple out the reserve bailout funds for the rest of the EU, leaving no money for Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and eventually the UK. The second is you can forget about access to scooter part exports from Italy. This is bad because the Italians make about half the quality scooters in the world, and scooters get around 90 mpg, which is DOUBLE what the Prius does, for a fraction of the cost and resources. How is a scooter valuable? Top Gear, Season 12, Episode 8. Watch it.

The upshot of EU collapse is that the dollar is the place most fearful of Euro collapse run to, but the dollar has hit a prime rate of zero, meaning it can no longer be used as a tool to control inflation. Its runaway now. If it kicks in, we can't stop it.

And it gets better. See, with inflation being so predicted to be high, and home buyers refusing to play with ARMs anymore, lenders will go with high interest rate mortgages with a fixed rate, gambling that they won't go too high and lose money on the loan or stay low and lose business. Last time around, when economic conditions were like this, Governor Moonbeam (Brown) presided over 15% interest rates on mortgages. Since available money by home buyers is at an all-time low, as unemployment is high, people can't afford much of a loan payment and still eat. So this puts more of the payment into interest and less into principle, meaning the actual house price, in the face of high default and foreclosure rates, will fall. Cheap houses, expensive loans, roughly the same payment per month. If wages fall, or unemployment rises as predicted, then house prices will fall even more. I think we'll see something like $80K for a Bay Area or LA house, after 2013-2014. With mortgage rates around 16%, maybe higher depending on inflation factors, you'll still pay a lot per month, but if you have savings you can tap, that improves your downpayment dropping your monthly payment quite a bit, or allows you a much shorter term loan, which would give you a lower interest rate. 30-year mortgages can be very expensive if inflation is in play. Might be unaffordable. We could see 10-year and 5-year mortgages make a comeback since it is less risky for banks.

I should also point out, being this is the Peak Oil Prep group, that if we see a dramatic cut in oil production, most cars will end up repossessed, causing a similar crash in auto financing as we saw in the housing bubble. Once bankruptcies in housing and car loan defaults get too common they stop being meaningful in a loan context. Most places may just stop giving loans and either sell for cash only or only sell stuff cheap enough it can be bought for cash. Like scooters and 3-wheeled trucks and mini-trucks (4 wheel but very cheap). They're a sign of poverty, but they're also our future with expensive oil and synthetic fuel having to be manufactured from algae. Nothing is free, and companies won't sell for less than they can make a buck. We'll have to live with that, and at $33/gal for algal diesel and more for synthetic gasoline, since it will be refined from synthetic diesel, we should really expect to have to pay through the nose. It will become a significant calculation in your job and commute. Which will impact where you live and what you pay to live there, funneling back into your housing costs.
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theheretic
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In Japan and Italy, weird 3-wheeled trucks used to be found everywhere, often with tiny scooter engines and able to seat one or two people and carry a small 300 pound load in the bed. They still have them in Japan.

Wouldn't that be fun here? A shell to keep the rain off, three small wheels to putt-putt along. If we're going to adapt, we need stuff like that on our roads. If ever there was a big fat raised middle finger to the rat race, it's a 3-wheeled truck.
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theheretic
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theheretic
A list of near future concerns for you.
  1. Low employment rates. Jobs largely menial labor where human effort is cheaper than paying for a robot. Humans are cheaper than machines or robots for the hopper filler and orientation jobs. We're also better at being shopkeepers and cleanup jobs than robots. Lucky for us there's a fair number of those sorts of jobs.
  2. Homegrown food and raising chickens. We'll eat lots of eggs, leaving us reliant on cracked corn feed, upside being they're cheap and ship by train so we'll still have access for a good long time. Canning and freezing veggies (canning not dependent on reliable electric power). Watch "Olivers Twist", a cooking show from London where the host
    collects ingredients on the back of his scooter and hosts dinner parties for friends. At 90 mpg, its appropriate for around town shopping.
  3. Trade tariffs resulting from the collapse of the dollar and euro and job protectionism by the typical crooked fear mongering politicians means that imported parts and equipment will be so expensive they're unavailable. This means imported cars and computers etc will be nearly unavailable.
  4. Fuel prices. I actually have a number there for you thanks to a contact in biotech (my job). A local company completed test phase and is scaling up, selling cost is around $33/gal for biodiesel. This can be bought by local refineries and cracked into synthetic gasoline to run in our vehicles. Quantities will probably drive prices at the pump even higher so consider the $33/gal a general price. Expect to get to work on a bicycle, and once you save enough money, a scooter. Loans may end up a thing of the past, if there's enough bankruptcies.
  5. Knowledge isn't lost. Technical advancement will continue. However, advancement will be balanced against practicality. Not because of newly gained ancient wisdom, but because idiots go broke and thus lose the power to make those sorts of choices. That's the biggest upside of Capitalism when operating at the small scale. Stupidity leads to Darwinism. This needs to be more strongly enforced at the Large Scale, perhaps via regulation that scales up with "operating capital" etc.
  6. People who can successfully operate at the small scale, on a small budget, with small needs and small dreams will be inherently stronger than those who insist on doing things Big. Big is over. Big cars, big vacations, big houses, big meals, big spending. That is over.
  7. Power outages are reasonable, but not certain. They may have some duration, but they probably won't be permanent. They will be annoying and frequent enough to justify either adapting to blackouts or getting backups in place. Thus the flashlight and canned foods.


Good prep these days is shrink your living expenses down. Reduce hobbies to cheap ones, if you can. Learn to cook and diet smart. Buy a jacket, helmet, and gloves for riding a scooter. Pay off your debts, if you can. While its possible you'll be able to get bankruptcy to work for you, the former President basically annulled the whole thing by denying protection from Credit Card debts in Bankruptcy. Get used to the idea of minimal stuff, away from the idea of owning things, of collections in general. Objects are temporary. Skills are permanent. Minimalism is king. Do you want to be King?

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theheretic
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theheretic
I've been doing my scooter research. The Kymco People 150 would be a good option for the following reasons. Big wheels to get across potholes and ruts and not dump you into traffic. 150cc's is the best compromise for power vs. fuel economy in a very lightweight vehicle. Its got the automatic continuously variable transmission, which takes the engine output and balances that against the demand so its running at its highest efficiency. Twist and go, no real thought but steering and braking. Lists at $2800 new. Best time to buy is after the rains in Fall or Winter. Prices come down then. This Kymco model will run reliably for years, like a Honda or a Yamaha.

In most states, scooters under 50ccs require no license or registration. This is valuable to you because all you really need to pay for is the scooter, helmet, and fuel to keep it running. The problem with 50cc machines is they only really work on level ground. If you live on level ground, great. If you live in mountains and hills, you need 125-150cc's. The other problem with standard 50cc scooters is that they come with 10 inch wheels. Look at your local pothole. More than 10 inches across and 2-4 inches deep, right? That sized wheel gets around 2 inches of vertical travel for bump absorption. The basic vectors on that mean that little 10 inch wheel in a stanard pothole results in a severe shock transferred to the frame and thus the rider, perhaps throwing you into the street at whatever speed you're going and flipping the bike over too. Thus the need for Big Wheels. The above Kymco scooter has that. The Honda SH150i is a fuel injected version but costs better than double its real utility value MSRP of $4500, but it's really only worth about $2000 to a commuter. Honda needs more Clue, but that's not likely to happen.

Buddy International makes Vespa clones which are well regarded for quality and better price, made in Taiwan btw. Most are still small wheel, but the price is good. Italian scooters are a $2000 premium in most cases.

Note that Honda sells the CBR250R for $4K and will go 80 mph because its a full motorcycle. $4K is pretty much the base price for a 250cc motorcycle, something with big wheels to deal with bumps but requires manual shifting and operating a clutch. This means that any scooter that costs more than $4K is a stupid waste of money. The Suzuki GZ250 (aka the Geezer), is $3K, and is superior to any scooter except for the need for manual shifting. This is an excellent argument against scooters over $3K. I'm still considering scooters with 10 inch wheels but I'm thinking really hard about their safety limitations.
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theheretic
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theheretic
I looked up just what cuts the Greeks are making to their govt and found this list. Better tax collection, cuts to military and all socialist crap, cuts to public employee pay, cuts to their staffing too, allowing foreign competition, ending "protected careers" whatever those are, and basically ending Socialism in Greece, period. A good thing, if they can adapt. The Vaunted Norwegian socialism model wouldn't work at all without Cheap Oil from the North Sea to prop it up. The money goes away, the stress goes up and suddenly blaming foreigners results in one loony killing 65 people. This is the traditional consequence of overextending benefits to people in hard economic times. Far too often I hear people blaming "damn foreigners takin our jobs". Often those are jobs the locals WON'T DO for a wage the market will bear. I have yet to see white people stooped over with short handled hoes in Salinas lettuce and strawberry fields. Kinda obvious those damn foreigner claims are BS. Doesn't stop drunk redneck bigots from yelling it though. What will the USA be like if it cuts spending on all those same Socialist New Deal FDR programs? The Marxists love to make ridiculous claims, but I'm not a Marxist and I still believe in small scale capitalism (small business rather than big).



Summer is wrapping up, probably a month of warm weather left here in the PRK. I expect rains in a couple weeks though, as this summer has been very typical for the 80's weather. So much for "warming". I have every intention of biking in those last few warm periods, and on the non-rainy Fall and Winter afternoons, of which there are many. The PRK is awesomely nice that way. Most of the folks I work with are looking at moving into town to save more on gasoline and time. It just doesn't make good sense to keep paying a monthly fortune in gasoline. I filled up my tank the first time in 8 weeks, since Father's Day. A short commute really IS the Green Solution. Even with only getting 18 mpg due to the low speeds, that's something like $5/week, or a buck a day in fuel. If I bought a scooter at the going rate of $3000, plus gear, tax, license, and motorcycle safety course (required for a scooter in the PRK) getting me another grand, that $4K would keep me in gasoline for the next 3 years even factoring in the rising cost of fuel expected, towards the non-inflation adjusted rate of $33/gal when Synthetic Gasoline derived from algal biodiesel gets into the market. If I simply hold onto the money and bicycle as time and energy allows, that $4K investment unspent would get a decent 5% down payment on a house in 2014, seeing as everyone tracking finance knows that higher interest rates will drive down house prices. I have found scooters for $2300, new, but they're rather gutless for PRK hills and too litle wheel travel for the bumpy roads and streets we have everywhere. I think too little suspension and too little power is worse than a bicycle for safety on those little wheels. I'm safer on my bicycle where I can go over bumps and not get flung into traffic. And my bicycle uses ME for fuel. Of course, how much food does it take to go 12 miles and then allow me to work as expected? The average person drives 30 miles of commute per day. Can they bicycle 15 miles, work 9 hours, and then bike home? Do we really think that will happen? 15 miles by bike, with signals, is about 1 hour or riding in my experience. Possibly more. If there are hills, certainly more. Could you do it?
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theheretic
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theheretic
One of the philosophical points I have trouble explaining to the general public and interested sorts such as yourselves is that dumping the Rat Race might end up Welcomed rather than Violently Refused. Its hard to explain this in light of my lack of evidence, since we've never done that before, but my best support is this: there are people who go to cities on vacation and people who go to the country on vacation, but all vacations have something important in common. People rest. Resting on vacation wouldn't be necessary if the Rat Race was suited to human existence, and people who can tolerate and thrive in high stress environments move to live IN cities in the first place so they never have to leave. The rest of us, who don't live in cities and really don't want to are pretty damned ordinary. Giving up the rat race, to us, is like a big sigh of relief. We are the majority of the population. We are tired of endless hard work, particularly in the face of useless objects we'd have to replace in a year when they're out of fashion. Materialism is the carrot of the Rat Race, and Debt is the stick, or rather “Credit Ratings” are the stick. I don't give a damn about my credit rating. I never borrow money. There are few things I want that require it. I suspect many of you are the same.

The violent refusal camp are largely composed of people who have the most to lose in the Great Default, an event which I currently believe to be largely impossible to avoid at this point. The rest are people convinced that the worst of people will dominate, as in Greece, rather than shrug and have a second beer, as in Ireland. Those are the two extremes of response to Default. It falls within Man's character to approve of quiet pretty places. We have so many stories taking place in small towns where you know the characters and the choices are simpler and less cruel. In the city, its easier to be anonymous, so cruelty is casual. Its one of the worst things about the Rat Race, that the intent is to screw over everyone around you, in order to “win”. Whatever Win means. Eat right, Exercise, Die Anyway. That was on a bumper sticker I saw last week. True enough. Why struggle and spend and mortgage yourself to the hilt in order to buy a giant screen HDTV when you already know there's nothing to watch but horrible “reality TV” shows like Jersey Shore. Is that what you're taking abuse for in your job?

In the preparedness community people buy guns, sell their homes in the suburbs and move to Idaho to get away from bad laws and Nerfism (making the world safe for Darwin Award Candidates). They're convinced the common man is near exploding into violence. I don't buy that myself, but we each look for an appropriate best-guess strategy to get through the Great Default. Violence is possible. I'm betting against it, but its possible, just the same. Around where I live, violence tends to come in two categories: racial and domestic/spousal. Both are nearly always drug/alcohol related. Which means that violence is really conditional to inebriation rather than any particular consideration to the state of the economy or events. I recall a distinct lack of rioting following 9/11/01 WTC attacks. Bastards in the Middle East celebrated, of course, but we retaliated by blowing them the hell up for the last 8 years so I think we've made our point. Its also the last bit of Rat Race we can afford, in my opinion. And really, we can't afford that either.

I live in one of the places other people go for vacation. They dream of moving here. And if you've got the money to live here without working its very very nice. California, in general, falls under the dreamlike state. There are other places like this, where people go on vacation and have no problem relaxing: Jackson Hole, Orlando, Key West, Switzerland, Greece, Spain, the Italian Coast, the Oregon Coast, Lake Tahoe, Hawaii, and various places like that. Places with little industry and little point pretending you're “getting stuff done”. Vacation spots are too impractical for business. Its part of their charm. Many of us have parents or grandparents that came from small towns, rural places where the pace of life is slower because they're out of the way and its hard to get things done so aggressive efficiency is laughable. Ski towns may bilk the tourists in the winter, but in the summertime they're very laid back and usually quite empty. Outdoorsy people shift from skiing in the winter to biking or boating in the summer, generally speaking. Those who love it most and aren't inclined towards sit down jobs can find themselves making a career of running those sorts of places. Some keep it up till they can't. If you can make it on very little money, a life in sports can be fulfilling. If you can make it on very little money, you can do most any job. The trick is to make a living on very little money. To put your preferred career choice ahead of any materialism you might face and to simply let that stuff go. I do it by ignoring HDTVs, BluRay, and all TV shows. Popular Culture is for people who want to participate in Consumerism, something I'm not part of. Much like I'm not part of the popular panics, the popular outrage, the popular idiocy.

The opposite of Violence is Movement. I will explain. Violence is the act of standing against something you object to, for whatever reason. Standing still, basically. Being the Rock, by striking the Tide. This usually results in Death, btw. Moving away from the Tide is movement, thus the Other way to deal with uncomfortable things is to leave them behind. This is why men in bad life situations tend to either beat their wives or leave them via cheating or more literally with a sports car or motorcycle. Kinda obvious laid out like this, but most men live lives of quiet desperation. Their wives tend to be louder, in my experience. But then, so am I. Moving from place to place, from job to job, is healthier for all of us than trying to fight the Futile Battles to stay exactly the same. The world has changed. We can change or die in place (DIP).
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theheretic
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I've come to conclude, looking at the currency markets and the disinterest by Motorcycle and Scooter manufacturers in meeting the actual demand in the USA that new motorcycles and scooters are largely dead to USA's potential market. A shame, but that's how it is. Normal people can't justify spending $7K for a commuter vehicle of questionable safety tradeoffs just for better fuel economy. I know, I know, you all said that again and again. But still, if you don't have a bike by now, you really can't justify buying one when we don't even know if our currency will matter in a few months. The Euro won't likely survive Christmas this year, according to its creator. The European Union is likely to fail in a year or less. Its certainly going to shed members as Greece bails out, along with Italy. They just have to issue new currencies and default on their EU debts. Bad in the short run, but in the long run, if they have anything to export, they'll be alright. If you like Italian olive oil, stock up now. No really. Same with greek olives, though I suspect they can be made domestically with the right herb mix. It's just a recipe, after all.

I've looked at Chinese scooters and bikes. They have poor quality and no headroom on their engineering. Most is right on the verge of failure, and they don't have a good suspension for our roads or the speeds we're required to drive just to keep being run over. The USA needs more frontage roads and slow lanes. That won't happen until it is too late.

I know most of you won't even seriously consider a bicycle to get to work. I admit a car is preferable so long as we've got fuel. In 6 months our banks might default. FDIC could go bankrupt, meaning money in the mattress might be crucial. We might end up with caring for unliked relatives because they couldn't be arsed to pay attention to the news and got caught flat footed. Up to you to let them in the door or tell them to freeze after their years of disdain and contempt. That's what relatives do best, right? Contempt?

Be prepared to give up your preferred career for anything that puts food on the table. Be prepared to see your savings and paycheck evaporate in hyperinflation. Be prepared to be punished for all your efforts. In the long run, those who can live within their means will continue to do so regardless of economic conditions. Its the frivolous that will suffer the most. Its up to us NOT to help them so they can die of their own greed and asinine behavior and leave us in peace.
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theheretic
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theheretic
I hope you are all aware, but the world economy is taking the next step Down, in the same sense that it took the first one back in 2007 with the oil price spike and food price spike that followed (when corn was wasted on ethanol production instead of food). Here is the situation. Food prices are going up because commodity values for food are going up because the dollar and other currencies are going DOWN. Japan was bashed with a huge tsunami, but their yen is the strongest currency right now, having shifted from 110 a couple years ago to 75 today. That's a 40% improvement in value, right there.

Agribusiness is prepared for Peak Oil. It is in their interest to be properly forward-thinking, to plan ahead. Their response, officially, to higher oil/diesel prices is to raise the price of their crops to cover it. Simple. This will continue. They've already gotten special pricing setups for "organic" and are converting fields for higher markup product as well as a test bed for more widespread conversion and yield expectations. Additionally, agribusiness is the second biggest buyer of biotechnology behind medicine and the current US president has pretty well gutted that hog (as we'll see when we go to a doctor in 2014), meaning that in the long run, Agribusiness will become the sole investor in biotechnology that impacts the common man. R&D in biotech for medicine is going to take a long vacation, as life extension and disease cures just aren't very profitable in the short term, and in the New Economy, Short Term profits are king. Long term investment is stupid these days. Particularly with the specter of hyperinflation looming and the Derivatives Bubble unburst.

For grocery shopping housewives food will get more expensive and prepared foods that much moreso. This does mean, however, that unprepared foods will remain relatively cheap and so the gap between rich and poor, the haves and have nots down here in the trenches of poverty and the lower middle class is the ability to cook. Yes, cook. To cook, to hand cut and freeze, to prepare and save, to make every scrap into viable calories for the family, that is the goal of a good cook. Not luxuries, not fancy ingredients. Its to make every dollar matter, and every scrap of sustenance serve its purpose.

Food, post peak, comes in two varieties: basic carbohydrates and flavorings. Basics are corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes. That turns into bread, mush, mash, and various other goodies (noodles, cornbread, steamed rice) etc, the stuff that gives you your energy. The veggies and meat on the side will be in smaller servings of meat, and larger servings of veggies for both flavor and vitamins. Those of us who remember the 70's remember living that way. Meat as the main part of the meal was for rich people. For a couple decades it was for us too. Now its back for rich people, or soon will be. I have noticed lots of people no longer go to restaurants nearly as often, and family BBQs with lots of side dishes are replacing expensive meals in public. As it should be. We'll all end up eating a lot more eggs. Its almost perfect protein. There's a good reason that eggs and toast are the preferred breakfast. You'll even end up burning the fat in the yolks. Eat that too. We're going to become a fat-poor society so fat people are going to be starving people soon enough. Self resolving problem, really. Maybe they'll end up liking being thin when the time comes.

Better stock up on basics, if you don't have them. Those keep, which is why they're basics. Cooking oil, salt, vinegar, various spices you actually use, baking soda, flour, corn meal, stuff you can get bagged or in the generic bins. Most of this stuff is CHEAP. Dried fruits for flavoring, if you can get them cheap. Fresh fruits and veggies, freezer bags, family sized meats (often much cheaper than individual priced) on sale. Always buy on sale if you can. It is shocking just how little you can eat for if you stick to the basics. Giving up cheese was hard for me, but that stuff is expensive, like meat. Didn't used to be. Fresh baked bread, from the grocery store, is actually quite cheap and worth eating, so long as you remember that french only tastes delicious the first day and blah the second, when it makes good french toast (and gives you the protein from the eggs). Coffee is expensive, sodas are full of chemicals and heavy, but iced tea powder is relatively cheap. Frozen foods are a pure rip off. Convenient, no doubt, but should be minimized if you want to save real money on your grocery bill. Fresh is MUCH cheaper, especially right now during the harvest season.

Learn to cook. Learn to make it tasty. When in doubt, turn down the heat. Most newbies burn foods because the heat is too high. 3-4 will cook nearly anything. You rarely need 5 except for searing. The rest of the dial is for either a pressure cooker or an IQ test to see if you can set your place on fire. No really. If the place burns down, you're a dummy.

We're all going to be paying more for things very shortly. More for fuel, more for rent, more for taxes, more for medical care, more for imported goods of every kind. We don't have to pay more for food if we're careful.
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snuck
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snuck
 Open discussion on the riots, in the UK but also in northern Africa and so on?

These are about political change, social inequality and general civil unrest... while each has their own individual cause, the fact is that it is people rioting about being dissatisfied with their lives and living conditions....

How does this fit into a post peak oil world? Can you see similar happening in your neck of the woods?  Where do you see and how do you see this happening in the future?
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theheretic
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theheretic
I have been asking my coworkers what motorcycle they would ride if the govt gave them the choice between that, a small ration card for their existing car (with only 2.00 gal/wk) forcing carpooling, or mass transit which would take around 4 hours per day. I also posited that the govt would give them a grant covering around $5000.00 in a no-interest loan so the bike is basically free but still yours. The results were interesting.

Vespa was the overall winner, though my coworkers were shocked to find out just how much the Italians charge for their machines made in Thailand. They are about $1500 too much, btw.
Harley got one vote, but the woman liked the alternatives from both Suzuki and Yamaha/Star in Cruisers, including the 250cc V-Star Virago.
Ducati got one vote. I think he liked a Diavel (Ducati model) he'd seen once.
Two votes for the Ninja, one the 250cc, the other for the 650cc. Riding suits color coordinated.
One vote for the Ariel Atom instead of a bike.

The remainder would either carpool and put up with the downsides or simply change jobs so they could walk to work instead of drive and deal with the lower income.

Primary acceptance of the Vespa came from the fact that the people I asked were either from the Philippines or Vietnam and the Vespa-equivalent is everywhere and widely accepted. Its got an automatic transmission so twist the throttle to go, and in their countries you DON'T insist people be on time because things always happen to prevent that. Western-European-equivalent folks are very time sensitive and get insulted if others ignore their appointments. In the third world of SE Asia time is regarded less stringently. Thus speed similarly is not that important either and the Vespa is largely ideal.

My best friend, known colloquially as "That Guy"(tm), suggests that the other appeal of the Vespa is that its the scooter equivalent of a Toyota Camry: dead reliable, simple, thoughtless to operate. He's probably right. You can learn to ride one in about 5 minutes and its just that easy. He and I have spec'ed out a good American scooter design. It needs 125cc 4-stroke engine for hill climbing. It needs 4-5" of vertical wheel travel to deal with bumps but retain the scooter automatic transmission, so some variation of Underbone rather than the pure Vespa with the front shield despite how lovely that is. That still gets you around 90 mpg. It needs locking storage for a helmet and gloves so you can go into a shop like a normal person, and place to hold a bag of groceries for when you come out of the shop. And it needs to be cheap enough to buy for under $2000. The Thai scooters Vespa is made by cost around $1500, but they aren't sold in the USA under another badge. Not that I've yet found. Most of the Underbones are 2-stroke which aren't road legal in the USA from what I understand.

Govt needs to get out of the way and deregulate road vehicle safety if we're going to get through the fuel disaster with jobs intact. We have to be able to get there and get home on only a quarter as much gasoline, nationally and personally. The EU will have it even tougher as they only have two nations producing fuel at all (UK and Norway), and that's less all the time as the fields empty. Electric cars are dead till they get something scalable. America is too big for much coverage by electric trains. Too sparsely populated and spread out. And thanks to hard economic times, R&D money is a luxury that's being curtailed. So much for new solutions. Thus high fuel economy vehicles, scooters and motorcycles, are the only answer we can afford.
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theheretic
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theheretic
When the oil suddenly runs out, probably when the USA defaults in the next Quantitative Easing (bankrupting all govt agencies like the USSR in 1991), we'll be unable to get to work with our cars. Hell, we probably won't have fuel for scooters either, at least not at first. I'm still tempted to get one, but my 2 mile commute means my bicycle is a better choice all around. I have said before everybody needs a bicycle. That means you. I'm a fan of fatter tires because they're inherently puncture resistant (since they're much lower pressure) and only slightly slower than skinny ones.

The other big issue of all those business shutdowns is if you find yourself unemployed, this is your chance to start a business. Do NOT go for gardening. The fact that you're reading this means you're smarter than a lawn mower and leaf blower operator. You wouldn't be happy or successful. Leave those tasks for the idiots. You should think about some kind of manufacturing. That's the thing we won't be able to import with a collapsed dollar: manufactured goods. No more stuff from China means Americans will have to be making replacements locally. And we'll be focused on essentials, not toys. Pots and pans, bicycle parts, water pumps, hand powered labor saving devices.

After a year or two, at most, we'll have fuel supplies again. Expensive, limited supply, and almost certainly rationed. Some people will go with scooters, due to their high MPG fuel economy, so they can do a job they like instead of one that's close. The economy by then will be pretty minimal, with likely 90% unemployment when we hit bottom. I base this one common automation and the unemployment rate during the Great Depression. Things will be worse this time because we won't have fuel like they did in the GD. Those who have longer commutes or rougher roads (anywhere in the countryside) will probably get one of these instead of riding the bus. Its a basic, easy start motorcycle with 78 mpg and 5 inches of vertical bump/pot-hole absorption. Not a fast bike, best kept under 50 mph. If the roads degrade like I think they will, that's plenty fast enough. Its functional and flexible and will carry a passenger for a date. Starts with the push of a button. What's not to like? I happen to think that the biofuels, making diesel fuel from algae will get worked over by the oil refineries to make synthetic gasoline. That's well within their means to plan and get into operation in a couple years. I happen to know that one of those algae diesel companies is scaling up in South San Francisco, hiring people from the biotech community. A good thing too, thanks to all the layoffs in R&D biotech. So, think synthetic gasoline, probably $10/gal, and algae diesel for much less, probably $5/gal, driving acceptance of turbo-diesel cars like they have in the EU for people rich enough to buy them. I suspect we'll end up a society with families having only one car, and a lot of scooters or motorcycles, many of them diesel.

Why synthetic gasoline? Its an easy sell. Even at the higher price, you can use your existing vehicle with it. That means you go from a parked vehicle to a working vehicle, even if you're paying out the nose for fuel and thus driven to carpool as much as possible to share the costs. The economy issue also means that limited jobs and limited options pushes people into inventing jobs, finding niches. Its the Horatio Alger story all over again. In the face of all this high unemployment, rents will fall, housing costs will too, and house ownership will become tenuously plausible if you just have a good year in business. That also gets us well away from the Globalist fuskers who did so much to destroy the USA and turn us into hero-worshiping fascists. Local jobs, local manufacturing, local responsibility puts paid to supporting that crap. It will be good for us.

So, now to wait for Quantitative Easing to Fail. Will we be Greece or Ireland? 
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