Right now, just 2% of the U.S. population grows all of its food, and only 12% of the population is actually making things. These numbers will undoubtedly grow as the energy from oil is removed from the system.
Oil is an extraordinary substance. Not only is it used in countless plastic and pharmaceutical products, it's very energy dense. A single U.S. gallon of gasoline contains about 36,000 Wh of energy. That's the equivalent of a person working three weeks, eight hours a day!
Another way of thinking about the energy we get from oil is to consider that a few cupfuls can bring a 3-ton vehicle up a small hill. How far could you push an SUV, even on flat ground?
Every year, each U.S. citizen uses, on average:
- 8,000 pounds of oil
- 5,150 pounds of coal
- 4,700 pounds of natural gas
- 1/10th pound of uranium
If one “person-power” is 0.25 hp or 635 Btu/hr, this is the equivalent of 300 people working around the clock for each of us.
Now you can see that as fossil energy is depleted, people and not machines will be doing a lot more work.
Assess your existing skills. If you think there will be a glut of them (with a plummeting economy, it's not likely that the 22% of the economy currently devoted just to moving money around will need all those financial advisors, bankers and stockbrokers), move quickly to the productive side of the economy. In most cases, that means learn to make or repair or grow something.
Skills Needed in a Post-Peak World
Here are some of the skills that will likely be needed:
- medical treatment and nursing
- growing food
- carpentry and green building techniques
- converting cars to use electricity
- installing and repairing renewable energy systems (don't forget solar hot water)
- installing rainwater catchment systems
- transporting goods without using fossil energy
- installing residential and commercial backup energy systems
- appliance repair
- set up and run a food co-op
- build and operate a community oven (baking is very energy intensive; not everyone will be able to afford to do it every day)
Start learning your chosen skill now and, if necessary, perform the first few projects for free so that you can build your resumé of successful projects.