Out Of Gas: The Disturbing Truth About Oil
The bleakest predictions for the future come from believers known as "doomers." They foresee an imminent collapse of Western civilization brought on by an energy shortage that will trigger a worldwide financial meltdown, anarchy and a massive "die-off" of the human population.
"Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon" is the ominous message that greets visitors to Matt Savinar's website Life After the Oil Crash. On the site, Savinar links to companies selling products to help people prepare for the coming storm. He recommends urban survival guides, books on gardening and farming, and suppliers of long-term freeze-dried food kits.
Paul Thompson, an English doomer, outlines "What to do when it hits the fan" on his website Wolf at the Door. He envisions a grim timeline that begins with awareness, which is the period we are in now. Next comes the transition phase, in which society falls apart as governments scramble.
The "scavengery" phase follows when there is no fossil fuel left and people scrounge to live off the remains of the industrial age. Finally, there's self-sufficiency, in which people return to living in small, agricultural communities.
But there's light at the end of Thompson's apocalypse -- that is, as long as computers, television, horseless carriages and indoor plumbing aren't your thing. "We may well end up in isolated villages, living a medieval-type lifestyle," Thompson writes. "It may not necessarily be a bad outcome: a return to social lifestyles and a reduction in materialism and greed."
Compared to these predictions, the oil crisis of the early 1970s was a walk in the park. In 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries instituted an oil shipment embargo against countries supporting the Yom Kippur War between Israel, Syria and Egypt. At the same time, OAPEC took the opportunity to hike oil prices. The resulting energy crisis led to oil rationing and long lines at gas stations, empty tanks and gas attendants carrying guns for protection.