note: Damn, Homey got paid this week! J.W in KY and J.S. in ID, many thanks for the generous donations. J.F. in GA, your CD is in the mail today, thanks for the order and the extra donation.
Indispensable items are things that you shan’t be able to duplicate once the collapse occurs. Ever. Never, ever, never. The Oil Age was a One Off event and since the economic component of that beneficial energy dump has already started to falter due to the lack of required growth, you can bet your last rimfire shell that once that underpinning shears off the last of the fracking oil, tar sands and deep water oil will be left underground for the rest of mankind’s existence. Just because you have the knowledge doesn’t mean you have the resources to apply the knowledge, a sad fact few wish to acknowledge, thank you very much stupid science fiction story ( sci-fi was itself a product of the Oil Age, and the early masters had the vision to see what an exponential increase in energy could lead to. I mean, voyaging to the bottom of the sea wasn’t a huge leap of imagination. The Revolutionary War had a tiny pedal powered submarine. The genius lay in imagining how large the ships could grow to and what they were capable of doing. At the time, few had the vision of how unlimited energy would work, just as now how few can grasp how less energy could possibly be. That sci-fi story on the priesthood that uncovers old tech and eventually duplicates it completely missed the need for another unlimited energy age being impossible ).
Indispensable items are things such as plastic, antibiotics, precision firearms and non-corrosive ammunition, light bulbs, artificial fertilizer, synthetic rubber, carbon fuel ore smelters and advanced chemistry. None of those was possible prior to oil and natural gas because they are not cottage industry capable. Even if cotton nitrate smokeless powder can be duplicated, there isn’t enough natural fertilizer available to produce it. Nor can primers be made unless one has access to the surface ore to produce mercury. Nor can brass be produced after the surface copper is gone ( underground mining is of course still feasible but most man and draft animal powered mining spots are already played out globally ), and not only that you don’t have a tool and die industry, nor the machinery to produce cases. And that is trying to duplicate 125 year old technology.
Artificial fertilizer is really nothing more than natural gas feeding the billions, but it requires more than just the gas supply that is dwindling ( Lancaster Ohio became the glassware capital of the world because it was located atop a huge reservoir of gas which was a nearly free municipal provided energy source. That lasted less than a century. Gas is no more infinite than any other supply ). The catalyst for the gas alone used in the transformation is high tech and the industrial machinery depending on cheap steel and coal fired electricity is immense. Tolerances are exact and the pressure containing equipment needed utilizes exotic metals and techniques. Like everything we depend on today, the infrastructure and energy behind that is beyond duplication. To think that you can, using dams and mules, windmills and muscles, is idiocy. All the primitive ancestors of today’s indispensable items are so inferior as to be nearly worthless. The idea of them needed liberal applications of carbon fuels to gain widespread use and utility.
The 1990’s prosperity wasn’t just from Siberian oil and the last of the easy oil from Saudi Arabia, it was also from applying that one last energy cornucopia to extracting heretofore unreachable ores. We had already by that point long ago striped the surface ores and only by applying huge energy inputs could we extract deep or diffuse ores to continue to sell disposable items ( as Kuntsler has pointed out, we are mining tar sands using giant trucks to haul earth only marginally containing any fuel. Those trucks can change tires five times a year and each giant tire is $40k each. Then heat the earth with lots of natural gas. That is our imported Canadian oil. Gold and silver and copper extraction is similarly energy intensive). That is our remaining ore and the extraction process cannot be duplicated on a lower technological scale. You can approximate the process but never duplicate, and you must duplicate it to once again have the global process that makes it all possible.
So once done is done, there are no do-overs. We’ve talked extensively about ammunition and its inability to be replicated. Once the reloads have gone you must devolve technologically. The BEST you can do is flintlock black powder, with breech loading being as high tech as it gets. And that goal is problematic not only from the surplus nitrates point but the ability to fabricate the arms. Not just ore and energy wise but manufacturing ( the Firefox manual on building your own musket presupposed available finished barrels ). Will there be suitable metal-or smelting fuel for recycling-not to mention the knowledge which is quite difficult even if THAT is the easiest resource to acquire in this scenario? One should have serious doubts if one isn’t merely daydreaming but seriously planning. One has to wonder how long, if long at all, crossbows completely replace gunpowder weapons. Indispensable but also irreplaceable. Glass is easy enough to fabricate, but not only do you need the raw material but the energy also. Raw material was a serious roadblock for five hundred years after Rome fell as trade was almost non existent as there was no agricultural surplus from the denuded colonial fields.
Knowledge is certainly NOT power without the infrastructure to implement its realization. A great many things you can only resign yourself to its rapid demise and impossible return. Continued tomorrow.
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