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Jobs, Renewable Energy and The Economy. Dusko Jocic (october 18th, 2005)

It is likely that renewable energy will drive our economy in the post oil future.
Commercial and residential properties will run off of wind and solar energy but this will
impact overall employment negatively. Low payed utility workers that do everything from fix hydro lines to shovel coal into power plants will be unemployed. And what about the executives of these power conglomerates? They themselves will become obsolete. Individuals and organizations that produce their own power and utilize it do so without paying utility companies money for their services. Today the cost of producing and storing solar and wind energy is higher than buying it from existing utilities but this will change as oil and natural gas prices head further north.

Decentralized power production will mean that existing energy distribution networks will decline. It will become very similar to peer to peer networking on your computer, why pay for something you can generate and store for free at home or sell back to your neighbors, local governments or the local electric utilities. Energy companies are terrified of losing control and are delaying the transition as long as they can. Peak Oil is their last great cash grab before their monopolies dwindle and decline.

Hybrid cars will also impact employment in surveying, drilling, transporting, refining and retailing
gasoline, natural gas and diesel. Not to mention all of the equipment companies involved in making the machinary for each industry. New battary technologies will enable plug-in hybrid cars that could go 200 miles on a single gallon of gasoline. We will use less oil for transportation so those jobs will be heavily effected. Toyota and other Asian automakers have a substantial lead in this technology and we are falling behind quickly.

Commercial and residential construction jobs will also diminish as more people opt to live in smaller European sized homes when natural gas reaches its peak a few years after conventional sweet crude. When this happens heating the American style mcmansions will cost too much. Owners will opt into selling their properties or renting portions of their homes to other families and individuals to cope with the rising heating costs. Landscaping jobs will also become scarce as formerly rich home-owners opt to do the work themselves or not at all. Some may even grow their own food where their perfectly cwoffed lawns used to stand.

The best barometer for economic hardship is the entertainment industry. Movie Theatres and DVD manufacturers are dealing with a double digit sales slump for most of 2005 with no end in sight. This will kill high end film jobs, including production, catering, electrical and anything else related to the film industry. When times get lean the first thing to go is the entertainment and as oil has gone way over $60 dollars a barrel in recent months entertainment has declined. The next casualty is the food services industry. When a decline in restaurant sales is seen people opt into staying at home and cooking their own food.

Gains in employment will happen in farming as oil based fertilizers become increasingly expensive. Hard working organic farmers will have to do more with less. Farming will once again become difficult. Our reliance on cheap oil allowed most of our populations to move from rural to urban centers. As North Americans we are increasingly custom to enless supplies of cheaply grown and processed foods. More labor intensive farming will mean far more expensive foods. This will have the slimming effect on our pocketbooks and our waists. But the food we will eat will be far more nutritious and healthy leading to less ailments and therefore less hospital and doctor visits. This will impact the the pharmacutical industry as healthy people need less medication and lay-offs will occur accross this manufacturing and service sector.

The sprawling cities of North America will lose their economic advantage and many multinational corporations will probably move jobs overseas to cities that are more dense and energy efficient. Eastern Europe is hungry for our jobs and our wages and employment opportunities will deminish as more and more jobs are shipped out. Recently, I visited Serbia and Montenegro and found that the average sallary for information technology jobs is between 400-500 Us Dollars. Yet, people there are as educated and intelligent as we are. Cost effectiveness will lead to ever increasing outsourcing to Asia and Eastern Europe. Stopping this is impossible and we all need to be prepared to live in a world where living in a specific nation state does not guarantee the good life. Countries corporations and governments must learn to innovate or lose prosperity and employment to more capable ones.

The positive effects of peak oil and employment will mean corporations will increase productivity, innovation will quicken and resources will be better managed. This will mean chaos and misery in the short term, but will ultimately make the world far wealthier, community based and far more democratic politically, socially and financially.

By : Dusko Jocic

 

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