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Serbias' Peak Oil Dress Rehearsal Dusko Jocic (May 1st, 2006)

When the wars in the former Yugoslavia broke out, the once mighty Yugoslav Republic of Serbia was under
a terrible oil embargo and sanctions. When I was seventeen I visited that country, my country of origin and
saw the future of the world. I didn't know it at the time, but the fate of the entire industrial world was in
front of me. James Kunstler believes that cities will shrink in size and the countryside of the United States
would be repopulated when the peak arrives. This is exactly what happened in Serbia during the oil shortages
of the nineties. People migrated back to small villages and grew their own food to survive. Serbia has very
rich soil due to the annual flooding of the Danube river. This body of water provides nutrients to the
countryside when it floods.

I can't believe that we are too stupid to realise that flooding provides us with free bio energy. Instead,
we dam rivers like the Nile to provide stable shorelines and generate cheap electrical power. All the nutrients
stay behind the dam and eventually ruin the water supply. This method makes economic sense with the green
revolution in place but this will become more disfunctional with peak oil and end sooner or later.
During the decade long oil embargo to Serbia of the nineties Serbia produced about 10-20% of it's own
demand and the rest was shipped in illegally over the Danube. I remember seeing Bulgarians crossing the river
from what was once known as Transylvania with plastic barrels filled with gasoline. But this could still not
make up for the fuel crisis in the country. After a while the terrible state of the infrastructure was obvious.
This region of former Yugoslavia had not been bombed but the roads looked like cluster bombs had fallen
everywhere. Without proper maintenance roadways crumble in five to ten years and trucking becomes an impossible nightmare.

Most of the old model Yugos on the road at the time had terrible suspension systems and you could
feel the horrible roads under your feet. There is an old jokes that the shock absorbers in a Yugo (Yugoslavias
homemade automobile) were the people inside. But the roads and transportation were the least of peoples' worries
at that time. Most cars in Belgrade were abandoned on the side of the road with no petrol to fill them up.
Food was expensive and city dwellers went hungry. I made the naive comment that "Everyone was looking
good and no one was fat so they must be getting plenty of exercise." My mother corrected me and told me that
they were thin because there wasn't enough food for everyone. People lost an average of 15-20 pounds.
I can't believe how bad things were in only six years and an approximate 50% reduction in hydrocarbons. Weight
loss was not obvious in people that lived in villages and small towns where food could be grown in gardens or
close to home. Those in the cities seemed to have it hardest. Small towns and cities didn't do that much better,
city lights were burned out in Pozarevac, meaning "The city of fire." There was no money to replace burned out
lightbulbs let alone anything else.

Many people freelanced on the black market selling oil on the streets. Much of this oil was being brought
in illegally. Children would sell watered down gasoline on the street, people would syphon gas illegally from
each others cars and civilization was beginning to unravel in the big cities. As my family and I drove around
Belgrade I noticed a building with a blackend balcony that was smoking. I turned on the news that night and
learned that a man was hoarding gas for resale on the street in his appartment and was blown off the balcony.
He went for a smoke on the balcony and the gas ignited and blew half of him off the balcony from the waist up.
I visited Serbia again in the summer of 2005 and it's a different place.

Milosevic is gone and the roads are better then in Toronto, Canada. Salaries are rising and country is booming. Integration with with the rest of Europe is probably only a decade away. Serbia will do well when the new crisis happens relative to the other countries in the region. It knows how to survive an energy crunch and still has most of it's rivers, forests and natural resources intact due to shortsided economic planning. It has survived one energy crunch and kept relatively orderly. The popultation is also in decline, so Serbia will also require less energy to keep moving. With good community support and people that know how to deal with scarcity this place will be good after peak oil.

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