11 September 2009

Oil world

I know its 9/11, and my heart goes out to all those who died and who have since died, but I couldn't help thinking about oil and our dependance on it today. Its a sensitive subject... but I feel linked to many many problems.

I spent an hour this morning lost, cycling round a huge industrial estate on the outskirts of town, I was surprised by its size compared with our backwater town, but I guess it has more to do with the motorway and the frontier 20 kms away than our town. I needed a taylor made bolt for our aging Fiat and had found a small engineering firm to make it. I looked on the map and saw a cycle path run right past it. Great I thought, and 15 minutes later I was heading into heavy industry country.

I was greeted with a truck sitting square on facing the end of the cycle path. The irony of this image hit me hard, two worlds face to face. I then ventured into the industrial estate and was overtaken by tens of very large trucks, overwhelmed by disgusting smells, noise, factories with open doors where you could see more trucks, and heavy plant. I have an industrial background and it was intresting to see all this only a few miles from home. I cycled and cycled in very unpleasant, agressive traffic situations, couldn't find my way through because of a rail line that was fenced off, and the access to the other side was a motorway ramp... No thought obviously for cycles... I had to leave, cycle all round through the outskirts and enter from the other side. I eventually found the engineering firm and it was like an engineer's dream from the 50's. Old men in blue overalls at machines that looked as old as them turning parts for god knows what, everything was coated with a film of black grease. They had made my special bolt and off I went.

It was then that I started to think about all the jobs in the area, jobs that depended on trucks, cars and international transport. And the consequences of the investment of millions and millions of Euros people have put into this industrial estate. My old boys in blue overalls, the countless other obscure engineering, and parts supply businesses, import export businesses, cantines, even the guy selling burgers out of the back of a van to factory workers. They all depend on one thing for their jobs and the means to get from their suburbs to their jobs, and that's cheap oil. When you sweat and pedal around aimlessly, frustrated, surrounded by hundreds of trucks, people loading / unloading, fixing them, cleaning them etc etc... the power of oil and our weakness physically without it is underlined.
If oil goes up again like last year and keeps going up as some experts are saying, they will all be out of a job, and fast. Thats alot of people. What will happen to the miles of metal buildings, who will carry on paying for the loans taken out for their construction, same for the machinery and all the huge trucks. Will it all just sit and rust on the outskirts of town ? Will it happen, or is it a case of when ? In 3, 5, 8 years ? What will all these people do for work, how will they pay for their houses and food... I pedaled home away from all the noise and activity, thinking about all this with my shiney new bolt in my pocket.

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