The salt-oil connection

Peak Lycra! Peak Monday Night Football! Peak bacon!

Published September 25, 2006 6:18PM (EDT)

There are nightmares, and then there are nightmares. Peak oil and the attendant collapse of industrial civilization is one thing, but "peak salt"? A life without readily available sodium supplements is a life I don't want to live. You can take my car, my JetBlue frequent flier miles, even my Lycra leg warmers. But don't come for my salt shaker unless you are ready to rumble.

The joy and glory of salt is so firmly embedded in my lifestyle that I was seriously peeved that none of my friends or relatives thought to give me the book "Salt: A World History" as a birthday present. My children mock me for salting "everything." (Not true: I don't salt grapefruit or bacon.) Given this background, I'm sure you can understand how my heart leapt when I saw the headline at the Energy Bulletin: "Peak salt?" Please! I have enough to worry about.

My heart rate has since slowed down. As I suspected (since, despite the efforts of those near and dear to me, I went ahead and read "Salt" anyway), there is no looming shortage of salt. There is more than enough in our oceans and on land to fulfill any conceivable need. Once a luxury, once the stuff that wars were fought over and monopolies constructed of, salt is now ridiculously cheap and likely to stay that way.

Unless, of course, industrial civilization collapses as a result of peak oil. Which is the point of the post at PeakOilDesign, where it is noted that the machinery needed to extract salt from the ocean and the transportation networks that move salt around the world will be crippled when we run out of oil. So, "it may also be worthwhile to figure out some simple salt reclamation methods. In the meantime, make sure your community design includes provisions for significant salt storage if you plan to live away from readily obtainable sources."

I'm all for planning for an energy-constrained future. But if our starting point is the complete collapse of modern industrial civilization, then we can simply prepend the word "peak" to anything we want, and amuse ourselves to death from resource-inavailability anxiety. Peak Lycra! Peak Monday Night Football! Peak bacon!

Any further down this road, and the whole point of "peak"-ness will be lost.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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