Michael Ruppert brings up an interesting path that civilization might take:
But all things are not equal. Warfare, whether economic or military, destroys production capacity. It either blows up infrastructure, keeps fields from being developed, or robs nations and economies with capital and expertise of the ability to go out and even develop the few small fields remaining to be found.Which brings up an interesting corollary. What happens to energy research when energy itself gets harder to obtain? If you think that the average citizen gets used to all the conveniences of cheap energy, many engineers and scientists depend on it in spades for doing their job. The issue that future administrations will have to consider, no matter how unpleasant, relates to how best to ration energy expenditures amongst users. It can be summed up rather simply as "To find energy, you have to use energy".
Once major blackouts start hitting; once the US economy tanks and millions become unemployed; once banks and pension funds fail and the housing market collapses, a cycle will have begun which can only compound itself - thus preventing what would be the "ordinary" development of remaining fields. Human civilization may self-destruct before declining oil would have made it necessary.
If the energy depletion remains a gradual process, we have a chance. Not everything is quick. I ran across an essayist who compared the US's economic policy to history's slowest unraveling Ponzi scheme. Above all, we don't want our energy predicament to go the way of a game of 3 card Monte.