A well oiled machine – A story of civilisation’s end
“Heat my Home has always encouraged people to think independently where energy is concerned.”
Recent decisions by our government are beginning to help us do that on a national level, so now maybe it’s time for us all to replicate this thinking individually. The following story is fictional and is written designed as food for thought”, says the author Stuart Lovatt, founder of Heat my Home.
In our hypothetical story, you are the main character, the government have issued warnings to conserve supplies, but cannot start when normal supplies will resume again, we ask what you would do with your last tank of fuel?
Just imagine -you are one of the lucky ones who managed to fill up your vehicle before the petrol stations ran out of fuel.
An air of uncertainty has spread over the whole country, and the internet and phone networks are alive with chatter and speculation.
How would you use that last tank of petrol/diesel?
The roads have begun to quieten even in normal rush hour times. People are unable to get to work; they ring in to their employers but find there is nobody there to answer the call.
Time suddenly slows down as most of it is spent at home. Each passing day seems to double in length, just like those hot summers from the 1970’s when we were younger. Anxiety begins to grip the nation as police and army personnel begin to appear outside supermarkets.
Your neighbour, who you have been very good friends with for many years, suddenly asks you to lend him some fuel so he can pick up a family member who has been left stranded because of the suspension of public transport services.
Do you give away your fuel?
The government has still not shown any signs of being able to rectify the problem. It’s been days now, and still nothing has been announced, other than the now obvious advice to conserve your existing supplies. You can recognize the fear in people’s faces. The shops have begun to run short of supplies, and for most people, their basic needs are beginning to run out.
You were lucky, because at the same time as you filled up your petrol tank at the local supermarket, you also did a big shop, as big as the Christmas food shopping spree. You’ll be fine for a few days, you reckon, but the niggling doubt about what happens after that is already beginning to niggle at the back of your mind.
You switch your TV on to take your mind off it all, but you discover that some of the channels are just showing back-to-back films, with no live programming as normally happens, and some of the not so well known channels have stopped working altogether. The same goes for the radio stations; nothing is what it used to be.
Your best friend on Facebook has asked you to give him/her a lift to the countryside where they can try to trap some rabbits. He found some techniques on Google and would like to start practicing and maybe catch some extra food, too.
Do you give him a lift?
Kids begin to play out on the streets, just like in the past, before the newspapers made parents think twice about the safety aspects. The schools are closed until further notice, and your child has made friends with another kid a few doors down from a family you never noticed before.
Boredom has become a real problem and neighbours have begun congregating, talking and chatting but mostly whining about the lack of action from the authorities.
Anxiety and uncertainty are what brought the country together during two World Wars, and the same emotions and fears are bringing neighbours and communities together again up and down the country.
Community centers and churches are full again, with people wanting to hear any fresh news and reassurance from others. You think to yourself, why can’t people come together like this under normal circumstances?
Walking back from the church, you notice a strange car parked next to yours. Two strangers are doing something there, but you can’t make out just what yet, but as you get closer, they spot you approaching and quickly you realise they are up to no good. They bundle something into their car, jump in and drive away quickly. You notice your neighbours door has been broken into, and you instinctively want to give chase.
Jumping into your own car, you start the engine.
Do you proceed with the chase?
Inspecting the aftermath of the break-in at your neighbour’s house, you see nothing has been taken except the food in the kitchen cupboards. Your door has been forced to, but luckily you managed to scare the intruders off with your arrival home. You neighbours are obviously distraught when they also return from the church minutes later.
These days of uncertainty have not only brought out the good in people but have also brought out the nasty side of humanity too.
You are relatively lucky, living in the suburban outskirts of the city, but unpleasant stories are fed through from the inner city areas. The worst thing is that the police seem to be just watching and not interfering. One family member said that his local supermarket had been looted and emptied.
Your neighbours ask you to help them out by lending them some food. Do you give them some of your dwindling supplies?
What many people thought was only going to be a few days disruption has now turned into weeks. The roads are empty of moving traffic, only the odd police car can be seen, but they don’t stop for anybody nowadays.
The news reports on the ever dwindling number of TV channels show that the energy crunch, as it has been named, is still no nearer to a solution. Just like the previous credit crunch, it has affected most of the world’s countries.
Those that have their own supplies are refusing to export anymore. Those that are net importers of their energy supplies are becoming increasingly desperate. The UK has been especially hard hit for this reason.
The Prime Minister finally makes an appearance, just like in the old war movies, where families and friends congregate around a simple radio. The news is not good.
The Prime Minister announces, in a voice which sounds obviously tired, that ‘Britain is at war’. He goes on to say, “Countries which Britain thought were her allies have turned their back on us. Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC countries have banned the exports of remaining stocks of oil, and the other supplier nations are doing the same.”
The Prime Minister, who attempts to sound optimistic but is obviously failing, goes on to say “Throughout our history, we as a proud and united country have always tried our best to help such countries, but we cannot stand idly by while these countries bring this proud nation to our knees.
The Prime Minister and his cabinet had been working through the night, the musty smell of sweat carried through the air alongside the cigarette smoke once banished, but that time now seemed like another lifetime.
“We have taken our eye off the ball”, announced the Prime Minister, “we sold the country’s soul in exchange for a few cheap toasters, when we should have been securing our own future. We have failed Gentlemen, failed on the most important issues of our time.”
“We had known about the decline in oil reserves, fewer new oil fields being discovered, but the difference between them and us is that they had the foresight and courage to do something about it, they weren’t going to give up their new-found lifestyles, so why, gentlemen, did we not foresee this coming ?”
“We have known about the decline in oil reserves, fewer new oil fields being discovered, but the difference between them and us, they had the foresight to do something about it, they have only just discovered our lifestyles, and they weren’t going to give it up so soon.”
The Middle Easts remaining reserves could flow East and West, which reduces its longevity by half. The Chinese were smart enough to recognise this before we did. Now they are making sure the black stuff only flows one way, East!
The Chinese have been conspiring against us, feathering their nest.
The Chinese space race was not about prestige, they now have nuclear warheads pointing right at our heads from space right now, they have hacked into western spy satellite software. At the same time, we have been reducing our armed forces, and they have been buying our weaponry from us, but now they use them against us. As it was us who built them, can’t we disable them? Make them useless?”
“No, sir we can’t disable them.”
“Let me get this right, the smartest, cleverest minds in the most high-tech arms industry in the world didn’t think to put failsafe protection in our own weaponry, in the event of them being used against us? ”
All machines break down when you take the oil needed to run them away, and the well tuned machine of society is no different. Like at the time of the fuel protests, when energy shortages strike, they strike quickly and with only a short warning.
I have set out these fictional scenarios simply to highlight the fragility of our everyday lives. Without a continued supply of oil and gas, our society can break down very quickly. We cannot rely on governments, whether Labour, Conservative or coalitions to look after us once that supply line is broken.
We have all seen the chaos which happened during the fuel protests of 2008, and if you are old enough, you may also remember the 1970’s fuel shortages.
As the world’s governments now begin to come to terms with extra competition from the Far East on increasingly smaller oil and gas supplies, tensions will build, and a friend could turn foe. We must all begin to take responsibility for our own energy futures, both on personal and governmental levels.
"Feel the pride."Stuart Lovatt July 18, 2011
Founder of Heat My Home.