What will the struggle after peak oil look like?
“As our politicians squabble about over the nuclear versus wind turbine debate, the real issue is global oil supply.”
What will life look like after oil supply has peaked, how will we know when we have reached this pinnacle moment and does Saudi Arabia know something we don’t?
To use an analogy, there comes a point in everyone’s lives when you hit an age as decline sets in. After a life so far, of limitless quantities of youthful energy, the world is a more colourful and fun place to be, but at some point, without realising it, the scales tip and a very slow decent into old age begins.
As depressing as this sounds, this analogy is exactly what has, occurred to our civilisations lifeblood. Oil!
We have lived with bountiful amounts of the black stuff, but now see a problem with the decline and expense that comes with a limited resource. Like a roller coaster ride, the train has slowly risen over the peak and factors soon to reveal themselves will quicken the pace very quickly as momentum or in oil’s case expense takes over.
As oil exploration moves to increasingly more dangerous and polluting outposts including tarsands, when will the populace begin to wake up to the fact that we don’t have enough oil in the ground to power both East and Western economies, and even if we did, we still don’t have enough atmosphere to absorb the waste gases generated.
The ‘peak oil theory’, and I use the word theory with humor because it’s like saying the ‘old age theory’, has the inevitability built into the name. As our energy companies continue to raise costs to consumers time and time again, should we not be surprised to find out that the peak in the oil supply has silently already passed us by?
Should we all not be asking what next as our biggest oil supplier Saudi Arabia begins the process of de-carbonising their own economy or as I see it, learning to live without oil? Do they know something we don’t?
Oil on tap was always a short-term deal geologically and the signs that we have entered the decline stages of global supplies quickened by the increased demand from Asian and South American super economies enhance the accelerating process down the steep less colourful side of the peak oil slide.
Looking at transport poverty
Since the first industrial scale burning of oil from the ground over 150 years ago, we have as a modern civilisation, and with great enthusiasm, continued to increase the pace of burning without a thought. How long can this last?
Like children left alone with a jar full of sweets, we have gorged without consequence. But the consequence is a fundamental law of physics which we can ignore (and have) but not escape from.
A 5% increase here, 10% there, is the beginnings of a roller coaster ride where there is no bottom. People may well continue to absorb the increases in most households and petrol bills for the next few years, but even now in 2012 there are cracks appearing in civilisation’s foundations.
I have been warning about ‘fuel poverty‘ since 2004 when we were still basking in the warm glow of cheap abundant energy, but today I warn of a new additional crack appearing called ‘transport poverty’.
The lifeblood of our modern way of life is drying up for many people and the situation will only get worse. How much will a Litre of petrol cost you, your friends or family members before it knocks you or them off the road, £2.00, £2.50, £3.00 per Litre?
Like the current cost of ‘child care’ in the United Kingdom which currently prevents and actively stops people from working as it no longer makes financial sense, so too will there be millions of people prevented from working as the costs of car and public transport costs escalate without mercy.
We are living in scary times as our government’s show little leadership in solving or even acknowledging this important issue. Like ‘fuel poverty’ before it, many people will suffer before the issue is even talked about.
Peak oil may be viewed as only theory to some people, but for millions of people already struggling with both household heating and the increasing cost of transport, the bite of peak oil is already painful.
The peak of oil supply has come and gone, no government will freely admit this fact, but the clues are all around. This is what the beginning of the peak oil slide actually looks like.
"Feel the pride."Stuart Lovatt November 2, 2012
Founder of Heat My Home.