Imagine, if you can, that there is a resource everyone likes to use. They like to use it for convenience: it lets them go places, have neat things, eat the foods they want no matter what time of year it is….
Now imagine, if you can, that this resource begins to become scarce. Imagine that the world could not discover any new supplies of this resource, nor could they produce it any faster. Imagine this was because the ‘easy’ supplies had already been used, and now the more difficult to reach supplies were economically disadvantageous to access… What would happen to the supply of this resource? It would dwindle. And what would happen to all the items that were made from it? They would rise in price. And what would happen if the resource became so scarce that not everyone could have it? How would people react? 
While it would be so much easier and better if we only had to imagine this scenario, Reality is telling us a different story—magical technology and bazillions of barrels of shale oil and tar sands underground notwithstanding. Likely consequences are certainly unpleasant, enduring, and far-reaching—all the more so if we aren’t planning to do much about it in advance, as seems clear.
Given that there are almost no aspects of everyday living and producing which are not dependent in large or small part on the ready availability of affordable, high-quality conventional crude oil, Peak Oil will leave few aspects of life-as-we-know-it untouched. It’s all the more important we recognize that the various “Plan B” substitutes/alternatives don’t provide us with the same combination of energy efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and supply. Changes in all that we do, use, own, make, transport, etc., etc., are inevitable.
A little foresight will go a long way. A lot more foresight would be better.
With that in mind, here’s the latest contribution to my Peak Oil’s Impact series—observations and commentary on how Peak Oil’s influence will be felt in little, never-give-it-thought, day-to-day aspects of the conventional crude oil-based Life As We’ve Known It. A little food for thought….
It is an understatement to characterize the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy as “mind-boggling.” That a late-October storm this far north could wreak so much havoc and destruction and disruption to so many millions of people stretches the bounds of what we’re capable of recognizing and dealing with. Good thing it’s all part of a hoax….
Among the countless visuals imbedded in our national consciousness now are the long queues at New York/New Jersey gas stations and the agitated, frightened, and frustrated drivers seeking to fill their gas tanks just as carefree and unconcerned as they had been for nearly four decades. A simple errand we all perform without a hint of worry has once again become a garish display of everyday life upended by forces well beyond our control—forces no one has thought worth preparing for.
Those of us old enough to remember the similar long gas lines back in the 1970s were quickly transported back to those days of endless waiting in lines circling the block so that we could do what we had been doing effortlessly for decades before: fill our own gas tanks. It wasn’t a pleasant experience then, and much less so now, to be sure.
Back then, we just had to worry about filling our tanks. Now, people filling their tanks are going back to homes and neighborhoods—if they can, and if they still have a home to return to—walloped by Mother Nature in all her fury. Nothing is the same, and as I write this a week before publication*, I doubt very much that much will be different as you read this now.
Peak Oil’s onset won’t be anywhere near as traumatic, nor will it be accompanied by so much emotional and physical and psychological trauma. But long before we have planned for what to do when this ever-so-common errand is no longer quite so common and not so much an errand as a labor, peak oil will make its presence known in ways not too dissimilar to what our beleaguered neighbors in the Northeast are experiencing first-hand right now.
All the talk about human ingenuity and technology etc., etc. will carry us only so far. We are dealing with a finite resource. The easily accessible and easily available, affordable stuff is becoming less accessible and less available by the day. We’re now left with more expensive resources which are more difficult to access, acquire, and produce; are less efficient; cost more in dollars and energy expenditures than the crude oil we’ve all been relying on for more than a century, and it takes more time to get from there to gas tank—among other less than pleasant considerations.
If the images of long gas lines in the battered New York/New Jersey regions today and/or the memories of long lines back in the 1970s don’t trouble you much, then don’t plan.
If those images and recollections have touched a nerve, however, we might want to start thinking about what to do before we have to deal with such unpleasant experiences each and every day. Unlike our fellow citizens who have suffered the ravages of Sandy, and who will in the near-enough future find themselves with one less worry—gas availability—to deal with, we won’t be so lucky in the years to come.
Now might be a good time to put our heads together, deal with the facts, and let the Happy Talk and disingenuous, misleading nonsense offered by those who couldn’t care less about the masses all and each find a place next to President’s Obama Kenyan birthplace and his socialist-Communist-Martian-repeal-the-Constitution-tax-everything-ruin-America mandate that he’s sure to get to one of these years.
* A few days after I wrote the draft for this post, Jason Notte’s article on a similar theme was posted. Worth reading.
* My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester MA 11.04.12
 http://americanendgame.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/peak-oil/; Peak Oil: Why Gas Prices are Never Coming Down by Dark Smith [“a former liberal … now firmly planted in the independent libertarian camp”] – 02.25.12