Oil plays an essential role in almost everything that touches our everyday lives. From the food we eat to the means by which we transport ourselves, our goods, and our services, to what we grow, build, have, own, need, and do, oil is almost always an important element. But the painful truth now and soon is that the ready supply of oil and gas that we almost always take for granted is on its way to becoming not-so-ready—recent production increases notwithstanding.

What happens when there’s not enough to meet all of our demands, to say nothing of those of every other nation—including the many countries seeking more growth and prosperity? What sacrifices will we be called upon to make? Which products will no longer be as readily available? Which services? Who decides? What will be decided? Who delivers that message to the designers and producers and shippers and end users? What’s their Plan B? And how will we respond when decisions are taken out of our hands? Where exactly will the dominoes tumble?

There is nothing on the horizon that will work as an adequate substitute for the efficiencies and low cost and ease of accessibility that oil has provided us. We simply do not have the means to make that happen—not the technological capabilities, not the personnel, not the industries, not the leadership … yet. Clearly, we do not have enough time to do it all with effortless ease and minimal disruptions.

Piecemeal approaches that address some small aspect of need for some short period of time in some limited geographical area for just a few consumers is in the end a monumental waste of limited resources, time, and effort. We can’t wait until we’re up to our eyeballs in Peak Oil’s impact to start figuring out what to do. We’re too close as it is. We’re going to have to be much better, much wiser, and much more focused. **

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. Changes in all that we do, use, own, make, transport, etc., etc., are inevitable. A little food for thought…

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No, Not The Ideal Role Model


As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I’m not the poster child for Peak Oil advocacy. My family enjoys a fairly well-to-do lifestyle which easily-accessible and affordable crude oil has helped make possible. I’m well-aware that this lifestyle will not be immune to the effects of declining production rates and supply of crude oil.

We have three children. Our son is currently in the U.S. Army; one daughter has moved back with us for a few months after her college graduation, and our other daughter has just completed her studies at college in New York and will be attending grad school in the fall.

We purchased a used car for my wife’s son several years ago, and then eventually shipped it to where he is stationed in the mid-Atlantic region. We also bought a new, smaller car to be shared by our daughters. College life enabled them to each use it (we keep it here at home) without too many scheduling conflicts. I drive a Japanese-brand SUV. My wife owns a very nice German-made sedan.

Like everyone else, we’re all too aware of rising gas prices and their effect on travel plans and daily living. As a rule, I try to condense errands and assorted trips to one day a week. In better weather, I walk and/or bike, although living at the top of an incredibly steep and long hill places limitations on what I can reasonably manage. My wife’s office is two blocks away from the bottom of our street, but carrying files and two computers back and forth to the office on foot/bike is out of the question. Our summer home is about 50 miles away, and we travel back and forth there a lot between April-November … usually in both cars.


Some Numbers Worth Considering


The U.S. Energy Information Administration informs us that about 19 gallons of gasoline are refined from one barrel (42 gallon capacity) of crude oil. Depending on who to believe and how to define it, to “make” a single automobile requires anywhere from 3 to more than 40 barrels of crude oil. [See this and this, for example. The first link suggests that the 3.3 barrel figure used “only includes the energy to make and assemble the car.”]

The Worldometers website reports that in 2012, over 60 million cars passenger cars (including SUVs) were expected to be produced. According to their stats, cars/SUVs make up just about thee-quarters of vehicle production each year. More than 165,000 of them are made every day.

Last month, Tanya Snyder confirmed the 2012 production total at 66.7 million. Add in light trucks and the 2012 figure exceeds 81 million, with more than 83 million expected this year. So while the U.S. autos per person and average vehicle miles traveled figures are on the decline, worldwide those numbers are on the increase, with no sign of slowdowns.

Back in the summer of 2011, the Huffington Post indicated that in 2010, the number of cars on the world’s roads had passed the one billion mark. Citing a different report, that same article indicated that by 2050, more than 2.5 billion cars are expected on those same roads.

No comments for the moment. I’ll just leave you all to ponder those statistics. I’ll have some more observations in the second part of this discussion next week.

~ My Photo: oldie but goodie gas-guzzling SUV we owned a few years ago


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** Opening paragraphs adapted from prior posts: