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A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Category: Peak Oil’s Impact

 

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[S]o we have this physical constraint that’s coming because of Peak Oil. There’s nothing we’re going to do about it. We can’t out-clever that. It’s just a constraint, it’s a limitation, there it is. We could manage it well or we can manage it poorly, but it’s there. We have a political system that’s not really geared for the magnitude of the change that we’re seeing, so the most likely outcome is that we’re going to wait, we as a culture are going to wait until we’re forced to deal with this. That’s probably going to come with  disruptions….

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What is actually important is not the date of peak global oil production, but the decades of decline that follow

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The essential problem is not just that we are tapping the wrong energy sources (though we are), or that we are wasteful and inefficient (though we are), but that we are overpowered, and we are overpowering nature – Richard Heinberg, from the Introduction to ENERGY

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[O]ur Peak Oil problem is a case of simple mathematics.
‘We stopped finding large oil fields 40 years ago. The production from those fields decreases every year and we simply can’t bring enough smaller fields on fast enough to offset those declines and grow daily oil production….
‘The demand side of the equation is no help either. Population grows every year. And the most populous countries in the  world grow per capita oil production every year as well. When you consider how many people are in China, India and other emerging countries and then consider how little oil each of them uses, it isn’t hard to see that changes in their lifestyle to include more oil consumption will make a big difference.’ [quoting John Hess, CEO Hess Corp]

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We remain free as always to choose to fear the consequences of a permanent decline in the availability of affordable and accessible fossil fuel supplies. The enduring impact on our society and our ways of life as a result of a diminished supply of our primary energy supply is no small matter. So fear is certainly an option.

We can also rely on those disinclined to examine the majority of production realities, offering instead a steady diet of optimistic statements and light-on-fact assurances.

Very few of us who are concerned with the full range of oil production issues and challenges find anything about the widespread future impact of peak oil to be other than a somber realization on our best days.

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Few of us appreciate just how much we rely upon inexpensive, readily-available supplies of energy to live our lives.

[W]hat future awaits us if we cannot be courageous and honest enough to plan for that future with the full range and understanding of all the facts now at our disposal? [1]

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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….

I came across an interesting article I had saved from late 2011, discussing business strategies worth considering. The title alone: “Safeguarding Your Supply Chain Against Rising Oil Prices” suggests it would be worthwhile for corporate executives whose businesses require juggling inventory and labor costs along with issues surrounding one or more distribution center locations in their supply and distribution chain.

In an era of rising (or fluctuating) oil prices, business leaders would be wise to consider author Lorcan Sheehan’s advice:

The challenges that ensue can negatively impact your supply chain if your infrastructure is not equipped to handle quick adaptations. However, by planning ahead and reevaluating where your supply chain activities are performed, as well as your current processes, you can face these challenges head-on and lessen the impact on your operations and your bottom line.

I don’t even pretend to be an expert on business practices, but this brief read contains a range of solid advice about the need for planning in advance of escalating prices. Basic supply and demand tells us that as the demand for fossil fuels continues to grow, and the supply and/or energy efficiency of what is being supplied decreases, prices will rise. The dominoes for any one or all businesses of any size dependent at least in part on fossil fuels will then tumble quickly.

As I urge repeatedly, planning across the board is among our highest priorities, and well in advance of the more obvious and inevitable impacts Peak Oil will impose on all of us.

The scope of considerations Mr. Sheehan offers suggests that the planning and risk mitigation efforts are not something business executives can slap together in a half-day conference. Product needs; labor costs; taxes; environmental considerations; utilizing multiple routes to market; the possibility or or need to move supply chain activities; inventory maintenance; assembly locations; shipping, along with product packaging and redesign issues are all discussed in this article.

Similar considerations on both smaller and larger scales must be planned for by every business entity and government agency. Last-minute is not a strategy anyone should rely upon. Worth postponing?

~ My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, MA – 09.05.05

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** Opening paragraphs adapted from prior posts:

http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/02/15/looking-ahead-to-peak-oil-transition-part-iv/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/02/07/looking-ahead-to-peak-oil-transition-part-i/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/12/13/thoughts-on-peak-oil-planning/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2011/02/14/peak-oil-a-new-direction-pt-5/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/02/25/peak-oil-infrastructure-more-to-discuss-part-ii/

104_0011

 

 

 

 

 

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. continue reading…

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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. continue reading…

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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….

I don’t need a watch or a clock weekday mornings to know when it’s eight o’clock. All I need to do is peek outside my office window at home and watch the procession of automobiles queuing up in front of our home. It begins about five minutes before eight, and ten minutes later, the long line of cars has vanished.

For comical relief, watching the procession of cars inch up the long hill (which is essentially all that my street is) is especially amusing when it’s snowing. Freezing rain is a hoot!

About one hundred feet to the left of my house is a fairly busy residential intersection, all the more so at morning rush hour. One block over is my town’s only middle school. Three blocks to the west is one of a half-dozen or so elementary schools. The intersection is a short break from hill climbing. The elementary school sits even farther up the hill from where I am. So when most cars are stuck in traffic at the nearby intersection in snow and ice, we’re usually serenaded by the sounds of wheels spinning to gain any traction at all. On more than a few occasions, drivers have turned around and risked driving back down the hill in those same conditions because they simply cannot gain enough traction to continue the climb.

It’s not nearly as much fun as it seems, given that we face the same dilemma as soon as we back out of our driveway: skate downhill or hope we find a sweet spot on the road which enables us to make the climb.

Almost all of these morning drivers are dropping their children off at one/both of the neighborhood schools. Our town does not supply bus transportation for most students. Many walk to and from the two schools, but others can’t or don’t for whatever reason. No doubt these similar scenes play out who knows how many millions of times each and every school day across the country.

And we’re back to the standard question I’ll continue to ask until we collectively start finding answers: When the supply of depleting conventional crude oil continues to decline, and reliance turns to the inadequate supply of inferior quality, more expensive, harder to come by unconventional sources such as the tight shale formations in the U.S. and the Canadian tar sands cheered on by certain factions of the energy and media industries, what gets prioritized in our own homes and in our communities when dealing with transporting our children to and from school?

What adjustments will even higher prices and less availability of transportation fuels oblige us all to make in this most routine of daily parenting rituals? If walking/biking is not an option for whatever reasons, what’s our Plan B for getting our children to and from school each day? What’s the local school system’s plan? Teachers own transportation issues?

I’m thinking we’ll need more than a school committee meeting or two to figure this out. When might we start thinking about this issue (the list is growing)?

~ My Photo: our son and a friend parasailing – 02.22.05 [not a travel option!]

** Opening paragraphs adapted from prior posts:

http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/02/15/looking-ahead-to-peak-oil-transition-part-iv/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/02/07/looking-ahead-to-peak-oil-transition-part-i/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/12/13/thoughts-on-peak-oil-planning/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2011/02/14/peak-oil-a-new-direction-pt-5/
http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/02/25/peak-oil-infrastructure-more-to-discuss-part-ii/