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We live in a society where it is impossible to live a functional lifestyle and not consume products made from petro-chemicals every single day — electronics, fabrics, painkillers, food additives, cosmetics, fabrics, cleaning supplies, building materials, the list goes on. 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….

With baseball season upon us, I thought it might make sense to dust off and borrow portions of the very first Impact post I wrote nearly three years ago. Edited for clarity, updated just a bit, and restricted to portions relevant to baseball, here it is:

It’s easy enough to mention the fact that balls, and helmets, and cleats are all made with crude oil as an essential component—either in the product itself or used to create/deliver/transport some materials before and after manufacturing is completed. It’s also safe to assume that once we begin dealing with curtailed availability of fossil fuels, some needs will have lower priority than others. Ambulances will probably have access to fossil fuel-based crude oil (gasoline) before manufacturers get the supplies and equipment they need. Obviously there will be ripple effects across the industry when this happens, and the end users (from the junior leaguers and the neighborhood kids all the way up to the professionals) will also have some problems to contend with: either the products will become less available, or they will become prohibitively expensive for many along the chain of users. What happens?

What happens when high school sports programs with limited funds as it is have to replace cleats and helmets and other accessories and their prices have doubled, or tripled, or the helmets and cleats are simply not being manufactured any longer on a scale sufficient enough to meet demand? What happens then?

Let’s also take a broader view. How do teams (high school, college, the pros) deal with travel issues and schedules when gas is much too expensive to enable teams to transport their players even short distances, or when air travel is severely curtailed and wildly expensive because not enough jet fuel is being processed to meet demand (and airports are shuttered because air travel has diminished markedly*), or when the fans cannot afford to put the gasoline in their vehicles that in the past allowed them to attend the games without a second thought?

What happens when half, or a third, or one-tenth the number of fans can afford to attend games because budgeting all that money to drive to an in- or out-of-state stadium no longer makes financial sense? Pure supply and demand: when demand continues and supply is reduced, prices go up. Decisions are then made about where to allocate funds. Does a trip across the state to attend a Red Sox game make more sense than paying for your children’s basic needs for the next few months?

Where will the revenue to pay players come from when the majority of fans are no longer traveling to see the games either because limited gas supplies are now being allocated or it’s simply become too expensive for “frivolous” trips? How do owners continue to fund their vast operations (office staff, marketing, scouting staffs, minor leagues, utility services for the stadiums and training facilities, and on and on it goes)? What happens to the vendors and other suppliers when the majority of fans just stop attending … permanently?

For all their current revenue, what happens to the Red Sox or Yankees when they are scheduled to travel to Tampa Bay, or Texas, or to the West Coast, and it costs a small fortune in fuel costs alone for charter planes? What rail services currently exist that offer a practical alternative? Exactly how far out does the ripple effect extend?

No organization, no group of individuals no matter what their financial status, and no industry that currently utilizes fossil fuels to any extent will escape the effects of Peak Oil. For all the magic and excitement and joy of athletic events, sports will suffer the impact of Peak Oil every bit as much (if not more) than many or most other industries.

What happens then?

~ My Photo: taken at Fenway Park, Boston – 05.05.06

** 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/

 

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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….

Last year, shortly after my beloved Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Team Which I’ll Never Speak Of, [a problem I don’t have to deal with this year, sad to say], I offered a post which began with the same question I’m asking again:

What if there was no Super Bowl game?

As I mentioned in that 2012 post, I’m lucky enough to have attended the Super Bowl a few years ago and can personally attest to the fact that it is indeed quite the event. I also noted this: “I am not nearly versed enough in the intricacies of planning such an event, but it stands to reason that a lot of time, effort, equipment, personnel, machinery, and transportation is needed to turn an American city into the center of the pro football universe.” [See this for a breakdown of what New Orleans has planned.]

Indeed, as noted here [ links are in both of the original articles quoted from below], a fair amount of similar undertakings were involved in prepping New Orleans for this year’s game:

Super Bowl 2013 organizers gave a final briefing on the massive event for New Orleans media Wednesday, covering highlights such as the $13.5 million the local hosting group raised to accommodate the production, the free riverfront festival that will include 49 bands, food from 17 restaurants and 12 parades and the array of public and private improvements and renovations timed to the extravaganza that total an estimated $1.2 billion.…
Host Committee officials outlined money the group raised to pay the rent at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and other facilities that are key sites in the spectacle, cover staffing at the Dome, reserve hotel rooms for the two teams that will vie for the championship, block out parking spaces for event officials, workers and vendors, coordinate the deployment of 6,000 volunteers, host a party for national and international media, produce business outreach programs and philanthropic efforts and run the Woldenberg Park festival, called the Super Bowl Boulevard….
[The above-referenced riverfront festival] will include dozens of Louisiana musical acts, dozens of dishes from local restaurants, a massive video gaming installation, the opportunity for fans to watch live television broadcasts from a set on the festival grounds and a feature that has grown popular in recent years at Super Bowls, the display of a towering Roman numeral monument for the game’s number, this time XLVII, with video images projected onto it and music playing.
Davis said NFL officials added a twist to the 101-foot-wide numeral display. They will display the numerals on a barge in the river and their arrival will be heralded with fireworks. [1]

Consider the financial implications and expectations of New Orleans’ city officials:

When it was bidding for the NFL’s championship game, the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee commissioned the University of New Orleans to devise projections of how much spending will take place with businesses in the city because of the Super Bowl. The result was a prediction that visitors will spend $211 million, which in turn will drive $223 million in spending by businesses stocking up on goods, and employees spending money they make from the extra hours and bigger crowds.
The total, $434 million, has risen from the estimates of $249 million for the 1997 New Orleans Super Bowl and $299 [sic] for the 2002 New Orleans Super Bowl. In 2013, the spending could generate $26 million in tax revenue for local and state agencies.
The number of expected visitors, 120,000 to 150,000, is far less than the masses drawn to the city’s signature annual events of Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. About 70,000 can attend the championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3. The rest of the visitors work in support roles to the corporate leaders attending the game or participate in the array of other Super Bowl festivities unfolding around the city.
But Jay Cicero, executive director of the Host Committee, said the number of visitors is less pivotal than the high-spending caliber of the visitors. He called it the biggest corporate spending event in the country. [2]

To emphasize the point, the latter article added:

Even more important than how much spending happens the week of the game, said Cicero and other local organizers, is the incalculable value of extended international media exposure, giving the city a chance to herald the progress of a new, post-Hurricane Katrina era. About 5,000 news media members are expected in town.
‘There’s not a value assigned to that, but it’s got to exceed the economic impact,’ Cicero said.
The Super Bowl could plant the idea of visiting New Orleans in the minds of tourists who will arrive over several years, he said. And it’s a huge score in selling the city’s convention and event offerings.

[Worth noting are two articles (here and here) by Travis Waldron offering a different perspective on financial expectations v. the realities of cities hosting events like the Super Bowl.]

All in all, there are incalculable and innumerable benefits and considerations and opportunities tied in to the successful presentation of an event such as this one. There is a ripple effect extending well beyond local governments, major attractions, and large corporations. Street vendors, start-ups, and countless other service providers and companies of all sizes carry their own set of hopes.

As would be expected, among the primary beneficiaries are hotels and restaurants, many of which will dance along the fine line of charging premium prices without toppling into charges of gouging, while making sure that the normal services they provide are not so tied in with an event years down the road that they suffer in the interim between site selection and the game itself.

The mega-event that is the Super Bowl is expected to result in a near sellout of the 50,000 hotel rooms in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the North Shore and ripple out as far as the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lake Charles….
Room availability took an immediate hit three years ago when the National Football League announced that Super Bowl XLVII would be held in New Orleans on Feb.3, 2013. The league then blocked off 90 percent of all the hotel rooms in Orleans and Jefferson parishes for team owners, corporate executives, sponsors and major advertisers at a set rate negotiated with hoteliers. [3]

An interesting observation in this last article cited is that hotels more than three hundred miles away are booking guests planning to attend the game and/or related events!

While it is arguably the grandest entertainment and media spectacle in America, those factors are made no less important. On smaller scales, conventions and major sporting events share similar characteristics and bear similar expectations, as do the local businesses in those venues.

The concluding comments I offered in my 2012 post on the Super Bowl are no less valid today, and so I’ll end this posting with those same considerations:

How do teams (high school, college, the pros) deal with travel issues and schedules when gas is much too expensive to enable teams to transport their players even short distances, or when air travel is severely curtailed and wildly expensive because not enough jet fuel is being processed to meet demand (and airports are shuttered because air travel has diminished markedly), or when the fans cannot afford to put the gasoline in their vehicles that in the past allowed them to attend the games without a second thought?
What happens when half, or a third, or one-tenth the number of fans can afford to attend games because budgeting all that money to drive to an in- or out-of-state stadium no longer makes financial sense? Pure supply and demand: when demand continues and supply is reduced, prices go up.
Where will the revenue to pay players come from when the majority of fans are no longer traveling to see the games either because limited gas supplies are now being allocated or it’s simply become too expensive for ‘frivolous’ trips?
How do owners continue to fund their vast operations (office staff, marketing, scouting staffs, minor leagues, utility services for the stadiums and training facilities, and on and on it goes)? What happens to the vendors and other suppliers when the majority of fans just stop attending … permanently?
What happens when the mind-boggling efforts in planning, preparing, transporting, supplying, delivering, etc., etc. needed to stage this incredible event by countless thousands of individuals and merchants and organizations and government officials are simply no longer feasible because every single entity up and down the supply and service chain is faced with the reality of insufficient availability of ‘affordable’, quality, energy supply to make this extravaganza happen?
How many economic dominoes tumble as a result? How many businesses lose out? How many employees?

I’m not anticipating that the NFL will cease production of the Super Bowl anytime in the near future, but the reality of Peak Oil will affect this event and this organization just as it will every other commercial enterprise. It will take an incredible amount of planning and thought to figure out an appropriate Plan B just for this one event … how much more planning and thought will be needed for everything else?

~ My Photo: Patriots-Jets playoff game – 01.07.07

** 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/

Sources:

[1] http://www.nola.com/superbowl/index.ssf/2013/01/super_bowl_2013_hosts_laud_cit.html; Super Bowl 2013 hosts laud city’s readiness for massive event by Mark Waller – 01.16.13
[2] http://www.nola.com/superbowl/index.ssf/2013/01/super_bowl_2013_reverberating.html; Super Bowl 2013 reverberating through the New Orleans economy by Mark Waller – 01.18.13
[3] http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2013/01/hotel_rooms_scarce_for_super_b.html; Hotel rooms scarce for Super Bowl, prices increasing by Richard A. Webster – 01.14.13

 

 

 

 

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? [1]

How indeed?

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….[A follow-up to last week’s post on the U.S. Olympic Training Centers]

~ ~ ~

The Olympic Games are now underway. It remains one of our great cultural and athletic events—a spectacle unlike any other.

Two hundred-plus nations. Hundreds of events. More than ten thousand athletes. Hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of British citizens and visitors and volunteers and workers and trainers and broadcasters and chefs and hotel staffers and providers of transportation and a near-endless list of others. An amazing undertaking by any measure.

A Few Considerations….

Different venue, but still wondering….

How do teams [and/or individual athletes] … deal with travel issues and schedules when gas is much too expensive … or when air travel is severely curtailed and wildly expensive because not enough jet fuel is being processed to meet demand (and airports are shuttered because air travel has diminished markedly), or when the fans cannot afford to put the gasoline in their vehicles that in the past allowed them to attend the games without a second thought?
What happens when half, or a third, or one-tenth the number of fans can afford to attend because budgeting all that money to drive [or fly] to an in- or out-of-state stadium no longer makes financial sense…?
What happens to the vendors and other suppliers when the majority of fans just stop  attending…? [2]

 

And what of all the related transportation services dependent on all these flights: rental cars, limos, taxis, hotels, restaurants, airport gift shops and the like? What happens to them, and their employees, and their suppliers? What kind of plans have been discussed in the boardrooms?
How many employees in each of those industries, each individual business establishment, and each spouse or partner or child dependent on each one of those countless employees might be adversely impacted when those businesses start to feel the serious pinch of declining energy supplies…?
And what of the ripple effect?
What happens when this air travel decline is extended to hotels and rental cars and all the rest; when rental cars are either much more costly and/or there are less of them to begin with? What happens when the preferred hotels have downsized because business and tourist travel has declined? [3]

 

What happens when the mind-boggling efforts in planning, preparing, transporting, supplying, delivering, etc., etc. needed to stage this incredible event by countless thousands of individuals and merchants and organizations and government officials are simply no longer feasible because every single entity up and down the supply and service chain is faced with the reality of insufficient availability of “affordable”, quality, energy supply to make this extravaganza happen?
How many economic dominoes tumble as a result? How many businesses lose out? How many employees? [4]

And A Few Details

A fascinating story about the construction of London’s Olympic Stadium is just one account of the awe-inspiring levels of planning and preparation and work required by countless tens of thousands to stage this great event.

An entry in Wikipedia details the incredible breadth of plans and preparations and considerations and activities engaged in by London officials and others in the years leading up to these 2012 London Games. Construction; redevelopment; addressing and adapting to citizen concerns and opposition; funding (billions of dollars); security concerns; private and public transportation (including new high-speed rail service and the construction of a cable car system); lodging, meals, and the staffing of and supplying for same; marketing; broadcasting; entertainment; and last but not least: the creation of needed facilities, supplies for same, and services for and on behalf of the athletes, their families, and assorted staff serve as an overview of the countless details attended to in advance of the Games.

Aside from the obvious costs, manpower, effort, and time, all of the above and the myriad assortment of other preparations each and all require energy … a LOT of energy, and of necessity a LOT of fossil-fuel derived energy to meet and plan and travel to and construct and implement and coordinate and oversee and experience.

I’m not anticipating that the Olympic Games and the years of preparation required will cease to be anytime in the near future, but the reality of Peak Oil will affect this event just as it will every other commercial enterprise.

What happens when there simply isn’t enough energy to make all of this happen as smoothly and effortlessly (I use those terms loosely) as has been the case to this point? How high a priority do we—and every other nation—assign to our Olympic athletes and the stupendous amount of resources and plans and preparations they need when we’re no longer dealing with the same quantities and quality of affordable and accessible energy supplies?

How much magic does “human ingenuity” and the Technology Fairy have at the ready for just this one spectacle?

It will take an incredible amount of planning and thought to figure out an appropriate Plan B just for this one event … how much more planning and thought will be needed for everything else? [5]

* My Photo: Fenway Park, Boston – June 1, 2010

Sources:

[1] 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
[2] http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/06/09/peak-oils-impact-1/; Peak Oil’s Impact # 1
[3] http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/02/02/peak-oils-impact-winter-travel/; Peak Oil’s Impact: Winter Travel
[4] & [5] http://peakoilmatters.com/2012/02/16/peak-oils-impact-the-super-bowl/; Peak Oil’s Impact: The Super Bowl

The official mourning period is now over, and I’m once again able to discuss the Super Bowl in somewhat dispassionate terms (%^&$*$ Eli Manning! Sorry….)

What if there was no Super Bowl game?

In a January article entitled “Super Bowl 2012: Indianapolis Invites Visitors for Weeklong Celebration” by Mark Johanson, city officials were said to be expecting 150,000 visitors during Super Bowl weekend (nearly 70,000 of whom would attend the game itself). Another source suggested the number was more likely in excess of a million….

In Diana Lind’s piece (“The Economic Mixed Bag That is the Super Bowl“), she reported that while the National Football League claims that the host city for the Super Bowl receives revenues totaling anywhere from $300 to $500 million, Indianapolis was expecting less than half of that lofty amount ($150 million was the stated estimate, and the calculations for that were questioned as being too optimistic and inaccurate as well, as Lind noted).

Having been lucky enough to attend a Super Bowl several years ago (much happier memory—the Patriots won that one!), I can personally attest to the fact that it is indeed quite the spectacle.    The Colts home city appears to have left no stone unturned in its efforts to present itself in the best possible light while offering fans and visitors the full scope of Super Bowl pageantry.

The Johanson piece quoted a Convention & Visitors Association official as promising a complete transformation of the downtown area, filled with “food carts, vendors, three stages, warming stations, food and beverage” with the intent of re-making that part of Indianapolis into an Olympic Village. And for those not satisfied with that (?), Johanson reported that there would also be “interactive games, concert stages, bars and restaurants, and a so-called ‘Tailgate Town,’” together with “four zip lines” enabling users to “fly over the Super Bowl Village.” Not to be outdone, the “NFL Experience” located at the Convention Center serves as the sport’s interactive theme park with all the bells and whistles one might expect: “participatory games, displays, entertainment attractions, kid’s football clinics, free autograph sessions, and the largest football memorabilia show ever staged.”

I am not nearly versed enough in the intricacies of planning such an event, but it stands to reason that a lot of time, effort, equipment, personnel, machinery, and transportation is needed to turn an American city into the center of the pro football universe (and for that matter, the entertainment one as well, given that the game itself drew more than 117 million viewers—a new television-viewing record, topping the 2011 Super Bowl audience.)

Granted, the Super Bowl is not your average sporting event (not with secondary market ticket prices starting in excess of $2000 per, and “a field-level luxury suite with a capacity of 35 people can be yours for $650,000!” as noted in a Huffington Post article by Andrew Brandt). The “normal” ticket-purchasing fan is not the typical attendee at the Super Bowl, and the marketing aspects attending the event are far from routine, given that it is the biggest event of the year for most advertisers.

Brandt’s article went on to report that NBC received more than $250 million just from TV advertising, and (citing other sources, including this one) that “5 million people are projected to buy new televisions in preparation for the game, and fans are expected to spend $11 billion on Super Bowl-related purchases (including the consumption of 1.25 billion chicken wings).” That’s a lot of grocery stores, caterers, restaurants, sporting goods stores, electronics stores, party-favor suppliers, etc., etc., reaping tangential benefits. (Wikipedia reports it’s the second-largest day for food consumption in America; Thanksgiving is first.) Brandt also pointed out that the city’s 6000-plus hotel rooms were all sold out (at inflated rates, no doubt), leaving many visitors obliged to stay at facilities nearly an hour away (also at exorbitantly higher rates.)

That’s a lot of traveling (personal and commercial), together with a lot of supplying and delivering. (Johnson’s article reported that “Over 1,000 private planes are expected on the ground during the weekend ushering in countless celebrities.”)

John Russell and Jon Murray wrote a separate article at the indystar.com website that one national restaurant chain in particular drew more than 1200 people to its facility in Indianapolis over Super Bowl weekend, more than double its usual amount. Obviously merchants and retailers expect/hope to reap secondary benefits from consumers who leave with favorable impressions of the service or product and might thus frequent those same commercial establishments in other locations. Certainly the host city itself likewise expects/hopes to attract additional tourists and convention business from the favorable reviews.

However, the Russell/Murray piece also noted that when all relevant revenues (more than $7 million, including several million dollars from the NFL along with hotel and restaurant taxes, etc.) and expenses (labor, insurance, utilities, personnel, security, etc.) are tabulated, the city may be looking at shortfalls of anywhere from $450,000 to nearly $900,000. Not pocket change in this economy….

So I’ll ask again, what if there was no Super Bowl game?

Nearly two years ago, I wrote my first piece about the impact of declining oil/gas supply (i.e. Peak Oil) as it relates to sports and sports travel. In that post, I offered these observations:

How do teams (high school, college, the pros) deal with travel issues and schedules when gas is much too expensive to enable teams to transport their players even short distances, or when air travel is severely curtailed and wildly expensive because not enough jet fuel is being processed to meet demand (and airports are shuttered because air travel has diminished markedly), or when the fans cannot afford to put the gasoline in their vehicles that in the past allowed them to attend the games without a second thought?
What happens when half, or a third, or one-tenth the number of fans can afford to attend games because budgeting all that money to drive to an in- or out-of-state stadium no longer makes financial sense? Pure supply and demand: when demand continues and supply is reduced, prices go up. Decisions are then made about where to allocate funds. Does a trip across the state to attend a Red Sox game make more sense than paying for your children’s basic needs for the next few months?
Where will the revenue to pay players come from when the majority of fans are no longer traveling to see the games either because limited gas supplies are now being allocated or it’s simply become too expensive for “frivolous” trips? How do owners continue to fund their vast operations (office staff, marketing, scouting staffs, minor leagues, utility services for the stadiums and training facilities, and on and on it goes)? What happens to the vendors and other suppliers when the majority of fans just stop attending … permanently?

What happens when the mind-boggling efforts in planning, preparing, transporting, supplying, delivering, etc., etc. needed to stage this incredible event by countless thousands of individuals and merchants and organizations and government officials are simply no longer feasible because every single entity up and down the supply and service chain is faced with the reality of insufficient availability of “affordable”, quality, energy supply to make this extravaganza happen?

How many economic dominoes tumble as a result? How many businesses lose out? How many employees?

I’m not anticipating that the NFL will cease production of the Super Bowl anytime in the near future, but the reality of Peak Oil will affect this event and this organization just as it will every other commercial enterprise. It will take an incredible amount of planning and thought to figure out an appropriate Plan B just for this one event … how much more planning and thought will be needed for everything else?

Although here in the Boston area we couldn’t offer definitive proof that it’s winter (a few single digit wind chill days aside)—given that after a surprise few inches of snow here on Halloween weekend, our next accumulation of snow (all of two inches or so) didn’t occur until mid-January …  with just a couple of trivial “storms” since then along with some very nice, mild temperatures such as yesterday’s near-60 degrees—‘tis the season for winter getaways.

Family and business obligations serve as our excuses for upcoming travel. The first trip is to DC, but at the end of February we’ll spend 5 days in Orlando.

That prospect, like most other plans these days, got me thinking about what happens a few years down the road when travel requirements might still be part of at least some portion of the population—business or pleasure.

Both of our trips entail a seven or eight mile drive to and from Boston’s Logan Airport (not a big deal if you avoid the rush-hour-parking-lot-on-the-highway experience) and then round trip (nonstop) flights to both of our destinations. A rental car awaits us on our DC trip, corporate transportation in Orlando.

We figure the fares total about $1500.00 for my wife and I. It’s possible that two of our children will join us on the DC trip, so there’s the potential for added costs.

The nice thing is that we have a number of flight options available at the moment. Both trips afford us multiple nonstop options to and from our destinations, along with a number of other options via connecting flights.

The airline industry, battered though it may be, nonetheless generates tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue. That means a lot of employees, suppliers, suppliers’ employees, airports, airport employees and countless others up and down the supply and service chain depend on daily flights to feed their families and pay their bills. Warmer winter weather down South is usually sufficient incentive all by itself!

As will be the case for us, air travel usually includes hotel stays and some other transportation needs. Travel is indeed a big business. Aside from the airline and airline-related personnel and suppliers mentioned above, restaurants and retailers likewise depend on airline-delivered tourists and business travelers to help pad their bottom lines.

One issue that seems fairly obvious to me is that since no one has yet figured out how to fly planes on anything other than jet fuel—at least commercially and on a mass scale—what happens when refineries decrease the supplies of jet fuel because Peak Oil necessitates basic changes in the allocation and supply of crude oil and its by-products? [Tom Whipple wrote a piece on that very subject just last week.]

Supply and demand operates in the airline industry just as it does most other places in our increasingly global economy. So when demand remains as is, but supplies are harder to come by or much more expensive, what happens then?

How much business planning has even been considered to date, let alone implemented to any degree?

When we start brushing up against the limits of oil production (and I believe we already have) and are left scrounging around for less than ideal substitutes as the years go by, what happens to all of the winter tourist travels to warmer locales? What’s our Plan B?

What gets prioritized and why? Which business industries will insist upon travel priorities and actually get what they need? Who will be making those determinations? How will they and their travel planners deal with fewer flights, fewer hotels, fewer transportation, and fewer dining options?

What happens to business conferences [see my 2011 post on that topic here]. What adaptations and transitions will be required of and from businesses from the small local to the mega-giant internationals when travel and transportation needs are restricted? How quickly does all this planning fall into place if we’re not already starting now?

What happens when even more smaller airports shut down when diminished supply cuts into current demand?

And given the incredible shortsightedness our Congressional leaders routinely display, what transportation alternatives will be in place that won’t prove to be infinitely more inconvenient at best?

What happens when your children now living on an opposite coast are no longer afforded the same reasonable and reasonably-priced options to visit you? Now, booking flights is as simple a process as logging on and ordering up a flight. What happens when there aren’t as many flights, or the remaining ones aren’t as affordable, or conveniently located and scheduled because jet fuel prices have shot the through as a result of basic supply and demand constraints? My oldest friend’s daughter (my godchild) now lives in Colorado. How often will she be able to visit with her siblings and parents here on the East Coast when that travel shoe drops?

Of course, we could just come to a conclusion that jet fuel must remain a refinery priority, and the countless other industries relying on their piece of the refined oil product pie will have to take a number and wait their turn? Volunteers? Doubtful.

And what of all the related transportation services dependent on all these flights: rental cars, limos, taxis, hotels, restaurants, airport gift shops and the like? What happens to them, and their employees, and their suppliers? What kind of plans have been discussed in the boardrooms?

How many employees in each of those industries, each individual business establishment, and each spouse or partner or child dependent on each one of those countless employees might be adversely impacted when those businesses start to feel the serious pinch of declining energy supplies? We’ve already gotten a good taste of how our economy gets hammered by poor business environments … what happens when a failure to plan for alternatives leaves with us poor business and economic environments as the norm?

And what of the ripple effect?

What happens when this air travel decline is extended to hotels and rental cars and all the rest; when rental cars are either much more costly and/or there are less of them to begin with? What happens when the preferred hotels have downsized because business and tourist travel has declined?

Nothing escapes the reach of declining fossil fuel availability, and there is nothing on the horizon which suggests that any substitutes currently in place are anywhere near as plentiful, affordable, or energy efficient as good ‘ol crude oil.

The resource agenda for business leaders
To thrive in an era of higher and more volatile resource prices, companies will need to pay greater attention to resource-related issues in their business strategies. The goal must be to improve a company’s understanding of how resources will affect profits, produce new opportunities for growth and disruptive innovation, create new risks, generate competitive asymmetries, and change the regulatory context. [1]

It won’t happen all at once. Slow leaks are the more likely scenarios played out across countless industries. But if we’re not thinking about these possibilities now, or getting better ideas about what changes will be sure to occur and what options might be available to us as this years-long process unfolds, we’re not giving ourselves much of a chance.

I believe the top three challenges to making progress on solutions are: 1) a lack of public and policy maker knowledge on these issues, and strong resistance to understanding and believing that such a profound threat to everything that many of us hold so dear–our big houses, automobile-centered lifestyles, frequent air travel, access to consumer goods from around the world– is close at hand; 2) very strong vested interests that will oppose changes in their industries and how they do business; and 3) our amazing lack of preparation for what we are facing, after investing in a built environment, food production system, transportation system, and overall economy that is so heavily reliant on cheap and plentiful oil. [2]

Thinking about and planning for these likelihoods before they become monumental problems might not be a bad idea….

Sources:

[1] https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/ghost.aspx?ID=/Energy_Resources_Materials/Strategy_Analysis/Mobilizing_for_a_resource_revolution_2908; Mobilizing for a resource revolution by Richard Dobbs, Jeremy Oppenheim, and Fraser Thompson – January 2012
[2] http://countercurrents.org/cardoni230110.htm; Dealing With Peak Oil by Salvatore Cardoni & Dr. Brian Schwartz – 01.23.10

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (which started here) through the next few months whose purpose is to provide tangible examples of what our future might be like in a world where we will no longer have available to us the quality and quantity of fossil fuel energy sources as we have long been accustomed to possessing and using. Some examples will describe significant impacts beyond the most obvious one: less but more expensive gas to power our vehicles.
Other posts will describe routine aspects of daily living that will likely change when producers of goods and services no longer have inexpensive and adequate supplies of the fossil fuel resources they need. I’m certain that the questions I raise will in turn raise other concerns as well. It is only by acknowledging the consequences affecting each of us that we can begin an intelligent national process of planning and implementing new methods of providing the goods and services we’ll need or desire.]

~~~

I am now the very proud father of a college graduate (a wonderful young woman who completed her four-year curriculum in only three years—impressive!—and has now returned to the Boston area). I could not be more delighted or happier for her!

Last week, I flew to New Orleans to attend her graduation, and stayed there for five nights (had to help pack the van in which she and her friend were traveling back home). My wife, her son and a friend of his flew down separately, and stayed in New Orleans for three nights.

No great surprise, but my daughter was not the only graduate. While I do not have the exact statistics, I believe the overwhelming majority of the approximately 2300 graduates came from someplace other than the immediate New Orleans area. That’s lot of graduates now driving/flying someplace else, and a lot of family members who attended the graduation after having flown in/driven from some other location. In what may be a stunning revelation, this is not the only year a graduation was held at Tulane University … shocking I know!

Even more shocking, this happened several times recently not just in New Orleans. Rumors abound that graduations were also held in Boston, New York, and possibly someplace in California, with more expected soon.

Putting aside the affordability of college for many if our economic path does not change soon, how are families going to deal with the impact of Peak Oil on just the most basic travel options for significant family events such as this?

What kind of choices will families and students be forced to make in the years to come when travel expenses to and from colleges become prohibitively expensive for many if not most of them? The college visits most engage in during senior year of high school has become an industry unto itself, and travel expenses for that aspect of college planning are not insignificant. Our trip to New Orleans was the only college visit we made via airplane, but there was also no small amount of driving involved as my daughter and I checked out a number of colleges here in the New England area.

When gas was $2 and change it was a barely noticeable expense. But at the current $4.29 per gallon (which was $3.99 six weeks ago), families are going to start taking note. Restaurants and hotels and assorted other merchants and service providers who derive no small amount of revenue from these travels by countless hundreds of thousands of prospective college students and their families will suffer in the process.

I’ve been to New Orleans nearly a dozen times in the three years that my daughter attended Tulane. My wife has joined me on three of those trips, and my daughter traveled home on multiple occasions as well.

Each of those trips required some combination of air fare and hotels and rental cars and cab fare and parking fees and gas expenditures and/or use of our own vehicles getting to and from airports….We’re fortunate in that our other daughter attends school in New York City, making Amtrak an enjoyable option, but how many families can or will be able to rely on mass transit for these types of travels? The complete failure of too many of our leaders to recognize the need for more investment in mass transit will prove a damning regret in years to come.

My daughter attended Tulane in part because it was one of the few that offered the major she sought (and a substantial scholarship to boot). What if traveling that far had not been an option? Or if it had been, what kind of dynamics would have been involved if she had moved down there, and we didn’t see each other for nearly 3 years because travel expenses had become prohibitively expensive for us (not that it wasn’t a drain on my finances to begin with)?

What kind of lifestyle changes would this young college student have had to make, knowing that she was essentially on her own for three or four years without the intangibles of family contact? (As it is, a week after she moved to New Orleans for the first time, hurricane warnings forced an evacuation of all area colleges, and she was on a plane back home about 8 days after she and I had said good-bye!) What happens in these or similar conditions when plane fare is out of the question for most? Buying airline tickets last minute is not exactly an inexpensive proposition! And what kind of options have to be put into place when vehicular travel is not feasible, and there is no mass transit available?

“Our friend of past online debates, Randall O’Toole, is a champion of both the auto-based transportation system and mobility in general. His argument is essential that there is a correlation between mobility and prosperity, that the more mobile a society is, the more at liberty people are to follow endeavors that enhance life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Greater mobility increases job opportunities, shopping selection, service competitiveness, school choices and even the gene pool people have a chance to select from when seeking a mate. There is no question that, in a broad sense, he is correct.” [1]

Greater mobility has been a wonderful option for many years for countless millions of us. What happens in the years to come when it’s not?

Sources:

[1] http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2011/4/4/mobilitys-diminishing-returns.html; Mobility’s Diminishing Returns by Charles Marohn – April 4, 2011

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (which started here) through the next few months whose purpose is to provide tangible examples of what our future might be like in a world where we will no longer have available to us the quality and quantity of fossil fuel energy sources as we have long been accustomed to possessing and using. Some examples will describe significant impacts beyond the most obvious one: less but more expensive gas to power our vehicles.
Other posts will describe routine aspects of daily living that will likely change when producers of goods and services no longer have inexpensive and adequate supplies of the fossil fuel resources they need. I’m certain that the questions I raise will in turn raise other concerns as well. It is only by acknowledging the consequences affecting each of us that we can begin an intelligent national process of planning and implementing new methods of providing the goods and services we’ll need or desire.]

~~~

While rising gasoline prices at our local stations are the most immediate and obvious consequences of oil supply and demand problems, Peak Oil is about much more than how big a hit our wallets can take. It’s easy to get caught up with the financial impact in our own households, which may explain why there’s usually a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when prices at the pump increase, and a settled calm once the prices drop to more tolerable levels.

We are not likely to have the luxury of complaining and then having the most visible symptom treated so that we can then carry on in some semblance of “same old, same old” for much longer. The immediate and obvious effects of Peak Oil may certainly ride on the wings of higher prices, but the underlying causes and their potentially crippling effects across a wide swath of industry and society will prove to be more enduring and damaging in the long run. At some point, most of us are simply not going to be able to afford the next price hike, and in that regard, high prices will cease to have such a visceral impact on our daily lives.

But long before our individual budgets reach the breaking point, Peak Oil will have served notice on scores of other aspects of life-as-we-once-knew-it that change is coming. Prices have almost always been the sole concern for most of us. Early 1970’s shortages aside, we’ve never really concerned ourselves with whether or not we can get our tanks filled. How much is it going to cost? has been the entire conversation. Peak Oil is going to add a few more topics.

I recently posted about my trip to New Orleans during the Mardi Gras “festival,” and briefly noted some concerns about rising oil prices as they affect restaurants (and hotels). Certainly as delivery and product prices increase, restaurants of all kinds are feeling the pinch just a bit more each day. Given recent economic conditions across the nation, it’s safe to say that the food and beverage industry has not been immune to the Great Recession.

Most of us have in some manner curtailed our away-from-home dining plans. We’re all being a bit more cautious with our funds, and so we don’t go to the movies as often, or eat at nicer restaurants as frequently, or we cut back on travel. If we gained more confidence in our individual (and national) financial well-being, it’s probably safe to assume that most of us who have cut back on dining out will ease our way back into that usually enjoyable social activity.

But just in case the first message above didn’t catch your attention, I’ll repeat it here: Peak Oil is going to be about a lot more than just how much? As demand increases, and the cumulative effects of decreased investments over the years began to create havoc with supply (to say nothing of the fact that what is now being explored is on the decline in most parts of the world, or more difficult to extract, or suffers from more political/above-ground interference, or INSERT FACTOR HERE), our only concern will no longer be limited to how much? Soon enough (and picking the month and year when is entirely pointless), can I even buy gas today/nearby? will become a more frequent refrain.

As the size of the pie shrinks and even more hungry consumers sit at the table for their piece, even the most inept math student will quickly understand that not everyone will be served equally or even sufficiently. Some may have to do without; others will get a much smaller piece than is customary. Others may be told to come back only if another pie becomes available. It is that elementary.

And when this begins to happen, we’re all going to be making more sacrifices. Dining out will surely become much more of a challenge, and one which more and more of us will eventually decide is no longer feasible. Gas prices may simply be too high to warrant trips for a need we can just as easily (and, we hope, at less cost) substitute for at home. The simple steak and baked potato sitting on my dining room table may not satisfy nearly as much as a preferred Natural Angus Bavette Steak with wild mushroom risotto and bourbon-tinge reduction sauce served with fresh-baked Parmesan crusted rolls, and there may not be soft-jazz piped in from speakers placed unobtrusively in the far corners of the room as we’re bathed in warmth from the nearby fireplace, and I may very well be dining alone or (preferably) with my lovely wife rather than with my wife and several friends whom we see not nearly as often anymore, but I won’t go to bed hungry, and my wallet won’t suffer nearly as much trauma.

It’s just as likely that many of us will stay home and make our own ham and cheese on rye sandwich rather than making a run to the Subway sub shop two miles away or the Wendy’s at the food court in the local Mall six miles down the road.

Doing without a small treat like dining out, or losing the opportunity to socialize with friends may not strike any of us as an especially egregious consequence. Most of us wouldn’t even think of that as a direct consequence of declining oil production and limited supplies, but that’s the type of change we’ll see all too often in a world where gas prices are increasingly prohibitive, and/or supplies are simply not available today or this week or in our city or town.

I would certainly hope that that scenario, if it does materialize (which it will if we continue to sit on our hands and do nothing, or wait for others to do something, or just pretend that all will be well eventually), will be many years down the road, but I would not want to bet a lot of money on that happening. I certainly don’t think we’ll be looking at that unpleasant prospect later this year, or next summer, or soon beyond that. But the truth is that it’s not the product of an over-active, morose imagination. It’s all about those damned annoying facts.

Those kinds of trade-offs will increase in the years to come. Perhaps right now it might not seem like such a big deal, or even any kind of deal. But quality-of-life is not always or often measured in dollars and cents. When the customary social activities we engage in start dropping away because we can’t even afford to get “there,” wherever there might be, we will begin to feel the squeeze. Many of us now do not engage in those familiar social activities as or as often as we once did simply because of financial concerns. Tighter budgets require different spending priorities. Unpleasant though it may be, it’s an understood “sacrifice.” The expectation has always been that at some point life will return to the once-familiar “normal”, and thus soon enough we’ll be back meeting with friends at restaurants and ballgames and a host of other options.

But Peak Oil is different. Peak Oil is not a budget matter. Peak Oil is about having the energy needed at all. If one simply cannot get gas for their car—regardless of price—because there is no gas available that day or week, or what is then available has to likewise be “budgeted”, then that kind of a social change or “sacrifice” takes on a different hue. We’re not prepared to have those kinds of options denied to us entirely. Problems which cannot be rectified by money are a different breed.

And what of the restaurants who’ve long relied on our faithful appearances every couple of months? When a not-inconsequential number of diners stop patronizing those establishments, it’s very obvious what will happen soon enough. Many are no doubt experiencing those consequences in this moment, and surely have been for several years now. And when the employees are suddenly out of a job, and the chef finds herself just as unemployed with no prospects at all nearby because every other restaurant is suffering just as much, what then? What happen to the merchants they frequent when there is no longer a salary to spend because there are too few customers to prop up the restaurant? What of their suppliers? The drivers who deliver their goods? And the merchants all of these others in turn frequent? And then their employees? Getting the picture?

There aren’t that many dots to connect … it’s not as though this a new economic problem never before encountered. Multiply that by many thousands of neighborhoods and towns and counties and cities and metro-regions and states and pretty quickly, there’s a problem.

What then?

We—you; me; neighbors; family; friends; local, state, and federal officials—need to start thinking about how life will be a few short years down the road. We’re wasting time….

More to come.

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (which started here) through the next few months whose purpose is to provide tangible examples of what our future might be like in a world where we will no longer have available to us the quality and quantity of fossil fuel energy sources as we have long been accustomed to possessing and using. Some examples will describe significant impacts beyond the most obvious one: less but more expensive gas to power our vehicles.
Other posts will describe routine aspects of daily living that will likely change when producers of goods and services no longer have inexpensive and adequate supplies of the fossil fuel resources they need. I’m certain that the questions I raise will in turn raise other concerns as well. It is only by acknowledging the consequences affecting each of us that we can begin an intelligent national process of planning and implementing new methods of providing the goods and services we’ll need or desire.]

~~~

Not too long ago, I had the good fortune of attending an outstanding concert performance by a blues/rock guitarist whose music I recently “discovered.”

The musician (Joe Bonamassa*) played in central Massachusetts, and I attended the performance with my brother, who lives at the western end of the state. While his trip was a bit shorter to the concert location, it was close to a 100 mile round trip for me from the Boston area. Several thousand other fans made the trip in to Worcester, no doubt almost all of them by private vehicle.

As for Bonamassa, I think it’s safe to assume he and his band/entourage either made the trip by bus or plane (in which case additional vehicle travel would have been necessary to wherever he was staying in the area). My recollection is that his next performance was somewhere in Pennsylvania several nights later, after having traveled to Massachusetts from his previous performance—out-of-state. I also understand that he travels almost year-round, and is in or en route to Europe now for an extended tour (after having made a stopover to play a few dates in Canada first)—all before returning to the States later in the year (including a performance in Boston, which I’ll be attending).

Why all of this in a blog about Peak Oil?

Take a look at the paragraph above once more. Mr. Bonamassa, and thousands of performers just like him, travel a lot. They don’t do so by themselves, either. Staff, road crews, family members, and assorted other necessary personnel no doubt accompany these musicians most if not all the time. Their equipment, instruments, stages, lighting, props, and assorted what-nots also have to get from one place to another. Given the amount of equipment this one musician and his three band members used while on stage, it’s probably safe to assume that they, like most of their peers, require something a wee bit larger than a cargo van to haul everything around.

Unless they are all now traveling by train (are any of them doing so?), that is a lot of fuel consumption for a lot of people and equipment for a lot of days. And unless Mr. Bonamassa et al are traveling by luxury liner across the Atlantic, I’m guessing there’s a lot of air fare being paid to an airline, and a lot more fuel consumption….

So when fuel prices have climbed above $4.00—which I now pay—(or $7? $10?) what happens to Joe Bonamassa and the thousands of other musicians who likewise tour the world; or actors who perform on stages worldwide; or comedians; or photographers and painters and sculptors who display their artistry in locales spanning the globe? Or what happens when they are advised that the locale where they are performing won’t have fuel for them to travel to their next stop until … next Friday? Or not at all because it has already been allocated to others? Or it just isn’t available for them under any circumstances because what they do is not “essential travel” in that area under who-knows-what kinds of restrictions may be the order of the day somewhere in the not-too-distant future?

What about their fans? Social activities like this offer intangibles which contribute to our and our communities’ well-being. What happens when most performances simply cannot continue? A little piece of what has made life enjoyable for millions may have to change its nature in ways we cannot envision right now—especially if no one is even thinking about it yet.

With some planning and a willingness to commit a lot more than the ninety-minute or so round trip in my SUV, I’m fairly certain I could have gotten from my home to the concert location with perhaps less than a mile’s worth of walking to and from. I could have walked from my home down the hill (which would of course have meant a very late night walk back up that monster) to an MBTA bus, and then on to an MBTA subway train to South Station in Boston, where I would have had several travel options (Amtrak, commuter rail, or bus) to make the approximate fifty-mile trip to Worcester, MA. None of it free, of course, and none of it a direct door-to-door adventure. I believe the City of Worcester offers bus service at least in the downtown area, and so I’m comfortable with the thought that I could have gotten very close to the concert’s Main Street location via local bus out there. Just a guess, but that would have to be close to a 5 hour round trip … minimum.

If I had to do that in order to see this performer, would I have done so? Probably not. CD’s and DVDs work just fine for me, also. Can’t think of any other performer I’d go to such lengths to see, come to think of it.

CD’s and DVD’s are not the same of course. Obviously I would have lost out on the chance to spend some time with my younger brother, as well as enjoying the intangibles of attending a live performance with several thousand other fans similarly enjoying the performance.

What if 90% of the performer’s audience members had to make the same decisions about how much they wanted to spend for gas and/or figure out some convoluted means of getting to the concert hall via sporadic and to-date insufficient levels of mass transit? What if, as I suspect, a substantial majority of them did not have readily-available public transportation options? Then what?

The dominoes start to tumble quickly. No fans = no revenue for the artist = no performance = no revenue for the entourage traveling with him = no revenue to the host city and the theater/concert hall/art center = no revenue for the restaurants and bars and hotels and retail stores who rely on the additional traffic into their community = no work for the many employees =….

Not a pretty picture.

Perhaps some plans might be a good idea? And while we’re at it, perhaps we might get some of our wise leadership to consider that now might be an excellent time to give just a bit more thought to the need for a lot more public transportation (a subject I’ll have a lot more to say about in the weeks to come). I don’t see anyone slapping together efficient alternative transportation options in just a few weeks … or months … or years. That calls for some long-term planning….

Ken Orski writes about transportation matters, and I’ll readily admit he is far more knowledgeable about those issues than I will ever be. Offering legitimate and well-reasoned arguments against the Obama Administration’s pursuit of a national high-speed rail program, Mr. Orski offered this:

“The President’s proposal came at a most inopportune time, when the nation is recovering from a serious recession and desperately trying to reduce the federal budget deficit and a mountain of debt. In time, however, the recession will end, the economy will start growing again, and the deficit will hopefully come under control. At that distant moment in time, perhaps toward the end of this decade, the nation might be able to resume its tradition of ‘bold endeavors’ — launching ambitious programs of public infrastructure renewal.
“That could be an appropriate time to revive the idea of a high-speed rail network, at least in the densely populated Northeast Corridor where road and air traffic congestion will soon be reaching levels that threaten its continued growth and productivity. For now, however, prudence, good sense and the common welfare dictate that we, as a nation, learn to live within our means.” [1]

For all his expertise and the wisdom offered as to why high-speed rail as Obama has set forth makes little sense (I don’t disagree entirely), the “vision”, or more accurately, the lack thereof, is precisely what we cannot afford. What problem-free, simple, inexpensive, unanimously-agreed upon set of criteria will determine when the proper “distant moment in time” is upon us? Can we thus safely assume that there will be no intervening issues of any significance that might postpone that “distant moment in time” until a better “distant moment in time” (assuming, of course, that there will then be no intervening issues of any significance that might postpone that following “distant moment in time” until an even better and later “distant moment in time”)?

Hard to imagine, but someone might—just might—come up with his or her own laundry list of why that eventual “distant moment in time” ought to be postponed for just a bit longer … you know, until there’s a much better “distant moment in time.” At what point do our experts and leaders figure out that we actually ought to be thinking beyond next week?

It’s all fine and well to decry wasteful spending, but keep in mind that short-sighted and narrow-minded ideologies and policies carry long term consequences, too.

Now might be a good time to get the ball rolling instead. Of course, if the future doesn’t matter, then I’m fine with how things are right now. You?

A lot of us (performers, too) may find ourselves elated by our demonstration of wisdom way back when in good ‘ole 2011 in having decided that Now was the right time after all….

* Anyone interested in blues/rock music should check out Bonamassa, who by all indications has already garnered a great reputation as one of that genre’s best musicians … he is an outstanding guitarist! (No better endorsement than Eric Clapton having joined him on stage….)

[NOTE TO MY READERS: I leave tomorrow morning for a trip to New Orleans once again. This time, I’m traveling—along with my wife, her son and a friend of his—to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation later in the week. This will be my only post of the week, and I don’t expect to post again until later next week after my return on the 16th, following several days of catching up thereafter. Thanks]

Sources:

[1] http://www.newgeography.com/content/002163-the-end-line-ambitious-high-speed-rail-program-hits-buffer-fiscal-reality?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Newgeography+%28Newgeography.com+-+Economic%2C+demographic%2C+and+political+commentary+about+places%29; The End of the Line: Ambitious High-speed Rail Program Hits the Buffer of Fiscal Reality by Ken Orski – 04/01/2011

[NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series (which started here) through the next few months whose purpose is to provide tangible examples of what our future might be like in a world where we will no longer have available to us the quality and quantity of fossil fuel energy sources as we have long been accustomed to possessing and using. Some examples will describe significant impacts beyond the most obvious one: less but more expensive gas to power our vehicles.
Other posts will describe routine aspects of daily living that will likely change when producers of goods and services no longer have inexpensive and adequate supplies of the fossil fuel resources they need. I’m certain that the questions I raise will in turn raise other concerns as well. It is only by acknowledging the consequences affecting each of us that we can begin an intelligent national process of planning and implementing new methods of providing the goods and services we’ll need or desire.]

~~~

I recently had the good fortune to visit my daughter at the university she attends in New Orleans. Scheduled many months ago, the trip was designed to coincide with the spectacular Mardi Gras festival which serves as a grand and delightful marker for a city too often associated instead with the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Although the weather was not as cooperative as we would have liked during the four days of my trip (tornado warnings on the night of Mardi Gras dampened at least my enthusiasm to wander around the French Quarter), I nonetheless caught my fair share of beads during one of the amazing parades that wind their way down St. Charles Avenue, while taking in many other sights and sounds of the celebrations.

It’s an incredible event, wildly entertaining and just plain wilder than one can imagine. Reports indicated that it drew upwards of a million revelers to this unique city—the most since Katrina struck in 2005.

Being as involved with the subject of Peak Oil as I am these days, I soon enough found myself wondering what happens to this spectacle once we are fully engulfed by the effects of ever-declining oil production.

Last summer, I took an initial look at air travel. Among others, I posed the following question: “What decisions are the various transportation industries—freight and aviation in particular—going to be faced with when the worldwide supply of oil cannot ever match demand again? Who decides which of those two will have priority? It’s unlikely that only one industry will have all of its demand met, so that means both industries will suffer reductions in what is available to them. Then what?”

What does happen a few short years down the road when we have nowhere near the same amounts of fossil fuels at our disposal (and/or at prices even remotely affordable) to travel to New Orleans, and when those who design and operate the hundreds of floats and tractors and emergency vehicles that are part and parcel of the Mardi Gras festivities are now at the mercy of fuel prices that have doubled? Tripled? Quadrupled? Hundreds of gas-sucking vehicles crawling along a 5 or 7 mile parade route run up a serious gas/diesel tab in today’s economy.

Then what indeed? A reasonable several hundred dollar round trip air fare from Boston to New Orleans during this celebration is likely going to be a lot more expensive in years to come, and most likely prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of visitors. Granted, many thousands may still find ways to get there, but you can be certain that if air fares have spiked through the roof in a few years, gas prices for our automobiles won’t be far behind. Are citizens who live even just a few hundred miles away going to want to pay $6.00, $8.00, $11.00 for a gallon of gas to go to a festival? Is something like Mardi Gras going to be any kind of priority for most?

Given the dazzling levels of shortsightedness on display by those who balk at investing in mass transit and/or high-speed rail, what options might be available in a half-dozen or so years from now (not that mass transit will be in place in so short a period of time)? Anyone thinking that we’ll just rev’ up design, production, and construction in a week or two is even more delusional than imaginable. Those are investments (among others) which must begin now.

A determined segment of leaders are hell-bent on cutting funding for alternative energy research and transportation—among many other categories vital to our future well-being—and are doing so contrary to what most polls state that Americans want. What’s going on? If they succeed in their efforts, what then? Can we all just rely on whatever magical technology these officials seem to believe will come flying to the rescue in years ahead? Are there some special alternatives that are going to be envisioned, designed, produced, and implemented successfully, commercially, and nationally overnight? Is that the plan for those so determined to cut spending so as to preserve tax benefits for the oil companies and multi-millionaires among us? Is that what we’re about?

The Mardi Gras pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Orleans economy. Not too difficult to imagine that city more so than most, and its industry leaders, count on that revenue more than just a little. What’s the ripple effect to New Orleans and its businesses when hundreds of millions of dollars are not-so-suddenly reduced by half, or more, simply because most attendees can no longer (or choose to no longer) afford the travel and lodging costs? What city services will be placed on the chopping block? How many more will suffer?

What of the restaurants and hotels that likewise depend on Mardi Gras? It was almost impossible to find lodging in the few months leading up to Mardi Gras unless you were willing to pay some seriously jacked-up prices and travel a long way into New Orleans each day. Many, many fewer patrons represent a tremendous hit to the bottom lines of those in the lodging and food service industries.

Many if not most of those retailers depend on tractor-trailers to deliver or transport supplies. Can you say diesel fuel price hikes? It’s hard to imagine that either the transportation industry or the lodging and restaurant industries are each going to absorb on their own the increased fuel prices (another domino effect which comes into play when supply no longer satisfies demand). As freight delivery charges increase and are passed on to end-users such as hotels and restaurants, and food costs themselves increase because the fossil fuels needed to provide fertilizers and a host of other “ingredients” of food production have likewise climbed into new territory (while the quantity of the fossil fuels themselves are on the decline), the unpleasant outcome is fairly obvious.

What happens to the taxi drivers who escort all these new patrons who descend on their city? (Based on my conversations with several of them however, the drivers have decidedly mixed feelings about Mardi Gras, given the logistical nightmares they must deal with every time a parade route or street-cleaning crew cuts off their travel options.)

I usually rent a car when I travel to New Orleans to visit my daughter. She cautioned me against doing so during Mardi Gras. Heeding her advice, I made do with buses, the partially-available street car lines, or a good pair of sneakers to get me around during my stay. I had the choice of taking a cab or the airport shuttle to get me to/from the city. I opted for the latter. The 55-minute or so trip from pick-up on campus to a half-dozen or so hotel stops en route to the airport when I left was by contrast a two and a half hour “adventure” when I first arrived.

Getting dropped off at my daughter’s school was the last of 8 stops the shuttle made in New Orleans after we left the airport. It seemed that almost every street was closed off that Saturday afternoon either by police barricades, an actual parade, or the random hoards of street cleaning crews which materialized seemingly out of thin air on multiple occasions as we wound our way through the city proper. At one point, although we were only four cars from a Canal Street intersection, those crews held up the shuttle van through four consecutive light cycles! That is a lot of wasted fuel….No doubt the very reasonable $40.00 or so round trip shuttle fare is going to also be a lot more expensive in years to come—assuming they (and the taxi drivers) have access to the fuel they need as and when needed. No guarantees….

Hundreds if not thousands of merchants, from street vendors on up to retail stores in and around the French Quarter, also no doubt depend on Mardi Gras revenue to bolster their bottom line. Whatever merchandise they offer is also most likely trucked in from somewhere else. Those suppliers won’t be immune to increased fuel prices and/or limitations on availability, and that means at least one entity somewhere along the supply chain is going to wind up paying, and then passing the costs along.

And the employees of the countless industries who depend on events like the Mardi Gras for a substantial portion of their annual income (keeping in mind that Peak Oil is not limited to impacting just the Mardi Gras festival while other lesser events and conventions escape unscathed)? When all of these increased prices are absorbed and then passed on to the ultimate end-users, more than a substantial percentage of those businesses are not going to be able to endure the increases or supply restrictions or lack of buyers because consumers no longer want to pay the higher prices. And that then means that more than a fair amount of employees and business owners are going to find themselves looking for work elsewhere. A lot of dominoes tumble when people are out of work … no need to elaborate.

“Just do something to lower fuel prices and none of this will be a problem” is a wonderful strategy and solution … if you don’t mind living in some alternate reality. Here on earth, however, these declining oil production consequences all inevitable, logical, and unavoidable—despite heavy doses of political grandstanding.

We can either duck for cover, or start appreciating the tasks at hand and get busy adding our voices and offering productive input into the almost-inconceivably complex planning and implementing Peak Oil will mandate—regardless of political ideology.

It is, as mentioned repeatedly, time to get busy.

More to come….