Oil Decline & The Decline Of Civilisation
Oil Decline Scenarios Part 1, Slow and Easy
What will happen as the world runs out of oil? Well, there are two possible decline scenarios; Slow and Easy (part 1) and Fast and Chaotic (part 2). Let’s look at our Slow and Easy option first.
Oil is a finite reserve. In other words there is only so much of it available and when it is used up and gone, it is gone for ever.
Oil powers our entire transport system (exception, electric trains and trams) and our entire machinery infrastructure used in agriculture, construction and mining.
As oil runs out, the world will either have to find other power sources for these functions or watch the functions slowly decline with the decline in oil supplies.
Here are some future scenarios as oil supplies tighten and eventually begin their terminal decline.
- Oil will become more and more expensive relative to wages and income. Therefore individuals and companies will look for less expensive substitutes to high cost oil consumption. These substitutes will include i) smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, ii) less suburban and more inner-city living, iii) use of more public transport, iv) moving away from large cars to small engined transport such as scooters, mopeds and motorised bicycles, and v) increasing human powered transport options such as bicycle pathways.
- Increased efficiency in the design and manufacture of oil and petrol consuming machines such as hybrid engines and high fuel efficiency (high mpg) vehicles.
- Moving away from transport options such as vehicles based on gasoline powered engines to other power sources such as electric vehicles, cars and buses and trucks powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and the development of biofuels and biodiesel. And increasing the development of non-gasoline engines such as hydrogen and ramjet engines.
Now look very closely at those three options and ask yourself if this is already occurring. Well of course it is, and has been now for over 40 years.
The world is not awash in oil. If it was we would still be paying twenty cents a gallon like we were back in the 1960s and we wouldn’t care about fuel consumption and mpg for our vehicles. We are running out of the cheap easy to get oil. What is left is hard to find & hard to get non conventional oil sources, And it will run out in the not too distant future too.
Now look at those points above 1 to 3, and you can imagine that society can keep applying these principles as oil runs out over the next hundred or so years. This would go on until there was no more oil left and the entire transport fleet has been converted off oil to other energy sources. This of course is what would be the ideal situation, and this is what the oil (energy) companies, the technocrats, the car and truck manufacturing companies and the futurists would have us believe. Well, perhaps they are right, but as usual there are quite a few problems.
Here are some of the problems; i) converting transport options over to the electricity grid will require a massive boost in electricity generating power. For example, Germany has calculated that if just 1 in 10 German cars converted to plug-in electric vehicles, this would be enough to crash their electric grid, ii) in most countries converting to electric power is just changing the fossil fuel source from oil (gasoline) to coal, which in effect is no solution to the fossil fuel problem at all, iii) as I have repeatedly pointed out in “Entropy Wins” renewable fuels such as bio diesel, cannot be produced in quantities large enough or input price low enough to match fossil fuels, iv) some transport options such as aeroplanes and international shipping cannot be converted to either electricity or renewable fuels and entire new power trains (engines) and fuel sources will need to be developed and v) vital large (& very large) machinery used in producing food, mining & infrastructure also cannot be converted to electricity or other power sources readily. This last point could have major ramifications to society & involve government intervention & fuel rationing on a massive scale to keep these vital industries functioning.
There are a lot more details we could go into but in summary, even a slow and gentle decline away from an oil based transport system will create massive problems, result in significant changes in the design of our cities and our personal lifestyles and can only result in a significant decline in transport options available to humanity. The least significant impact of this will be a decline in personal transport options. A more significant impact of this trend will be a significant decline in the transport of food, vital materials and manufactured goods from point of origin to places where they are needed. And a catastrophic impact of declining fuel oil will be a significant decrease in food production and mining strategic products.
Even a slow and managed decline in oil production will burden humanity with massive problems some of which, almost certainly, will not be able to be solved adequately.