Peak Oil - The Great Tsunami
By Michael Payne
18 February, 2006
A long-predicted tsunami is heading toward the shores of America, a wave of incredible proportions, gathering momentum with each passing day. America has had many, many warnings of how this giant wave would develop, but these warnings have been totally ignored. Very soon our American society will experience an extremely painful awakening to the dark specter of "Peak Oil" as it looms on our horizon and then comes crashing down upon our nation. Peak Oil will result in drastic and dramatic changes to our society and our lifestyles, the likes of which we will find extremely difficult to comprehend.
By now, most Americans know what a tsunami is. However, the vast majority of America has no clue as to what Peak Oil is. In the simplest of explanations, Peak Oil is that point when the total world production of oil and all known reserves are surpassed by the world demand. At that point the supply will be steadily reduced and the ravages of Peak Oil will begin.
The US experienced an American Peak Oil in the 1970s when, because of our lack of production capacity and reserves, we were forced to import more and more from foreign sources. Our insatiable appetite for that black gold has now increased to the point that we are now importing about two thirds of our total oil consumption from OPEC and other exporting countries.
Of the approximate 84 million barrels of oil consumed on a daily basis by the nations of this planet, the US consumes roughly 21 barrels million of that total, or about 25 percent -- an astounding figure for a nation that represents about 5 percent of the entire world's population. Now that the economies of China and India are growing very swiftly, they are consuming greater and greater quantities of oil. With this new sharp upward spike in world demand, the specter of Peak Oil looms over this planet more ominously with each passing day.
Is Peak Oil a solid theory? Numerous world-class scientists and petroleum experts have conducted intensive studies of this predicted happening over many years and are convinced that it will not only happen but that we are now situated at its very beginning. There are detractors, of course, who say that these scientists and other experts are practicing scare tactics just as those who have issued dire warnings about Global Warming. Even so, some of the most knowledgeable experts in this field are of the opinion that we have already entered the Peak Oil era; many others say that it will begin somewhere between 2006 and 2010.
While I am personally convinced that Peak Oil is a definite reality that America and the world cannot avoid, it seems apparent that Americans simply have no conception of this monumental problem they will soon have to face. They hear little to nothing on network or cable TV or in their newspapers or magazines. To become knowledgeable, Americans must tune in to the Internet. Websites such as peakoil.com, fromthewilderness.com are good starting points. Answers.com is a great website that identifies a wide array of other websites that concentrate on Peak Oil, as well as all sorts of references and links to essays and discussions on this subject. Googling "Peak Oil" will also bring up numerous links.
Now, let's examine and discuss just how our lifestyles, yours, mine and those of all Americans, will be radically changed forever, and will never be the same, at least until this planet can be powered by energy other than fossil fuels. As you gain knowledge about Peak Oil, you will understand that the supposed fallback certainty of alternative energy, including hydrogen fuel cells, electric cars, windmills, etc. is more talk than action. Our government, automakers, and corporate energy giants are doing little to nothing to promote conservation or develop new energy sources. Fossil fuel is king and those in power are more than willing to accept that sad fact.
The 4-5-Car Family -- One of the very first casualties of the effect of Peak Oil will be that the 4-5 car family will disappear, as it should since it is one of the most egregious examples of how petroleum is wasted in the US. The now common practice of high school seniors being given their own vehicles, with many unnecessarily driving to high school will abruptly end. The great American dream of the automobile that has now turned into a virtual nightmare will see a drastic reduction in the number of autos in this nation. Because fuel will simply not be available for millions of America's autos, families will be forced to share and cooperate as they have never done before. They will have no choice.
Gas Guzzling SUVs, 500-HP Pickups, Hummers -- The sales of overly large, grotesque SUVs, the monster pickup trucks and the totally nonsensical Hummers will quickly tank and millions of these societal aberrations will end up in the scrap heaps long before their natural life has passed. That will be a blessing in itself. Many, many Americans will be forced to wake up and will gravitate to the high mileage hybrid autos pioneered by Toyota and Honda, now also being developed by US automakers.
Our National Trucking, Distribution System -- The very lifeblood of our entire economy will be severely crippled as millions of trucks will find less and less available fuel. This, of course, will directly affect every element of our economy as noted in sections below. Years ago when railroads should have been subsidized through intelligent planning and developed into a system, such as found in Europe, our short-term thinkers in Washington poured all the monetary resources into the Interstate Highway System. The trucking industry took off like a rocket and the railroads began to die. That scenario will now be completely reversed as Peak Oil delivers our nation a terrific blow. Railroads will be one of our prime fallback positions.
The Airline Industry -- Again, Peak Oil will have a devastating effect on most of the airline industry since jet fuel represents one of the greatest uses of petroleum. With several airlines now approaching potential bankruptcies, just think of what this industry will have to face in the future. The disruptive and continuing disagreements regarding wages, healthcare, and pensions between management and unions will be totally set aside as the industry frantically tries to figure out to survive. The US government will be helpless to even try to bail them out.
Millions Upon Millions of Auto Commuters -- Today, in many, many cities the average number of occupants in a typical auto commuting to work is somewhere around 1.5. That will change very quickly as our oil supplies begin to dry up. What will people do? In many cases, the railroads will benefit as more and more commuters will have to choose railroads as their primary way to get to work. But the overall magnitude of this problem will be astounding because of the suburban sprawl. Those millions who typically have a 100-mile plus round trip drive to work will face a monumental problem.
Supermarkets, Wal-Mart, et al -- Since the trucking industry will be severely crippled, you can be certain that those shelves containing 50-75 brands of bread, cereals, aspirins, deodorants and many other products will be greatly reduced and the products offered will be much more basic. And, when you stop to think about that, that sounds like one of the least of our problems. Wal-Mart may find itself in dire straits, indeed, since their stores are chock full of plastic products which will not be able to be transported from China and the rest of the world.
Auto, Truck Production -- Because the demand for these vehicles will drop drastically, the major auto producers will find themselves at the brink of bankruptcy. Since the American Dream revolves around the automobile, this will be one of the most drastic results of the lack of oil, with the loss of thousands upon thousands of jobs in the auto industry and related suppliers.
Agriculture -- The most critical of all elements of our economy and for our very survival is our food supply, including the supply chain that farms use to produce crops and the distribution of the resulting foodstuffs to the nation. Pesticides and fertilizers are largely derived from petroleum. Our farm industry will be put at risk when the supply of oil begins to dry up and our government will need to put agriculture at the very top of the list of those who will receive priority in coping with the Peak Oil crisis.
Overall, General Effects -- As the Peak Oil era begins and then accelerates, Americans will be affected in many different ways. Have you noticed just how rapidly the cost of a gallon of gasoline has escalated in the past year as the price of petroleum has recently risen to some $60 barrel? That is nothing when considering that Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has predicted that the price of gas will hit $3 a gallon sometime in 2006. The housing boom will be affected in many ways, including the fact that thousands upon thousands of tons of roofing shingles will not be produced, and many other critical materials will not be able to be transported to thousands of towns and cities. The availability of tires for autos and all other vehicles will be severely diminished. Millions of asphalt streets and highways will not be repaved and others will not be constructed. The Interstate Highway System that we now enjoy and take for granted will begin a steady deterioration and will severely impact our economy. We Americans will see our travel for business and leisure reduced to a very significant degree.
To conclude, while I could go on and portray many other elements of the devastating effect that Peak Oil will have upon our society, my message to the American people is just this. To the millions upon millions of Americans who are content to be safely tucked into their protective cocoons, in a self-imposed state of apathy and disinterest relating to these massive problems that America faces, this may be the very final wake-up call. If we, as a nation do not collectively recognize the threat of this great tsunami, refuse to think more deeply or get educated and involved, we will be sealing the fate of our children, our grandchildren and those who follow. They are the ones who matter. We simply cannot refuse to address this monumental issue that threatens their very future existence!
When Peak Oil slams into our society with its tsunami-like force, there will be an instant negative effect on each and every one of us. The US government will have to take immediate measures to prioritize the uses of petroleum for the good of the nation in an effort to overcome the horrendous obstacles that we will face. I am sure that the military, our national police forces, energy providers, the agriculture industry, water supply sources and other critical users of gasoline and natural gas will be given the highest priorities. All other uses of petroleum will be given much lower priorities and will not be considered critical. And that is exactly why lifestyles will be altered drastically.
We simply cannot let our insatiable, our totally out-of-control thirst for oil, cripple our nation and our society as we stand in a completely docile, sheep-like state and just let it happen; just let nature take its course. Just as the Titanic went down with the loss of more than 1,500 passengers who believed she was invincible, Peak Oil will bring down America (and actually the entire world) if we, collectively, do not have the heart and the desire to get involved and demand solutions.
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