Peak Oil In Europe: A Preview
As the price of oil continues to climb, we are beginning to get a glimpse of what the post peak-oil world may look like, and it’s not entirely pretty.
Protests in Europe have been widespread, as Europeans who already pay twice that of our US cousins for fuel begin to feel the financial consequences of consistent price increases.
Truck drivers in Spain and France have blockaded major roadways and paralysed traffic on major city arteries. Meanwhile in the UK, similar protests by truck drivers - who claim they are rapidly being forced out of business by high fuel prices - have taken place across the country.
Adding to the chaos, Shell tanker drivers chose the same weekend to strike over pay disputes, causing many petrol (gas) stations to run out of fuel. Government calls to avoid panic buying have predictably caused a peak-oil dress rehearsal, with long queues forming on many petrol station forecourts.
Data released last week showed that British motorists have been driving less during the past year, with the volume of fuel sales falling by 20%. Considering the diabolical state of the UK’s public transport infrastructure we have no idea how motorists have been getting around in the meantime and can only assume they are simply staying at home.
With some pundits forecasting oil prices of over $200 a barrel by the end of the next year this situation is only likely to get worse, with governments having little opportunity to intervene in a crisis that holds them to the mercy of world markets.
So is there an upside? Many people seem to think that there is.
Sales of hybrid cars are booming. With record sales of Toyota’s hybrid Prius being forecast, rivals must be cursing themselves at their tardiness in entering this market. Even the most die-hard petrol heads are checking fuel economy figures in motoring magazines, and considering - heaven forbid - a diesel engine.
Many people are trying out public transport for the first time, finding it’s not as bad as they thought it was, although many others are finding that it is actually worse than they thought it was. Others are rediscovering the positive aspects of cycling, along with some minor bad ones.
But most importantly, high prices are starting to focus people on the value of energy, and the need to conserve it. Whilst energy is cheap the environmental impacts will remain distant for many, but high prices are forcing people to measure their energy usage and consider alternatives.
However, we should rejoicing the environmental benefits of high fuel prices with caution as many are suffering. In the meantime, let’s hope that some of the hardship can be offset by some positive change for good.