Peak Oil News: The Peak Oil Crisis: A Bible for Oil Deception

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Bible for Oil Deception

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

Some 30 years ago, amidst the oil crises of the 1970’s, the United States Government began compiling information related to US oil consumption and published it annually in the “ Transportation Energy Data Book.” It is now being prepared by the Center for Transportation Analysis at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is available on line at

Until recently, the publication of 200+ charts and tables, which contain thousands of snippets of information relating to how America manages to consume 20 million barrels of oil each day, was only of interest to policy wonks into transportation. For the rest of us, so long as cheap gas was available at every station, hardly anybody cared where it came from and where it was going. This lack of interest is about to change. In the years following peak oil production, availability of gasoline and other fuels will shrink rapidly.

It is conventional peak oil wisdom that the decline in oil production after the world peak will be some 3-5 percent a year. However, recent data suggests oil fields that have been heavily flooded or gassed to force more oil to the surface may decline even more rapidly than expected. In addition, some of the world’s oil exporters may not want to sell so much to the people of the United States during an era of oil depletion, and we could see annual declines in the availability of oil on the order of ten percent or more a year. If this were to occur, we would have a big, big problem.

Cutting electricity consumption would not have to be a major hardship— shut off outdoor lighting, impose steep taxes on excessive consumption to force conservation, disconnect some lights or replace with fluorescents, set the air conditioning higher, and we are on our way to conserving large amounts of electricity. Transportation is another matter and this is where our energy book comes in, for it describes in much detail how we consume our oil.

Some 96 percent of the US vehicle inventory is powered by petroleum products. These include the obvious such as cars, truck, buses, trains, and airplanes, through the frivolous, such as ATVs, ski boats, sky diving planes, and snowmobiles, to the less apparent but vital, such as the barges which move our grain and the pumps bringing natural gas to our homes.

When oil depletion sets in, we are all going to have to make many new kinds of decisions, such as “Is this trip necessary?” or “How fast should I be driving to save the last drop of my gasoline ration?”

At present, about the only thing preventing many of us from driving as fast as our car will go is the “point system” which suspends our driver’s license after too many speeding tickets. (If you doubt this, take a ride on the German autobahn before peak oil sets in). In the future, when your gas tank contains your weekly or even your monthly allocation of gasoline, the only question will be is “At what speed do I get the most miles per gallon?” Table 4,25 will answer this for you.

Let’s take another case. Some foreign country has stopped sending us its oil. The lines at the pumps stretch for miles, and the people are screaming for buses to get to work, or to the mall for food. A quick look at Chapter 5 will tell you that while America currently has 77,000 transit buses, it also has 620,000 school buses. Thus, the immediate answer becomes simple, let a lot of the kids walk to school like their great-grandfathers did — it’s good for them and there’s no longer much traffic on the streets anyway. Use the school buses to get more of us to work.

Buried in the many tables, however, is much serious data such as the energy consumed per passenger or ton or mile by cars and trucks versus buses and trains. It is information such as this that can help congressional and legislative committees develop programs and policies to get us through the impending crisis.

When it comes, peak oil will be one of the most memorable events of our lifetime. It behooves us all, from voter to President, to understand as much about the phenomenon as possible. Happy reading!


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