There’s no good substitute for liquid fuels for transportation.
Alternatives work fine for production of electricity. In my local area we already produce electricity from hydro, biomass, wind and even a tiny bit of solar power. I can imagine a gradual switch over to a mix of renewables to keep the lights on. Very little oil is used for electricity. The big power generator in the US is still coal.
Transportation is a problem. Electricity’s use in transportation is severely limited by the lack of good cheap high density storage -the batteries. It might be feasible for the commuter with a relatively short driving distance. We aren’t going to see electric tractor trailer trucks hauling produce from California to New England.
Expect that gasoline and diesel will be used where it’ll do the most good. Right now, tractor trailers do a huge part of the heavy lifting. However, rail is more efficient than roads. Water transport is better than rail. Wind powered water transportation would be even cheaper, if somewhat slower.
Expect everything to slow down a bit. If transportation fuel is $20/gallon, people are going to think very seriously before they go anywhere. There may still be big SUVs on the morning commute to work, but there will be 8 - 10 people crammed into it. There’s a lot of our lives that will be significantly different. The ability to live within walking distance to work will be a huge advantage. More food will be grown locally to shorten transportation distances, among other reasons.
How will you deal with huge price hikes in transportation fuels? No politicians or the media will talk about it, but it is coming. Even if we get a miracle breakthrough in transportation, it will take years to convert the infrastructure to accommodate it. When the world switched from wind to coal powered ships, it took about 40 years for the changeover.
The only reason we’ve been able to keep the wheels turning this long has been the desperate development of less than idea fuel sources: ethanol, tar sands, shale oil, and deep water drilling. Those efforts barely produce more energy than it takes to extract and process them. When it costs more energy to produce than you get out of it, it’s game over. Liquid fuel will suddenly become in short supply. Exporting nations might come to the logical conclusion to keep the oil for for their own country, never mind the world market. Thinking like that could crash supply.
Then $20/gallon would be a bargain. It could happen soon. A massive economic collapse could prevent the price hike, but we’d all have other problems by then. A person who can’t afford food won’t buy gasoline. Assuming they can keep the economy struggling along in some fashion, the hike in transportation costs will have to be dealt with.
Have you a plan? A bicycle? Good walking shoes? The ability to car pool? Public transportation? Enough stuff stored up so you only have to go to town on a monthly basis? I know I won’t be hauling a boat all the way from my home in New Hampshire to Florida. I could afford to drive the 120 miles or so the coast of Maine, then sail down to Florida. That would add a couple months to my winter vacation, but I could live with that.
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