Monday, July 14, 2014
Fuels and crisis
Anyone paying any attention to what's going in the oil producing regions of the world has cause for alarm. We could wake up one day and discovered the Basra oil terminal on fire and mines blocking the Straights of Hormuz. It could literally happen overnight.
The world would not run out of oil, but there would suddenly be a lot less oil than people were using. The way the global economy regulates shortages is through price. Prices would get very high, very quickly.
Nations will go into crisis mode. The military will get all they need, even if everything else will be left wanting. Even emergencies services, Police, Fire, and EMS might not get enough. They depend on local governments to pay for their fuel and local governments are already fiscally stressed. Police might get fuel from the Federal Government but at the price of coming under Federal control.
Nations would be wise to do whatever it takes to keep the food system going. Nothing causing revolution more than missed meals. They may replace a lot of mechanized farming with forced human labor. That takes care of two problems: food production and idle people who might cause trouble.
Assuming that the economy is still functioning, if at a reduced level, people still have to get to work. They may continue to go to work in a big SUV, but there will be 10 people crammed into it instead of just one person. (12 once the effects of the high price of food thins us all down)
The thing that's going to almost completely disappear will be the recreational market. Travel will take a huge hit. ATVs, powerboats, motorhomes, and aircraft will sit idle, slowly decaying while waiting for fuel that they may never see again.
That's the fast scenario. There's been a lot of hype about biofuels and fracking, but all that activity hasn't lowered prices. Heroic efforts are only keep us running in place. Most people's incomes aren't rising so high fuel prices have an impact.
In the microcosm of the little lake I live on, I've noticed the lack of boat wakes. It's been a subtle shift. When I was a kid, there were so many big boats on the lake that I'd spend all afternoon wake surfing in my kayak. Water skiing was a big summer sport here. Now most of the boats on the lake are non-motorized. There are some good sized powerboats yet, but mostly they put around at less than hull speed, saving fuel. People have slowly adapted to higher fuel prices without even noticing.
Now I realize I live in a marginal area. There's always been a bet less wealth sloshing around these parts. By the time wealthier places have replaced powerboats with kayaks, my area will have abandoned lake cottages.
A fuel crisis can happen fast, like in a war zone, or it can creep up on us over time.