Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 23, 2013
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
Of all the charts and graphs which can be pulled up off the net to demonstrate that the Peak Oil corner has been turned, none do it more effectively than the Total FSoA Gasoline Sales History chart published by the EIA at the top of this article.
Retail Gasoline sales to J6P essentially fell off a cliff beginning in 2005, actually well before the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and the implosion of the Subprime Mortgage Market, all today seen as watershed moments in the ongoing collapse of Industrial Civilization. Today in 2013, retail gasoline sales are 50%, HALF what they were at the Peak of Happy Motoring in 2005. That is roughly 8 years of time, an average rate of decline of around 6% per year. Assuming no other trend line changes, retail gasoline demand in 2021 would hit ZERO. This all while total population size (if you believe the stats) continues to INCREASE, which can only mean a lower per capita usage of energy through this period.
It may not take that long of course if the Dollar crashes, or it might take longer if some sort of “plateau” effect takes place as portions of the world economy are triaged off the Oil Jones, but there is no evidence to support the idea said demand will ever Rebound, or that if it did rebound that Gasoline could be produced in sufficient quantity at cheap enough price to supply that demand.
Oil production at all the main “Legacy” fields such as the North Slope here in Alaska is in decline, with the persistent Myth promulgated in the MSM that Horizontal Drilling and Fracking will produce enough to replace the lost production from the conventional Oil fields. If that were really true, the Oil companies would have been ramping up this production to keep the demand up and keep the game going, but the fact of the matter is that said companies are shutting down Refineries here and in Europe because the demand isn’t there to justify their existence. The only reason they can still show a “profit” is because the price is so high, and the few people with money/credit left are Bankrupting themselves to keep buying it. Eventually there won’t be enough of them left either to keep 1/2 the number of refineries open, at which point it shrinks again to 1/4. Then 1/8 etc until finally there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in to keep maintaining the roads and bridges, and Open Gas Stations can only be found in a few small Ringfenced local economies. No more Happy Motoring for ANYBODY after that, drive a few miles outside a Major Metro there will be no Open Gas Station around to fill up your Jag or Maserati, even if you are a Filthy Rich Pigman.
The other Myth promulgated is that besides Fracking producing enough liquid fuels to replace the lost production from fields like the North Slope and Ghanwar, Happy Motoring will transition off the ICE and move to EVs, battery powered vehicles running on Electricity. The problems with that idea are abundant, overall the battery technology is itself very dependent on fossil fuels for extraction and refinement of the Rare Earth Metals used in the more durable rechargeables, and the Electric Grid as it stands is decaying and having major issues with Demand Destruction as well. As more McMansions get abandoned because the ex-Suburbanites can’t pay the Mortgage, the revenue stream to the Local Power Company drops off the map. They keep cutting back on Staff, maintenance is deferred, breakdowns and blackouts become more common. What do you DO if you have driven your EV to the next county over to visit Granma and her Lights are OUT, so you can’t charge up the Prius to drive back home? Are you going to wait for the Solar PV Panel on the Roof of said Prius to recharge the batteries? Maybe with REALLY sunny days in a Week or Two the PV panels could generate enough electricity to get you halfway home.
It’s pretty obvious why there is so much Demand Destruction in Gasoline consumption now here in the FSoA, one only has to look at the UE figures and the size of the Employed workforce to see the reason for it. Although the BLS persistently massages the UE figures by dropping people off the stats, the actual number of working age people gainfully employed continues to drop, all while the total population continues to increase. Although we do use copious amounts of gasoline to drive around willy-nilly for no good reason, in REALITY the major use of the automobile is to get J6P to and fro his workplace in the Morning and Evening Rush Hour. The Billions of Gallons of Gas wasted by J6P sitting in Rush Hour Traffic Jams for the last 50 years here in the FSoA is impossible to calculate, but those gallons were a HUGE portion of the demand for Gasoline in the Car based economy developed here in the post-WWII era. Fewer people employed means fewer people driving to work, less gas consumed. Old Retired Boomers & Silents don’t usually consume that much gas, besides a few who cruise their Bugout Machines around the country to visit Grandkids. They mostly sit home these days and get into arguments on Internet Message Boards and Blogs like the Doomstead Diner. LOL. Consumptive still of Electricity, but it doesn’t use much Gas.
The effect is of course synergistic, since so much of the economy is based on people driving around willy-nilly, as fewer people do this, more jobs are lost. Now it’s not just Retired Silents hanging out at home getting into arguments on the Internet, UE GenXers and even Millenials are doing it too! Nobody has REASON to leave the house, they don’t have JOBS to go to! The only reason to leave is to go to Walmart to pick up Food for the Week, or even MONTH if you really wanna conserve on Gas usage. In most cases also, people are not SOOOO far from their local Walmart they can’t ride a bike pulling a trailer to pick up Groceries using their JPMC SNAP cards either. That crew represents near 50M people in the FSoA now, close to 15% of the whole population NOT using any gasoline at all!
Right beneath everyone’s NOSE, the effects of Peak Oil have been ongoing in earnest since 2005. Really of course they began long before that in the late 60s and 70s, evidenced by the Political Turmoil in those years as well as the Oil Embargos by OPEC, not to mention the closing of the Gold Window by Nixon in 1971 and the ever increasing Debt load taken on in the intervening years to mask the effects, at least here in the FSoA.
Now however since the problem has gone GLOBAL rather than LOCAL, the old tricks of Masking resource depletion with Debt Issuance is no longer working too well. There are no “Credit Worthy” customers anywhere on the whole GLOBE left now, and there are no SOLVENT Banks or Sovereigns left who can lend to anybody either! Anybody who thinks the Chinese or Germans are really solvent needs a wake up call, neither of them are. They just have positive account balances measured in debt other Insolvent countries “owe” them. Will the FSoA EVER pay back the $2T in USTs held by the Chinese? With WHAT? They don’t even need J6P as SLAVES, they got 1.3B of their own Slaves to Feed & Clothe here.
So inexorably and in rather RAPID time here we see the economic system collapsing in tandem with the Energy extraction and Distribuition system, which really TOOK OFF in the late 1800s with the development of the Railroads and then Standard Oil under the aegis of John D. Rockefeller. EVERYTHING in the Industrial Economy since that time was based on a seemingly ENDLESS supply of Cheap Energy in 1880, but what in fact was a quite LIMITED supply which enabled a huge Population EXPLOSION of Homo Sapiens, which just ended up CONSUMING said energy all that much faster. I remember reading as a 2nd Grader in Brasil out of a textbook that we had a “500 Year” supply of Oil, which perhaps we did at the population size and per capita consumption of the era, but the Exponential Function took care of that problem in 50 years. It is plain OBVIOUS as a Pimple on your Nose that we are running short on the Cheap Energy necessary to run the Industrial Lifestyle. Every last economy tied to this system is in some stage of Collapse now, barely 8 years since Gasoline demand started to Crater here in the FSoA. All due respect to John Michael Greer, that is NOT a “Slow Catabolic Collapse”, it is a fucking HEAD ON COLLISION with REALITY.
What can you DO about this problem? It is not going away here, and Goobermint cannot really solve the problem, at least on a Global Basis they can’t. Locally it may be solved for a while by the Big Ass Military stealing resources from some places to keep Happy Motoring going here in the FSoA for another day, week, month or year, but that strategy gets ever less effective all the time as the Costs for running such Wars grow ever Greater, while the resources captured are ever less productive. When the War Machine cannot feed ITSELF, it collapses on the Grand Scale and this is still a bit down the line, though perhaps not as far as some people believe.
The best you can do is to find others who understand these problems and who see the Writing on the Wall, and plan together with them a new Life in the Post Industrial Economy, such as it may evolve here in the future. Here on the Diner, this is what we DO on a daily basis as we hash out TEOTWAWKI. Such discussions formed the Genesis of our SUN Project, for Sustaining Universal Needs, and we invite all others to join with us as we plan for a BETTER TOMORROW. Only through Cooperation and Selflessness can anyone make it through the shitstorm coming down the pipe here. NOBODY will survive going it alone, not even up here in the Bush of Alaska, not in the Yukon Territory either. Such strategies only might preserve your life for a bit, they won’t resolve the problem of making the society of Homo Sapiens compatible with the rest of Life on Earth. It is up to us to remake ourselves to be in harmony with the Spaceship Earth, and to do this TOGETHER. That is what it MEANS to be a DINER ON SPACESHIP EARTH.
THIS IS ALL WE HAVE. WE MAKE IT WORK, OR WE GO THE WAY OF THE DINOSAUR.