As human civilization struggles with ever increasing energy costs related to oil, people will have to become more and more responsible in their choice of lifestyles and locales in order to maintain a decent standard of living.
Transportation consumes over 60% of the global oil supply and transportation is over 90% reliant on gas and oil products for it’s energy. To say oil is important is an understatement. The way things are now, it is absolutely vital. M. King Hubbert’s idea of peak oil in the US was proved to be right years after the fact. He predicted that our non-renewable supply of crude would peak globally in the 90’s. This proved to be a little off however his prediction may finally be coming true.
You can find a good primer on peak oil here http://www.energybulletin.net/primer.php.
I won’t spend any more time explaining it except to say that by definition oil is non-renewable and there seems to be a broad consensus among people that a peak will happen and the only question is when. I would also recommend watching the documentary ‘The End of Suburbia’ for more info.
Since 1999 , oil has risen from just under $20 a barrel to about $110 today with real sign of slowing down. The world’s developed nations have soaked up these increases with little change to consumption patterns while poorer countries have suffered a fair deal with food riots now starting to show up in some countries. It’s obvious that we face an uncertain future.
Adding to the uncertainty are the projected growth rates for future consumption as well as the lack of new oil discoveries. Exporters are becoming more wary about selling off their future income stream so easily when old fields are maturing and not producing as much.
If people are to turn things around and truly have a peaceful and sustainable world it will require a colossal effort. Economic restructuring is inevitable and many industries that we rely on now will be downsized to cope with the new economic realities. One example is the airline industry which is already floundering under the weight of the newfound high price of oil. What happens to this industry when oil doubles again in price? Will airline travel become a accessible to only the very well off?
For the average person, they will see increasing inflation especially with food and energy. These strains on people’s expected standard of living are not to be underestimated. People will be more and more pressured to live closer to work and find their own alternate modes of transportation as public transit systems become overwhelmed by demand by the coming spikes in price.
The mainstream media has been largely keeping this story on the back burner letting it simmer avoiding talk of peak oil in general while Wall Street predicts prices will drop.
Time as always will tell whether or not we have passed the oil heyday in physical terms and whether or not business as usual will continue.