Peak Oil is You

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Page added on July 28, 2014

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5 Industries Worried About Peak Oil


The debate over the impact of peak oil has been raging for decades. Although few deny that the end of mass oil consumption is drawing nearer, educated estimates now range between 2020 and 2030. But more important than the timeframe of peak oil are its consequences. Some seek to spell the end of life as we know it, so reliant is the world upon black gold. Others, equally extreme in their views, embrace the news, looking forward to a time when humanity will magically clean up its act. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Clean energy sources are making major advances as they become cheaper and easier to implement while almost all OEMs have launched lavish research programs into vehicles powered by other means. But the consequences of peak oil are not to be underestimated. Society would undergo a difficult time, given the sheer spread of oil on our culture. Doomsday predictions of civilization having to survive without electricity, or planes being grounded are one thing, but petroleum is a heavy component of many more industries than that.


Industrialized agriculture is a massive consumer of oil, for irrigation, for motorized transport, and for something far more important. It is well-known that the use of fertilizer unlocked the potential of mass agriculture, allowing for the feeding of billions and virtually wiping out starvation and malnutrition in the developed world. Fertilizer may only account for 20% of energy use but it is arguably agriculture’s most important component, after water. The most common chemical mixture for fertilizers, known as the Haber-Bosch, mixes nitrogen with hydrogen to form ammonia, with the hydrogen mostly being extracted from oil. This would seem to indicate the end for such fertilizers once oil resources begin to run out. Thankfully, there is an ongoing debate about how bad this would be. Fertilizer composition has shifted toward using natural gas, with methane used instead of hydrogen. Until we run out of natural gas, it would seem that although we might not be able to drive to McDonald’s, we’ll still be able to make the burgers.


In 2011, 2.7% of total petroleum consumption in the U.S. went into the making of plastics. However, this represented liquid petroleum gases and natural gas liquids since the U.S. no longer makes use of crude oil for plastics manufacturing. The same is not true in other countries where oil and gas alike are used for the fabrication of “nurdles”, made out of polystyrene. These small pellets are a form of pre-production plastic that are made in their millions (27 million made in the U.S. annually alone) before being carted off to numerous factories for molding into plastic parts. Daily objects made from nurdles include plastic bottles, jars, cling film, and food containers. While environmentalists have advocated the end of nurdles and of oil use in plastic making, due to the environmental damage this can cause, another reason is that 3 to 4 percent of global oil production goes into plastics manufacturing.


10% of crude oil is refined to provide raw materials for the chemical industries, but this helps to mask the staggering importance of our beloved crude to industries we rely on every day. A full 80% of raw materials for cosmetics come from petroleum, including the majority of components for all waxes, perfumes, dyes, shaving creams, shampoos and conditioners. If you are among those who prefer the “au naturel” look, you’re still in trouble after oil peaks. Glycerin, an important petrochemical byproduct, is a vital component to the manufacturing of laundry and washing-up detergents.


The days of smearing crude oil directly onto wounds to heal them is thankfully long gone. However, from war veterans seeking a replacement limb to young children who run with scissors, crude oil still helps. Bandages and artificial arms and legs alike, as well as glasses and heart valves, are made from petroleum-derived products. The use of crude oil as a feedstock for pharmaceuticals makes companies stand out like Bayer and Pfizer major oil consumers. Furthermore, healthcare is doubly at risk, given its massive use of plastics for packaging, surgical materials and other uses. In 2010 alone, 3.4 billion pounds of plastics were used in the healthcare industry, meaning that an oil shortage would hit doctors and patients alike very hard.


Remember 123 words ago when we told you the days of smearing crude oil on wounds was gone. Well, not quite. Amusingly, for all the anti-oil campaigning that comes from the left, practitioners of homeopathy still distill petroleum and claim that it can help cure anything from migraines to eczema. Apparently, the distillation of crude petroleum and sulfuric acid blended together can be a powerful remedy for psoriasis when spread over sores or to help settle an upset stomach. While evidence of this is purely circumstantial, perhaps the oil industry would be surprised to find unlikely defenders coming to its aid.

By. Chris Dalby for

9 Comments on "5 Industries Worried About Peak Oil"

  1. Davy on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 6:02 am 

    If you are in an energy intensive industry of any kind that is not essential I would be worried. Leisure, consumerisms (malls), car fun, mass higher education, and travel (even non-leisure). If you are in the finance industry that industry must shrink 50% or more. Plenty of job skills needed with the old fashion skills and activities. If you are a doctor try home visits. The list is long and varied but you get the point highly energy intensive activities and non-essentials are dated except for the rich and connected who we know will remain but in an ever declining share of the population. Fortunes will be lost quickly when the market drops, whole industries will go bankrupt, and people will make bad decisions.

  2. Makati1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 7:59 am 

    “…The truth is somewhere in the middle…”

    Sorry, the author is still being too optimistic. The future will be determined more by climate change than lack of oil. At this point all facts seem to point toward human extinction in the next 100 years. We are NOT going to do an about face and make the sacrifice to save the species. It’s not in our genes.

  3. paulo1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 8:26 am 

    This is valuable time to prep….pure and simple. While the effects will be terrible, individuals can still help their with their landing.

    The last few days I have forwarded Ron’s latest post to a few friends who I exchange economic articles with. I mulled over sending this one on but have decided not to bother. Their paradigm is such that any suggestion of a well supported retirement ala BAU is simply, “that nutter Paul sent another article”. With my kids and I simply don’t want to make them fearful as they establish their lives, plus they live realistically.

    2020-2030 is simply not that far off. Certainly climate change is the big looming boogie man, but wide spread catastrophes are unlikely to appear before PO sets in. Droughts, wildfires, flooding etc are still somewhat localized events. Certainly the western US drought looms large and is affecting food prices, but NA consumers can hunker down and change eating habits substituting realistic options to suit pocket book.

    I think the biggest effect will be when the story of PO is more than some kind of demonized theory…when CNBC actually admits to it. When that happens Look Out!! People will go nuts, well those with a brain will go nuts.


  4. Davy on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 9:01 am 

    Paulo, good point about CNBC and how will they introduce PO reality to the GP. Will it be subtle and with a “make a buck” spin “bad news is good news” or a spin that is “we are in deep doodoo run for the hills herd of investors.” I suspect it will be like advice that was given at the bar on the Titanic after the first jolt then latter the tilt, and finally the ice cold water at their feet with a 45% angle of tilt.

    I also have avoided sending doomer and prepper news because of its unsettling nature on the cornies and optoe’s. They may have a point “gather the rosebuds while the may” said some poet years ago. Also ignorance is bliss until it ain’t>

  5. Kenz300 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 9:16 am 

    Renewables Provide 56 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half of 2014


    The world has begun its transition to safer, cleaner and cheaper alternative energy sources.

    Electric, flex fuel, biofuel, CNG and LNG vehicles are now becoming common and are competing with oil fueled vehicles for market share.

    Second generation biofuels and chemicals can now be made from waste or trash. Every landfill can be converted to produce energy, biofuels and recycled raw materials for new products.

    There are a lot of landfills around the world that can provide LOCAL energy and LOCAL jobs.

  6. M1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 12:34 pm 

    Renewables Provide 56 Percent of –NEW– US Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half of 2014

    We’ve got a long way to go, and Republicans don’t have the “Round Objects” to do what needs to be done.

  7. M1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 12:37 pm 

    When Exxon’s Tillerson build his first 1 Gig of Solar Farm, THEN I’ll believe we Might have a chance of survival.

    Otherwise, they’re still using the model of the Cig industry, KILL YOU OFF for 30 Years of Profit.

  8. Dave Thompson on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 4:15 pm 

    Energy inputs + or – = Economy.

  9. Makati1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 7:13 pm 

    Paulo1, yes, PO is already happening, but it will not kill off the human species. Climate change will, along with most of the ecology. Then there is the good chance of a nuclear exchange that will hurry the end. We shall see.

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