Squilliam wrote:A 10% fall in oil production means that 90% of oil production is still available -- not a disaster by any means. It just means that less will be wasted, or alternatives will be sought to substitute. Then prices rise, and more supply will be bought online, albeit lower quality. Trains, buses, trams, bikes, electric cars, feet, motorbikes are all substitutes for cars.
Given the fact that oil makes up what? 40%? Of total U.S. energy consumption, and a 10% fall would of that would mean total energy consumption would be down by 4%. It isn't what you'd call a 'deadly blow'. That represents what would be a severe peaking of oil supply too.
This is a point that has been made by many people around these parts many times, and yet the true believers insist it will be the end of the world as we know it.
Guess what, the end of the world as we know it does not equal the end of civilization, or the end of the whole world, or mass extinction of humanity. It just means change and as much as i dislike change I am well aware change is part of modern life.
For example in 1980 an 'office computer' meant either a mainframe that was shared by all the employees of the company or at best a 'minicomputer' the size of a refrigerator that was for the CEO/Board of Directors members that was able to independently work but which was also connected to the company mainframe for networking. By 1990 that style of computing that had been born in the 1950's and prospered for 3 decades was effectively dead, replaced by desk top personal computers each with about 20 Mb of disk memory, networked together with a server of some form or fashion.
Or take telephones. A landline telephone became common in the 1920's and dominated personal communication for the next 70 years. Then one day the FCC decided to restructure radio frequency allocations in the USA. Within 5 years of that decision pagers became all the rage in the younger crowd, you could be anywhere and get a page with a short message and phone number to call back. Just a couple years after that the big telecom companies figured out they could use the pager towers for cell phone service and analog bag phones appeared. Five years after that a flip phone about the size of a landline hand set appeared, which was light enough and convenient enough to be very popular. A couple more years and digital radio encryption cut the power demands so far down that the handset size phone was replaced with a palm size phone, and Apple decided to make it as useful as the palmpilot and other PDA electronics. Now smart cell phones are the majority of phones in the USA and the payphone has almost completely disappeared from our culture in the USA. Of course this comes with a cost, disaster after disaster has demonstrated that landlines continue to function long after cell service ceases. Yet because the media is all about selling the latest and greatest technology landline phones are becoming rare in private homes. Businesses still have them because they are in a fixed location and they work cheap and well for customer communication, but for personal use nearly all the landlines remaining are in homes of older members of the population.
Back in 2005 when Oil prices were steadily increasing a number of institutions did exactly what Sqwilliam predicts above, they substituted other forms of energy. Specifically it made a splace when several public schools in the midwest switched from oil fired boilers to cheap fuel coal fired boilers for their heat and/or power supplies on campus. The modern coal burners are very clean and efficient compared to the ones that were replaced with fuel oil back in the 1960's that had by 2005 long since passed their replacement age. In fact in many cases they were much more energy efficient than the old fuel oil burners they were replacing in 2005-2008. Here is the thing, if you are not located on the natural gas network you have a limited range of portable fuels to choose from for your needs, you can use fuel oil from a large tank, you can use propane from a large tank, or you can use coal that gets dumped in a large pile. Before Fracking took off in 2008 for Natural Gas and its liquids like Propane coal was by far the cheapest of the three options. Now today Propane has spiked up and down based on international demand because life any petroleum product there was never a restriction on exports so it was always in competition with international demand. If you want a deliverable fuel that is stable in price Coal is still financially the winning proposition. Fortunately or otherwise the Obama Administration did everything it could to discourage coal use domestically so the switch to coal which began in 2005 ground to a rapid halt in early 2009. It remains to be seen if the Trump Administration will encourage domestic coal consumption, but given the size of the coal lobby I suspect it is likely. If that turns out to be true we may see domestic coal consumption in the USA resume its growth as it was doing in the 2005-08 period when oil prices were first rising as oil demand grew rapidly internationally.
Why does any of this matter? Simple, if you take away the propane and fuel oil through price rationing for locations not on the natural gas pipeline network coal becomes the obvious energy source. Without active discouragement from the government economics become the driving force of decision makers on the state, local and individual level. To be perfectly frank and earnest if I could heat my home for half the expense of natural gas by burning coal I would switch today. Personal need out trumps my belief in AGW, plus I believe we have already passed the point of no return on AGW so why should I go broke to burn methane when China, India, Russia and Germany are all burning coal like there is no tomorrow?