PER CAPITA OIL

The key to understanding the end of the Industrial Age

Please read and personally forward through your contacts on cyberspace and social media the following facts, numbers, and science. This is the untold, non-political context for most of the world's growing ills and chaos. Your added personal energy is critical.

Linked References: Book (available from Amazon) The End of Fossil Energy including selected web sites, Bibliography, Appendix A, Power Point Summary, "Winter in Maine".

FOCUS ON OIL AS FUNDAMENTAL TO MODERN SOCIETY

See linked Appendix A, and Book Power Point Summary Figures 2, 4, 10: oil is a finite resource. The world has already used 1.2 trillion barrels from an estimated ultimate recoverable resource (URR) of 2.4 trillion barrels, with half of that in the last 25 years at the rate of one billion barrels every eleven days. We are at, or near the midpoint of the two-lifetime, oil-fueled Industrial Age.

AMERICANS ARE THE NUMBER ONE OIL CONSUMERS

  • The U.S. with 1/25 of the world population uses 1/4 of world's oil.
  • World total oil use: 32 billion barrels per year
  • U.S. total oil use: 7 billion barrels per year

Of that 7 billion barrels, almost one half (3.2 billion barrels), is consumed just as gasoline to drive over three trillion miles per year. Most of the other half is for diesel fuel, jet fuel and heating oil as the basis for support of the energy-intensive, ubiquitous, mobile, American lifestyle. Americans use as much oil just for gasoline as China's or Western Europe's total oil consumption.

HOW MUCH TIME DO WE HAVE LEFT

See Power Point Summary Figure 9: at the present rate, and assuming world-wide consumers can afford higher-priced remaining oil, there are less than 40 years left in the world oil-age at the annual rate of 32 billion barrels (1.2 trillion barrels divided by 32 equals 37.5 years).

Based on the very optimistic assumption of 50 billion barrels left in the U.S. at an acceptable price, there are 7 years left of business as usual if only U.S. oil is used (50 billion barrels divided by 7 equals 7.1 years). If one half of U.S. oil is imported as is presently the case, there are 15 years left (50 billion barrels divided by 3.5 equals 14.3 years). To extend the U.S. oil age would require a higher percentage of imported oil. Note: In January 2017, the American Petroleum Institute would like us to believe we have so much U.S. oil we can "become an exporter of crude oil" (USA Today, January 13, 2017).

USING "PER CAPITA OIL" TO HELP US UNDERSTAND

Power Point Summary Figure 3 is another way of understanding the numbers as per-person consumption (per capita). Americans are burning oil at a per capita rate of 22 barrels per person per year (b/p/y). In sharp contrast, the average world per capita oil consumption (not including U.S.) is 3 b/p/y. A staggering half of the U.S. 22 b/p/y is just for gasoline (11 b/p/y). This is the same per capita rate as in industrialized Western Europe for all of their oil consumption which has been kept in check for years by very high gasoline taxes and small fuel-efficient cars.

LOWER PRICES AND GROWING U.S. DEBT EQUALS LESS DEMAND

How can this be? For years, conventional wisdom taught us that the decline of the oil age would be signaled by higher oil cost. Further thought argues against this theory. In the past, as long as there was enough wealth and purchasing power in the U.S. economy to support ever-more expensive extraction technology (horizontal fracking, tar sands, deep off-shore, polar, etc.), the rate of increased production was supported by a steady price increase.

Then, in the next ten years following 2005, when oil approached $100 per barrel and gasoline reached $4 per gallon, the average family of four spent $8,800 (22 b/p/y times $100) annually to fuel their petroleum-based lifestyle. A low income family trying to survive on minimum wage or social security could not afford the $8800 cost so gasoline demand, by a growing pool of poorer, increasingly indebted Americans, decreased (called demand destruction). This contributed to growing wealth disparity as wealthier Americans continued to consume more of everything.

In the same time period, Chinese imports continued to increase thus contributing to their economic growth but made by cheap labor living on a per capita oil consumption of 2 b/p/y.

This precarious world-balance between oil supply and demand continued until 2014 when the Saudi government tired of losing market share to the new, increasingly expensive, non-conventional sources. This, combined with growing economic woes from other world oil suppliers like Russia, triggered a reduction in world production. Marginal, non-conventional U.S. suppliers, along with oil-field service companies, were highly leveraged. Many ceased production and/or went bankrupt while waiting for a quick price recovery. The result was a sharp decline in extraction and a drop in price to the $40 per barrel range.

Classical economics would predict a concurrent rebound in demand, but the largest world oil-consumer bloc, the indebted American motorist, did not quickly respond thus keeping price and production at low level. Now, as we move into 2017, oil is moving back toward the $60 range. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword because the price of gasoline will climb back above to $3 per gallon thus forcing highly-indebted American motorists to end a temporary resurgence of prosperity in order to redirect their meager income back to gasoline and away from other discretionary sectors of the economy (see Figure 12 in the Power Point Summary).

In the spring of 2017, when Americans hit the road again, the new administration will be faced with the irreconcilable tension between the higher cost from a reinvigorated oil industry and the public's growing inability to afford gasoline. The economy will take a new hit as the cost of 400 million gallons per day at $3 per gallon (1.2 billion dollars) takes priority in spending habits.

U.S. GASOLINE RATIONING, SO ALL AMERICANS WILL EQUITABLY SHARE MITIGATION OF THE END OF THE OIL

Figure 14 in the Power Point Summary outlines a plan and lists the positives for a controlled, nation-wide reduction in gasoline demand by the number 1 consumer bloc in the world. Americans will eventually be forced by waning supply to reduce oil consumption to the world average of 3 b/p/y whether they like it or not. Rationing would anticipate this inevitability and help smooth the transition. Figures 13, 14, and 15 show the details along with the reduction in CO2 emissions to be expected from fifty-percent gasoline rationing.

POPULATION GROWTH, THE DENOMINATOR IN PER CAPITA OIL

Meanwhile, world (including U.S.) population increases inexorably as shown in Figure 7 of the Power Point. This is a looming tragedy of historically unprecedented magnitude. Nowhere-near adequate food will be possible without the inexpensive oil which made it possible for one individual farmer to grow and ship food thousands of miles to an average of three hundred consumers. Chapter 6 in the linked book, The End of Fossil Energy defines the math of "population momentum", and why a fertility rate of zero children per female would be necessary for population to decline in synch with declining oil.

OTHER SUBJECTS DIRECTLY RELATED TO OIL

Climate Change is a very real but much longer-range concern. Without cheap oil there will be a decline of all fossil fuels including coal, and therefore less green-house gas emissions. Many parts of the world will have an altered, but not life-threatening, climate. Figure 15 in the Power Point shows sources of the present world CO2 emissions, most of which are from burning eight billion tons of coal globally, with one-half of that in smoggy China.

Renewable Energy cannot possibly replace the concentrated energy of fossil fuels which took millions of years to accumulate. Figure 10 in the Power Point Summary shows dilute incoming solar energy as only one-percent of total present consumption. Any increase in solar energy, including wind, would require massive oil support and financial investment plus time, much longer than remains in the oil age. All solar energy is weak and sporadic thus requiring substantial storage, the "Achille's Heel" of all energy sources. Hydro is maxed-out because of required land mass and topography. Nuclear is limited by safety, fuel supply, and long-term expensive investment. In addition, renewables provide only electricity which will not fuel our transportation needs without massive investments of capital, finite fossil-energy, and time. Battery recycling is impossible without oil. Air travel and commercial diesel requirements cannot possibly be met with electricity from renewables. Biofuels require massive inputs of fossil fuels, compete with food, and do not return nutrients and energy (like "humanure") to their origin.

Interest-driven investment is a questionable economic concept in the face of declining growth. Nothing of substance grows without energy. The end of cheap oil will begin the decline of all energy sources and infers that interest returned on principal is an illusion of monetary growth without commensurate, real, energy-driven, economic growth.

Alternative transportation proposals are unrealistic because there is no energy source including biofuels remotely close to oil that can support the liquid-fueled mobility we take for granted. Nor is there the wealth and time to support such a transition. Only oil can provide the unique energy source we take for granted as we take the energy supply on-board along with us as we travel. Air travel and personal motorized transportation only work because of the unique energy intensity of oil-derived fuels. In some places, electrified third rail public transportation may revive. But this will take time and investment. It is totally incompatible with the post WWII, gasoline-fueled exodus to the suburbs.

On-line shopping, daily mail delivery, and all forms of ubiquitous personal service depend on profligate oil consumption that cannot continue without cheap oil.

Infrastructure repair is a popular concept but is entirely dependent on energy, specifically the need for oil at less than $10 per barrel as was the case when the infrastructure was originally built.

Building construction and maintenance are totally dependent on inexpensive oil. Although not as urgent as food and transportation energy, both private and public buildings require energy, specifically oil, to provide the shelter we need and expect. Already, buildings in the poorer parts of the country are neglected as discretionary spending and taxes take lower priority to gasoline and growing trillions of dollars of consumer debt. In some parts of the country heating oil will no longer be an option. As the price of oil climbs, the cost to keep warm is added to gasoline for mobility. Both are examples of rapidly burning-through our most precious finite resource. We cannot revert to firewood (where available) without fuel for the chainsaw, skidder, or delivery truck.

Public services we took for granted in the past low-cost energy age will come under increased pressure. From local law enforcement to national security, we expect the protection of an oil-fueled civil society. Readily available hospital care and out-patient medical services are further examples of energy-intensive needs that depend on inexpensive oil. Public water and sewage disposal systems require readily available gasoline and diesel for maintenance and supply. Schools need liquid fuels for student transportation, teacher mobility, and building heat. A world wide air delivery postal service cannot return to the pony express and sailing vessels. Fire protection and first responder response absolutely run on gasoline and diesel fuel. The list goes on and on. Shouldn't we be saving our remaining oil for these civil necessities? Our society has grown and is totally dependent on liquid, but finite, fossil fuels. As previous President Bush said, "We are addicted to oil."

Welfare and entitlements cannot be provided without the underlying support of a growing population supported, as in the past, with abundant energy. Social Security, Medicare, and Disability Insurance are examples of the ubiquitous, comfortable safety nets we've come to expect in the oil age and continuing economic growth. As our population grows older, almost every health need will compete with the cost of oil just as it becomes less available and more expensive.

Transition towns and other proposals for local, self-sufficient economies cannot provide the basic industrial-age goods we expect from a vast capital-intensive integrated economy. Small details like disposable batteries, light bulbs, computers, solar-energy components, paper products, rechargeable batteries, and recycling all depend on fossil fuels for manufacture and shipping. In addition, small close-knit societies must respect the mathematical laws of inexorable population growth.

Recreational oil use is especially problematic. From powering a snowmobile to mass travel to a major sporting event, the oil we consume now will not be there for survival in the post-oil age. The fuel used for an internal combustion race of any type leaves less for growing food in the future.

Fighting mother nature consumes prodigious amounts of liquid fossil fuels. Every time there's a tornado, hurricane or snowstorm we expend prodigious quantities of liquid fuels to respond. The linked essay: "Winter in Maine" describes the annual battle in rural New England to keep us going, including ten gallons of diesel fuel per mile to plow snow. Will we even need to plow snow with no fuel for our cars?

Oil to support other energy sources. Coal cannot be mined and delivered without oil. Natural gas access and pipelines are directly dependent on oil. Nuclear plants and hydroelectric plants cannot be built and maintained without the oil necessary for a diesel-powered support system.

Oil to support other non-energy resources. All other finite resources we take for granted like steel, aluminum, and fertilizers, will decline despite a growing population. Notwithstanding less oil available for mining, there will be less available for future needs. The book, Scarcity, in the linked bibliography, describes this growing challenge in quantified detail.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

Clearly, we are a world-wide industrialized society that has grown in population and complexity only because of, and in lock-step with, the availability of cheap oil. One would think that human brains capable of inventing space travel and microchips would recognize the magnitude of the cliff we are now facing at the looming end of the oil age. Americans living on ten times the per capita oil as the world average have ten times farther to fall.

Many will argue that the resurgence in U.S. oil extraction and the lower price of oil is proof that the long-term reality of oil depletion will not happen. This narrative is especially dangerous because it encourages avoidance of the dire facts and changes we must make.

But all is not hopeless. First, the public needs to know the numbers and total story, hence the need for this web site to be forwarded in every and any way possible, by you! There is a desperate need for a focused, honest, apolitical leadership to tell truth. Arguably, in times of pending crisis, only a heroic autocratic figure could lead and teach why we must all expect gasoline rationing as a first step to mitigation. When urgent action is required, cumbersome, traditional forms of governance like a Democracy, Socialism, a political party system, or Communism cannot respond, especially if there is the tendency for every societal member to grab whatever possible for personal survival and perpetuation of a past energy-intensive lifestyle. When declining resources are overwhelmed by increasing demand, especially with ethnic or wealth disparity, survival trumps peaceful group response: "too many forks in a shrinking pie".

Contact: see earlier website: solarcarandtractor.com