Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cost of Oil

You may not have noticed, but a few weeks ago, I put an app on my blog ... down the page on the right hand side, just above the FreeRice logo. It shows the current price per barrel for crude oil and updates automatically as the price changes.

I'd forgotten about it, until I read Kunstler's post on Monday. The price of oil per barrel is $82 today, and it's been steadily increasing for a long time now ... just slowly creeping upward, and no one has really noticed.

I was thinking about that last night as we were driving home after I dropped off some work at my client's office. There was this woman driving a huge Ford truck with the license plate ARNY. She was having a pissing match with a little Hyundai. They played tag back and forth for a few miles, and then, suddenly, the truck swerved over and almost clipped the little Hyundai.

I thought, "WTF?!?" Is she seriously trying to run that little car off the road?? And in all of this traffic? And where in the hell does she think she is - on the set of the movie The Italian Job?

I'm thinking she's been watching too many of those cop dramas on the television.

I almost called the police, because those two cars weren't the only ones on the road, and despite what the movies portray, most serious car accidents are serious requiring some extensive rehab in the form of MONTHS, if not YEARS, medical treatments from surgery to physical therapy. If that truck had managed to hit the car, it would have caused a pretty extensive accident involving, at least, three other vehicles, including us, with me, Deus Ex Machina and our three, little girls crammed into the backseat.

All because the girl driving the car pissed off the woman driving the truck, and the rest of us, were just innocent bystanders. It was a frightening moment.

My thoughts turned rather black, and I realized that I couldn't wait until the price per gallon for gasoline tops $10. I actually said, out loud, that I couldn't wait until the price of gasoline increases to the point that that woman, with the ARNY license plate, is no longer driving, because she can't afford to keep her "hell on wheels" on the road.

I won't be sorry to see more of us walking.

I broke my car a few weeks back, and while it was being repaired, we only had one car. It wasn't difficult to make the transition. It did, however, take some cooperation between me and Deus Ex Machina. We had to coordinate our schedules, and we had to depend on each other. Imagine that? A married couple having to depend on each other and cooperate because we have only one car? In our society where every licensed driver has a car of his own, that's just crazy talk, right?

It's been a good experience, and I've realized that I actually like having only one car. In addition to all of the savings we would realize by not having to pay for things like gasoline, maintenance, registration and insurance on our second vehicle, only having one car introduces the opportunity for some real problem solving exercises.

Of course, with Deus Ex Machina working only six miles from our house, and most of our activities being close to home, as well, it's been an easy adjustment.

Even if that weren't the case, if Deus Ex Machina worked further away from home, for example, as someone commented on another blog not long ago, where there's a will, there's a way. If we really want a thing, we'll find a way to get it.

I really want a sustainable lifestyle, and we're getting there ... slowly ;).

What do you really want that seems impossible? But more than that, what impossible thing did you want, that you actually achieved?

We've been horribly spoiled in this country for a very long time, and now, the price of gasoline is on the rise again. We're still in the midst of some difficult financial times for a lot of people, and I've seen reports over the years that said there would be serious economic consequences if the price of crude topped $80 per barrel, which makes it seem like the increasing cost of crude oil is a bad thing.

But if it means that we slow down, and stop trying to run smaller cars off the road because we're in a rage; if it means that we can quit our soul-sucking jobs, because we have fewer things that we have to pay for; if it means that we are given the opportunity to actually stop and listen to the Earth song ... is that such a bad thing?

None of us may have cars on the road for much longer. I just hope when they start getting scrapped that I can find that Ford with the license plate ARNY, because I think it would make a nifty storage unit out in my yard ... provided it comes to me sans the driver ;).


  1. We only have one car. It's been that way for almost 6 years now. Ya, my man drives way too far to work (an hour and 50 minutes each day) and taking the bus would double it to 3 hours a day of commuting, which we're not willing to do. When my daughter was in school (now we homeschool) I walked her there and back every day. Now we take our walks to the grocery store a couple times a week and do most errands in the evening. Ya it's an adjustment, but I'm in better shape for it. It's crazy that people pay money to go stand on a treadmill when they could just walk to do their errands.

  2. Also, I've hoped for the price of oil to go up too. It'll be better for the environment and get those jerks off the road. Though they'll still be jerks.

  3. I completely agree - and every time I walk or ride my bike by the Curves fitness center, I kind of laugh thinking of all of the money and energy that is being wasted in an attempt to "get" some exercise ;). Too funny!

    I agree with you that those "jerks" will still be jerks, but at least they won't be trying to kill me with their big trucks :).

  4. Back in 1989 a barrel of crude was under $20. I was an Environmental Studies major then, and in our Energy class we had to write a 2 page paper answering the question: Will a barrel of crude oil ever exceed $20, why or why not?

    And, instead of using ARNY as a storage shed, why not turn it into a chicken coop? There's some satisfaction in that. Hee, hee.

  5. Cars are only a means of transportation, but people think of them as an extension of themselves. How twisted we've become.

    I agree that ARNY would make a good coop.

  6. Conny - you didn't say which way you argued ;). Chicken coop, eh? Not a bad idea ;).

    4 Bushel - I've noticed that, too, and we seem to have become a society that places value on people based on the car they drive. It's all very sad. I wonder how the *car* people will adapt when they don't have that *thing*.

  7. It would be nice to be only 6 miles from work, but I work in DC and and live about 13 miles from work. There is no good bike path or I'd try that - it's all busy road and there is the Wilson Bridge to worry about.

    I drive a 4WD quad cab truck, which has a couple of car seats in the back, and is our primary Bug out Vehicle (BoV). It is a tool to get us to were we need to be in TSHTF. I am not looking for the price of oil to rise, and you shouldn't either.

    While we (our family) can afford higher gas prices (at least currently), as we generally only go to work, home, and church (shop right next to work), when the cost of transportation goes up, prices for *everything* will go up, since we get almost everything by 18-wheeler. Too bad our rail system isn't what it used to be, in my Grandpa's day.

    At one time I lived in a location where I used only a bike to go to work. Was in great shape. Later, we lived in Hawaii; I walked to where I had to go, she used our (at that time) one vehicle. It was good.

    But when the price of oil goes up, it will not be good. The economy will suffer, jobs will be lost. Food will cost way more - more to produce, more to transport, more to prepare. It will eventually happen, but keep in mind the suffering that will occur during the adjustment. It's not something to be eager about.

    There are a lot of bad things in store for this country, and the world, as we're the economic engine.

  8. don'cha just love it when somebody gets off tellin' ya what ya SHOULD and SHOULDN'T do. I have a problem with that "survivalist". I have had a lot of people argue with me that peak oil made me a little bit crazy. Yeah, there will be some suffering. Get used to it. If you'd move now instead of maintaining a bug out vehicle, there might be less. Like Wendy, who is surviving where she is. We could be "thrivalists" instead of "survivalists". We could also look to bloom where we're planted and offer hope that, yes, one really can be happy with "less" (and maybe even that less is more). The economic engine needs to run down and be replaced with organic stasis. That isn't painful or scary, except to people accustomed to perpetual, fossil fueled growth.

    And I'd about bet those rails will come back. We might have to get by for a few years first.

  9. Suburban: I, actually, am hoping for gas prices to increase, and by a lot, too, because oil is an incredibly valuable resource with a great deal of potential, and right now, we're squandering it by trying to keep all of our cars on the road. I just think we have no idea what an amazing gift it is. More than HALF of the oil used in this country is for transportation - granted not all of it personal/individual, but a good deal of it. If we were just to take half of the POVs off the road, we could save a significant amount of the oil we have now for use by future generations, but the only way to compel people to take that extra vehicle off the road is for it to be too expesive to keep running it. As for the 18-wheelers, I'm a huge advocate for the "buy local" movement. The more stuff we get from local sources, the less we need trucks to deliver to us.

    CG: You're so funny! I hope the trains come back, too. I'd love for it to become a way of getting from here to there again ;).

  10. CG,
    I have a problem with people who make assumptions, like about whether or not I am trying to move now and what I “get off” on. Moving isn’t something that can happen instantly, especially in this economy.

    But wherever you are, a BoV is a good idea – a necessity for most, IMO. Bugging in is great if you can, but not planning for the possibility being forced to bug out is reckless. This could be for all sorts of disasters, not necessarily TEOTWAWKI. Everyone should (yep, should) have a bug out plan.

    “Yeah, there will be some suffering. Get used to it.”

    The “some” depends on what you think will happen, same topic of the post that came after this one – a fast or slow collapse.

    If there is a Kunstler-type slow decline, there will be “some suffering,” but Kunstler is probably wrong about the “organic stasis” following a slow decline. It’s more likely that the beginning of such a decline would (will) trigger a fast collapse.

    In the aftermath of an EMP attack, estimates are that 70-80% will die off, mostly starvation. I doubt an EMP attack will occur, but a full scale economic collapse probably would not be much better. I think the suffering will be beyond the scope of anything we’ve known, since the population is now so large and the vast majority lacks the skills for living low tech that just a few decades ago that might lessened the suffering to come.

    Looking at demographics, populations densities, and economics, I’d say unless there is a Black Swan-type miracle, a decline is certain, and a fast collapse soon thereafter.

    I’ve seen malnutrition first hand in couple third-world countries, and have gone w/o food for a week once on an adventure when I was younger, and want no part of that for myself or anyone else.

    Going back to “some suffering.” If you believe in the slow decline theory, “some suffering” doesn’t sound so callous. I don’t think the facts support a slow decline other than a trigger to a fast one. In that case “some suffering” sounds a lot different. I won’t presume to know which scenario you were speaking of.

    If you think it’s not going to be “painful or scary,” we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think it will both those, and very dangerous. No soft landing likely possible. Hoping fuel prices will rise in the interim won’t solve anything, but would probably cause a lot of needless suffering for a lot of people. Yeah, “get used to it.”

    As far as being happy with less and trains, preaching to the choir.

    Meanwhile, I’ll be adding an extra fuel tank to my 4WD and making no apologies for it. If TSHTF before I can move my family, I’ll have enough fuel on board to get to our “retreat.” Will that happen while I still have this truck? Or even in 10+ years? I don’t know, but I’m not a gambler and it’d be irresponsible of me not to at least plan for it.

  11. Wendy,
    While there is not enough oil around to still have cheap fuel, there is still a good bit left, just that it’s more difficult to get to. I don’t think we have enough time before a collapse to use it all (or all the easiest to extract) – it will be around for others. Canada’s tar sands come to mind, at least for North America.

    I also think even if we halved our use of oil it wouldn’t make much difference in the big picture – India and China are increasing their consumption greatly.

  12. Suburban - If I were where you are, I would have a really BIG BOV, because anywhere near Washington D.C. is not going to be a good place to be if something seriously catastrophic happens, and I don't disagree with your philosophy.

    But if I lived where CG lives, the thought of a BOV would not even be in my consciousness. She is already living where most of us would want to bug-out to and her lifestyle is already one of simple living and self-sufficiencty ;).

    I think when it comes to survivalism and preparedness that it really is a matter of perspective.

    CG is coming from a place of being already mostly self-sufficient, and so she will simply continue living her life as she has been.

    I'm coming from a place of knowing that there is an abundance of wild food around me and having enough knowledge of (and space for) gardening that I can supplement what we can not forage, and so we plan to hunker down.

    (From what I understand) you are coming from a place with a very dense population where tension is often high and (my understanding is that) you don't have much space for planting, and so your plan is to leave.

    I don't think that any one plan is *the* plan for everyone and it will really just depend on our individual situations.

    ... but I am still wishing for higher gas prices *grin* ;)

  13. Sure I need a BoV now, but will maintain one once I get to Nebraska (via moving or bugging out). Why? In any after-TSHTF scenario, local law enforcement and other authorities won't be around. Could be a wildfire coming your way and you need to evac ASAP, or maybe a flood (depending on your situation).

    But what is more likely would be a large group of looters coming to take what they want. If you live in an organized and well armed community, you'll have a better chance. If not, running might be the only way - most likely safer, but it depends. A couple of links; (also see the "JWR adds" at the end of the post)

    BoVs won't last forever and may not be practical, so we have so far one location to go to on foot if needs be - that would be desperate.

    That's why I say BoVs are a must for anyone, even a seemingly secure setup someplace in TN. With literally tens of millions of people leaving population centers heading to "the countryside," chances are at least some will find your place, especially east of the Mississippi River;

    I would suggest that thinking a rural location won't have those issues might lure one into a false sense of security.