If we are at or near peak oil, or have already passed it.
What we should do, and very soon is take steps to reduce our energy requirements and reliance on fossil fuels. Maybe if petrol and diesel prices were increased to two or three times what they are now, and only public transport, hauliers and farmers got it at current prices a lot of vehicles would be removed from the roads. More people would use public transport, the price of which would have to come down drastically.
New vehicles should focus on using more miles per gallon, and development of hybrids if it can reduce costs, and emissions would be a benefit. I’m not saying I would like this to happen, but if we are approaching peak oil then drastic measures will either be taken willingly or we do risk running out of fuel and society grinding to a halt.
Likewise aviation fuel should be doubled or tripled, even if it means the budget airlines go out of business, we may all have to get used to the idea of taking our holidays at home again.
Any imported food that can be grown here should be taxed so heavily that importing is uneconomical, likewise any manufactured goods.
The global economy can only ensure that usage of remaining fossil fuels will increase. It may be cheaper to produce goods in China, but the fuel used in shipping should be considered much more than it is, really fuel is far too cheap!
We should be looking to grow and manufacture as much as we possibly can, and all countries should do likewise, if the fuel really does run out, we will have no option.
Governments should offer grants to every household to install solar panels, water harvesting systems, energy saving devices and everyone should be compelled (and assisted) in fully insulating their homes, including double glazing. If everyone’s gas and electricity bills increased ten fold, almost everyone would look to save energy in any way they could. If we can delay the onset of the peak oil impact by 30 or 40 years, and invest in R&D we might just be able to develop a viable alternative of renewable energy.
It should be obvious that a complete overhaul of the money system is mandatory to avoid the earlier mentioned Malthusian catastrophe; the infinite growth paradigm cannot be sustained. If we abolished worldwide debt and banned interest bearing fiat money, compound interest and fractional reserve banking, and either taxed or banned derivative and hedging, we could abolish most tax and people could afford to pay more for fuel and thus preserve whatever we have left.
If a gallon of petrol can do 200 man hours of work, and that man is paid £5 an hour that would value petrol at £1,000 a gallon, and that is less than the minimum wage!
What would happen if the oil does run out?
If peak oil is reached, or exceeded, we would not be told, so it may already have been reached for all we know. The first signs would be large and rapid increases in crude oil prices, followed by corresponding increases at the pumps. We would also see increases in our energy bills, but that is happening anyway so may not be too noticeable, additionally Oil is not used in power production to the same extent as gas and coal. Eventually, as pump prices continue to rise, more and more people would start selling their cars and we would see more shortages at the petrol stations, as less and less deliveries are made. Petrol stations would start closing down when they no longer receive deliveries and fights would likely break out in queues at remaining stations. Some people aware of what was happening might try to stockpile petrol or diesel at home, so sale to people with canisters would probably be banned.
The price of fuel would continue to rise and the government would probably announce a supply issue, due to conflicts in the Middle East. Public transport prices would continue to rise, but more and more people would find them more economical than running their own vehicle, car sharing (and charging) would become more popular.
Road haulage companies would start going out of business and air fares would increase dramatically, many airlines, not just budget airlines also going bust or abandoning many of their routes.
All consumer goods would increase in price as the hauliers raise their prices in a desperate bid to stay in business.
At some point the world financial markets would crash, creating a massive worldwide recession with thousands of businesses going bust and perhaps millions being made redundant. Probably at some point, the government would announce that fuel will be withdrawn from sale to the public to preserve stocks, which will cause riots, looting and fighting.
All public transport would eventually grind to a halt as the government stockpile all remaining supplies for themselves and the military. A national emergency will be called, especially as shops and supermarket deliveries reduce and possibly stop and food supplies start to dwindle and disappear.
Armed police and troops will try to maintain order as society slowly but surely falls apart and anarchy replaces any semblance of order. Eventually all attempts at containing the issue will fail, the power stations will stop operating, water treatment and pumping will stop and it would become every man for himself, at this point it might be useful to have a gun and lots of bullets.
That is roughly how a Malthusian catastrophe would play out, and that’s just in this Country. Nations would wage war against each other to take control of all remaining oil supplies, the danger of nuclear weapons would re-emerge as those with nukes would use their threat of use to stop their supplies being taken, and some would use them. So called “backward” nations away from likely conflict areas would possibly fare better, if they had no oil of their own, and if their society was not oil dependent.
Cities would become war zones and rural areas would have to fight to keep what they had. Knowing how to grow your own food, purify water and keep yourself warm will be no good if you can’t protect what you have, someone would try and take it from you.
To avoid, or at least stall this scenario, the government, and other nations governments should start investing in public transport and reducing the cost of using it, at the same time increasing prices at the pumps, encouraging as many people as possible to switch to using public transport.
Companies and public departments should encourage as many people as possible to work from home, and be encouraged and financially rewarded for doing so. Most meetings should be via videoconference to cut down on commuting, especially internationally.
International flights should become more prohibitively expensive, especially long haul and holiday destinations. All governments will need to become more isolationist and nationalistic, trading should be restricted as much as possible to geographic neighbours, globalisation does nothing to preserve resources.
All international trade should be restricted to items that cannot be grown or produced locally, and all but essential imports should be subject to huge duty. Our current lifestyles cannot be maintained indefinitely, only as long as the oil lasts. We need to re-establish our manufacturing base, encourage crafts and self-sufficiency, recycle as much as we can and re-learn some of the old skills.
We know our governments are not going to do any of these things, so if we are at near peak oil, we may have a few years left to enjoy what we have, and possibly prepare for the forthcoming collapse.