I've noticed in recent years an alarming trend to needing ever increasing power in the engines we use in our lives. Even the entry level econo box car is now coming out with horsepower ratings well over 100. Lawnmowers are now available that have more horsepower than the first car I owned. I've even seen relatively small power boats with twin 250 horsepower motors on the back. My wife drives an automobile that cranks out 265 horsepower! And it's considered a small car.
So what is driving the marketplace to demand this need for more power? It seems an odd paradox in this time of global warming and oil production apparently at its peak and set to only decline as time goes on. Consumers here in North America appear to be oblivious to these concerns or are at least confident in technology being able to overcome these hurdles and save us from ourselves and our bad choices. I certainly hope that turns out to be the case. If not then we could end up in a sorry state with little oil and a world that is several degrees warmer than it is today.
I can't imagine that oil is going to remain trading at levels below $100 a barrel for very much longer. As the economy recovers, and it will, the demands for oil in particular from the emerging economies of China and India will likely drive the price higher than ever before. If it were possible to significantly increase the supply then prices would have a chance to rationalize to the demand but that is not the case. If we have actually reached the point of peak oil production as is widely accepted then the demand will quickly begin to outpace the supply which can only result in oil prices rocketing skyward.
This inevitable price increase will effect us all in many ways not just when we fill up our cars with gasoline. Oil is imported for so many more reasons than just transportation. Petroleum is used in plastics, fertilizers, drugs, detergents, asphalt, synthetic rubber, paint, pesticides and other applications too numerous to list. The cost of producing these things and the resulting price to the consumer can only go up and most likely to the point where our economy as we know it will be unsustainable. Consumers will have no other choice but to cut back on their purchasing. Our economies will go into recession most likely for a very long time. "Peak Oil factors indicate that there will be no economic recovery following the economic collapse of 2009 and that the recession will deteriorate into a permanent economic depression that will worsen over time." Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D. Sobering words or maybe ones that make you want to go get a stiff drink.
So is there anything that we can do as consumers to help avert this dire scenario? Obviously we don't all have the financial resources to trade in our gas guzzler for a more eco-friendly hybrid vehicle. And cutting out on plastic shopping bags seems just a tad lame on its own. Maybe we just need to take a deep breath and realize that the world as we know it is changing and we just aren't going to have oil around forever. We survived before our need for oil and we'll just have to figure out how to survive when it is all used up.
I bet there is going to be some great deals on used Hummers in the near future.