Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I said let those truckers roll
    -C W Wall (Convoy)
We've got truckers on the CB
Richard Pryor on the Video
      - Jackson Brown (Stay) 

[Important Notice :    The Society for the Study of Runaway Trains is sponsoring two community fora at the West Valley Community Center in Willamina dealing with emergency preparedness.  This Thursday the 18th will be a showing of "Unprepared",  the OPB show on earthquakes.  On the 25th , emergency personnel will give presentations and answer questions]

       Thanks to just in time delivery, and small pantries, we are considered to be be " nine meals from anarchy" .   If the trucks aren't rolling by three days after an emergency things get difficult.
       The "big one" will certainly make it difficult to keep those trucks rolling, but it's worth remembering in that the big one is not the only event that could have an effect.   A quick look through the newspaper shows us some of the potential hazards.   Suppose the truckers get sick, or their a areas under quarantine.  see 12 diseases Climate Change will make worse  Suppose the electric grid suffers some sort of hiccup, and the oil pumps don't works.  see US unprepared for cyber attack on grid;   Solar flare could knock out grid for months  Or suppose the mid east falls into war related chaos, and exports are curtailed.  see NATO member Turkey warns Russia in Syria .   
       But, let's just focus on oil supplies for now.   Oil supply disruptions can cause other disruptions. Some of your may remember the "truckers strikes" in the 1970's , when a oil supplies were curtailed and rationing was imposed.   Interestingly in 1973 the US was importing 35% of its oil,  Today it imports 43%
       Last week, the price went below $30.    How can that happen?   At that price most energy companies are loosing money.   Some of them are going broke  ( see some-bankrupt-oil-and-gas-drillers-can-t-give-their-assets-away).   Some of their banks may also be taking a hit.   
       Even Saudi Arabia, whose cost of production is among the lowest, is in trouble.    Oil revenues no longer cover their expenditures, so they are dipping into savings.   At the rate they are going, they'll be broke by   in five years, They are talking about an idea to sell their assets via an IPO.    
      OK, so this can't go on.   Either the price will rise to a point where extractors can cover costs, or some of them will stop extracting.    In the past we have generally had  enough "cheap oil" to power the economy, and to give the oil industry  enough profit to keep drilling.      Currently oil companies are slashing investment.      In the longer term this could lead to supply problems and a sharp rise in oil prices. See e.g. Why crude prices could hit $130 in 2017
         Which brings us to trucks.  And to a new book  by Alice Friedemann, " When Trucks Stop Running So Does Civilization.  Energy and The Future of Transportation.  Ms Friedemann operates the blog "Energy Skeptic, which contains a tremendous wealth of information about our energy situation.  
      The higher price for diesel  would be a problem for the trucking industry which was  designed for and  built on cheap oil.   She says
>> "It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of our transportation system. Take a deep breath and think about this: the United States is locked-into $1.11 trillion dollars of transportation vehicles supported by $4.62 trillion of transportation infrastructure comprising 12 % of all the wealth in the nation (U.S. Commerce 2012). Ships, locomotives, and trucks with diesel engines can last up to 40 years and travel a million miles. It would take decades to replace them.  ( p 37)

>>     "Currently, the nation relies on a fleet of ten million trucks. Phasing over to a non-oil diesel fuel would require modifying this fleet as well as the fuel distribution system that feeds 160,000 service stations. Even if this were technically feasible, how much time, money, and energy would it take do this, or, alternatively, to build an electrified transportation system with millions of miles of overhead wires for trucks and locomotives  ( p 29)
 In this book, she reviews the alternatives, starting with bio fuels, hydrogen, and electricity, none of which are currently  feasible. .  Even expansion of rail traffic is problematic, due to the expense and lack of capital.    The real only alternative is converting trucks to  natural gas.   Which means major retro fitting of existing trucks. An expensive prospect  that may not pay for itself over the life of the truck...
         Clearly, we can expect some changes.   As oil becomes more expensive, so will everything else.  Because everything that travels, travels thanks to oil.
          So, the next time you see a trucker, give him ( or her) a wave!   She may be carrying tomorrow's dinner.

        And you might also give a thought to your local foodshed.  It might come in handy.

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