Thursday, September 22, 2005

Will Katrina and Rita tip us past the point of no return?

Peak oil, is, again, not about how much oil is in the ground. It is about the price of oil, and its availability to ordinary people. That availability is about to change yet again - with the second nightmare hurricane in a month. Hurricane Rita, at category 4, is presently heading towards our main oil shipping lanes, 30% of our refinery capacity, all of our diesel refining capacity and a large portion of our natural gas production - the latter of which cannot be replaced by offshore inputs.

The loss of diesel refining capacity is particularly troublesome, since our trucking and agricultural industries depend almost entirely on diesel. So what we're discussing are higher prices for gas - and every single other thing that people depend on. Heat. Food. Clothing. Power.

The economy has mostly absorbed $3 gallon gas, although with some pain, most of it to the poor, but some resonating through the economy (Walmart's falling profits, etc...) But can it absorb $4 or $5 gas and heating oil, just as we enter the heating season. Can it absorb the loss of diesel production just as harvesting and food production is at its most intense across the nation? I guess we'll see.

In the end, it may not matter how much oil the Saudis or the Russians have. If ordinary people can't afford to buy heating oil, or drive to work, the cycle of collapse begins, long before the last drops come out of the ground.

Sharon

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