I have read several articles about possible petroleum-based fuel shortages. One said in effect that as the easier-to-produce conventional petroleum is used up, it will take more and more fuel to produce new fuel from the unconventional petroleum that is left. In other words it takes some of the fuel produced from petroleum, like gasoline, diesel, and kerosene, to produce more gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. (Here “producing” fuel means the whole process, from exploration, drilling, pumping, transporting the crude oil, refining it, delivering the fuel to the end-users, fuel used to get workers to their jobs, to power the equipment, heat the refineries, make the steel for new pipelines, rail cars, and ships, etc.). And that eventually the fuel producers would need the entire unit of fuel they just produced to produce the next unit of fuel. That trend would result in no fuel left over to run our cars, or for farm equipment, trucks, trains, or for jet fuel.
The articles referred to the study: http://www.thehillsgroup.org/petrohgv2.pdf as the bases of what they said. But then there is this at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144141 which debunks the Hills report. So who knows if it is true or not.
However there are other reasons why petroleum fuels could get in short supply. We went thru the Arab Oil Embargo years ago which was caused by certain foreign oil producers trying to jack up prices. It resulted in long lines at gas stations, with some cars left sitting for several days waiting. We are not likely even now immune to something like that because the oil supply is global, the US government can’t directly control how much is produced, where it goes, or what it costs.
And there is always the threat of shutdown of key refineries due to labor strikes, accidents, explosions, terrorist activities, etc.
Another reason why petroleum fuels could get in short supply is a diminishing demand for them. Less driving, more efficient gasoline powered and hybrid vehicles, and more electric vehicles, mean less gasoline bought, therefor less reason for producers to produce. The trend will likely continue as there are many more hybrid and electric cars on the way, reports say over 140 new models by 2022. And now there are even electric semi-trucks, electric buses, and electric light delivery vans, all making more and more business sense.
Another factor helping to reduce demand is that people are finding electric cars are really nice to drive. I bought a low cost used one as a second car and prefer to drive it for local trips. And I suspect many more people will buy electric as their primary car now that the range is over 200 miles on some new models. And as the total cost of ownership drops below gas powered cars, it will make economic sense too.
Another reason for petroleum fuel shortages might be the need for an all-out assault on global warming, which nearly all the climate experts say is real and is going to make things bad for us. They say it is caused mainly by burning petroleum-based fuels, natural gas, and coal. We may have to stop using them.
So petroleum-based fuels will likely get scarce and/or extremely expensive, and if so we may expect some forced changes in how we live. We can ignore the issue for now and then suffer from the abrupt changes when they hit. Or we can seriously start making the transition to sustainable, renewable electric energy to power our transportation. Electricity from wind turbines, solar arrays, from ocean waves and tidal flows, bio-fuels from waste materials and crops, heat from geothermal, even new nuclear plants if the problems can be worked out, are there to be used. The transition and build-up of the infrastructure to support it will take a lot of work, but will create many new jobs. The sooner we start the better.
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