17 Jan 2011, 4:02pm
peak oil:
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  • Energy costs are doubling every five years. Adapt, don’t whinge

    I was dismayed to read the right bunch of whingeing petrolheads at the Torygraph whining about how dreadful the government was for putting up fuel tax and spoiling their right to live miles away from work in the country and drive everywhere. The idea that the Government should reduce fuel duty for rural residents sounds truly cracked to me.

    In the years to come, rural areas will have to learn to become more self-sufficient and produce more of their needs locally, or they will depopulate to the cities. Government help, if any, should be targeted to assisting communities become more resilient, locally self-sufficient and self-reliant. Pouring our last resources into subsidising an unsustainable rural living pattern is the very last thing we should be doing.

    It’s not so much that that the petrolheads are wrong, the government probably does tax fuel too much without having a good reason other than that it’s easy to tax and hard to avoid. My beef is that these guys are fiddling while Rome burns.

    The cost of fuel is doubling every five years. This is because the amount of oil extracted from the ground has plateaued

    Oil production is flattening out

    and the second thing that is happening is that there are a lot more potential consumers lining up to split this limited amount across. The burgeoning middle classes in China and India, would also like to live in the attractive suburbs and drive to work, like us. A fixed supply distributed to an increasing demand usually results in increasing per unit prices, shaking out the poorer customers who get to do without, or use something less desirable instead.

    Berlin, car with Wood Gas generator

    There are alternatives to oil, and yes, they were used in the war on both sides by those too poor to afford petrol. The Torygraph petrolheads' modern engine management units won't appreciate it though.

    So there’s really no point our Telegraph users whining about it. For sure, it’ll help them feel better, but here is what they need to be doing, as intelligent adults:

    Examine how much they are spending in petrol to get to work. Then double it. That is what they will be paying in five years time. It has nothing to do with the government, and everything to do with too many customers and a less elastic supply. You can’t fight the market. If paying twice as much for getting to work is too much, then you have choices. Something has to change in the next five years. Effective choices include:

    Reduce the travel distance

    • move closer to work
    • work closer to home
    • work from home half the time (this option works badly with public transport season tickets which aren’t set up for that)

    Change travelling mode

    • car share – one to two passengers buys you 5 years, fill the car with 3 coworkers buys you 10 years of rising fuel costs
    • get on your bike
    • use a motorbike
    • use a moped

    Or economise in other areas of your lifestyle and shift resources to pay for your journey to work

    • holiday every other year
    • eat out less
    • take Tarquin out of public school
    • ease back on Mum’s taxi miles for Jemima’s afterschool activities
    • walk Tarquin and Jemima to school – it might be better for them too
    • live more frugally
    • work longer/harder to earn more so you can work longer/harder (funny old world, eh?)

    All of those are effective options. Ranting about the government tax being over 60% or the cost of petrol isn’t going to help. Petrol is taxed highly because we demand the government does a lot for us, which costs money. It needs to finds ways to raise that money that are hard to evade. he only effective way to evade petrol tax is to use less of it. Fuel costs are going to go up independently of that taxation.

    The same applies to fuel usage at home. Look at your power bills. If doubling them is too much, effective responses would be

    • reduce electricity consumption
    • insulate the home better
    • avoid using electricity for space heating
    • get more diverse heating sources
    • consider alternatives to fossil fuels – wood and biomass
    • consider heat pumps
    • consider living with more people to share costs
    • move to a smaller home
    • move to a more energy-efficient home

    Ineffective responses include

    • whining that it’s all an oil company company conspiracy
    • saying since you rent you have no choice – you may need to move….

    These increasing fuel costs are coming our way whether we like them or not. It appears the great mass of Western consumers hasn’t realised this yet, and choose to believe it is their government’s fault for the increases they have observed. That means those of us whose minds have not been infantilised by consumerism can make some changes, selling our fuel-inefficient lifestyle choices to mugs who don’t spot the downside yet, and buying enrgy-efficiency before the market starts to jack up the prices because it is a sellers market.

    Oh and if you don’t believe energy prices are doubling every five years, take a look at this

    electricity costs have gone up 100% between 2003 and 2009

    I paid the same amount for electricity in 2009 as I did six years earlier. I halved my usage from over 7MWh a year to a little over 3MWh/year, so the cost of electricity doubled. Increased energy costs are here already. You can run. You can moan. You can whinge. But you can’t hide, so either do something effective, or be financially destroyed. Yes, it will reduce your material standard of living. Your choice is to have influence over what part of your standard of living gets reduced, or whether you are just going to sit back and let whatever happens happen to you. Obviously, if you work for J.P. Morgan or Goldman Sachs, you don’t have to give a damn. But if you’re an ordinary Brit, you have to ask yourself whether you shouldn’t be giving this some thought. After all, it worries me, and I am not in the lower 50% income bracket…

     
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