Picture it if you will. It’s a summer’s day, you and your family’s going to take a road trip. You load up your Escalade or Excursion and head to the local gas station and fill up on your $3.79 a gallon Premium. However when you get to the station, you encounter the following: the gas station’s closed with the sign “NO GAS” posted; you see a line of cars going down the block from said gas station; or, you pull up to the open said gas station and find that your Premium is now $7.49 a gallon.
Don’t think it can’t happen? Remember the gas shortages of 1973-74 and 1979? Or how about the spike in gas prices after Hurricane Katrina in 2005? We’ve been blessed to enjoy relatively cheap gas for years-especially here in New Jersey where we have refineries. However, unbeknownst to many, we’re in a time of what’s known as “peak oil.”
“‘Peak oil’, is that the name of some oil company?” You ask. No it’s not, thank you. To put it in English without a slew of fancy graphs and charts, peak oil is:
Peak oil is not the end of the world, but it will be the end of the Oil Age. That doesn’t mean we’re running out of oil, but it does mean the world is running out of cheap oil. And talk about bad timing — world oil has peaked just when countries like China, India and Brazil have started to use lots of oil for the first time, competing with America, Europe and Japan for the second half of world oil…
Peak oil is as much about the economy and politics as it is about geology. And it’s not just about pain at the pump, though it couldn’t hurt to trade your pick-up truck for a Prius soon — or better yet, try to work and shop closer to home. Peak oil is also about paying more for all the stuff that oil makes possible, from bread made with wheat grown on factory farms to polo shirts and DVDs imported from China.
That means we’ll soon be mourning the passing of cheap gas; the end of cheap oil. Cheap gas has allowed us to enjoy food from afar-be it oranges from Israel, beef from Argentina, or wine from Portugal. Cheap gas (as said above) allowed us to enjoy the many imports-as well as “American” products made overseas-at reasonable prices. Cheap gas has also allowed us to travel almost anywhere on the cheap-be it plane, train, boat or bus. It also allowed us independent mobility with cars-be they our own or rentals.
As cheap oil becomes less cheap, our gas will become less cheap as well. As I write this, gas prices are creeping upward here in New Jersey. Even though I drive a compact, I get less gas for the same amount of money than I did not so long ago. So for you folks out there with your Escalades, Ford F-150s, Bentleys, and other gas-guzzlers, you think you have pain at the pump now? Just wait!
To make matters worse, we have refineries closing up here in the Northeast which will impact prices. Plus, if Israel (and the US) attack Iran, and Iran retaliates with closing up the Strait of Hormuz (a major oil shipping route), things could get real interesting.
As we will soon mourn the passing of cheap gas, we’ll see the end of the car culture that’s been part and parcel of American life. We’ll have to start making some difficult choices if we’re to survive. We’ll have to reshape our social lives by being more local in our activities and business dealings. We’ll have to thoughtfully plan our vacations since jet and sea travel will cost more.
For those of us on the family of faith, this will call for engaging each other-especially concerning our fears and questions we’ll have. This will call on our local churches to be local. It’ll also be a ripe opportunity for neighborhood “house”, or “Emergent” churches to step up to the plate.
This will also call on us to be the ecological stewards God calls us to be in the post gas/oil world.
Being local may help us to engage each other more on a personal level, which could help us come together in community as we encounter the coming changes.
What could perceived as a “bad” situation could be an opportunity for growth and change-if we make positive changes now. Or else the changes will make us, and not for the good.
Stay tuned for the next installment. Peace!