Power Prepping and Gasoline Shortages
Gasoline stores an incomprehensible amount of energy and as a society we use it as if it falls from the sky. If you are ever unsure how much energy is in a gallon of gas try and push your car a few miles at a leisurely 1mph pace. Considering that the average person walks at 3mph comfortably and a mid sized car can do 30mpg+ at speeds of up to 60mph even though wind resistance increases at an exponential rate with speed and you start to have an idea how cheap gas is. The next time somebody says they have bought an efficient little car you can be sure that it’s very much a relative point of view, and most people are buying as big a car as they can afford.
Probably every country in the world has seen a short term gas shortage just as every country has seen a fairly major electric grid outage at some point in it’s history. I’m from the UK (yes I’m using the word gas over petrol just because everybody knows what it means), and in the year 2000 we witnessed fuel protests that lasted 8 days. Everybody looks back and laughs and says that didn’t do a lot and it was much ado about nothing but the reality is the economy nearly fell apart by the 8th day, and if it had it would have looked like Venezuela’s economy. When they looked back at the stats they discovered that 90% of supplies had reached their destination excluding fuel tankers, and yet supply chains had begun to fracture. The military now stockpiles fuel for such occasions because of how serious it was.
I started this article to try and touch on why I think gas shortages are such a recurring feature in the world even though they are a much more distributed system than the electric grid. Don’t get me wrong the electric grid is more fragile and it’s possible to go decades between shortage situations. Both Venezuela and Syria are currently suffering from them however. I tried to touch on the point in my first paragraph, we use so much oil you simply cannot stockpile it. Sure you can stockpile a bit for a generator, which again is a terrible use for somebody like Emmanuel as it would just get stolen. However generators were in widespread use in Puerto Rico so it does depend on the scale of the disaster. In Venezuela you need armed security to run a generator and many of the big companies do just that i.e. cell phone companies.
Every so often there is a run on supermarkets and from my viewpoint I feel that people notice them less because you can stockpile food, and people do on average have a week’s worth of food where I live, and people can consume many different types of food. It’s rare for every type of food to be unavailable, I happen to live a few miles from a farmer’s market and people often sell chicken eggs and such like along my commute. There is however no buffer for gasoline, no substitute, just like electricity except you can get by with a minimal amount of electricity for a lot of devices. Emmanuel’s cell phone can double up as a flashlight as can his chargers I think and they are all relatively easy to charge by plugging into a wall for a few hours where possible when the electric comes back on.
During the 2000 fuel protests, people didn’t show up for work, nurses were stuck at home, operations were canceled. I think the only preps are to live near where you work or have a part time business close to where you work. I’ve tried cycling everywhere and used to do 150 miles a week and all it’s given me is PTSD from almost being killed or assaulted for being in people’s way for 10 seconds. I won’t give it up completely and I run now because being able to stay mobile is such a huge advantage while everyone else is stuck at home. If the cars ever stop running I will be first back on the bicycle. However if cars stop running for over a week or two, that’s it, you’re in SHTF. The economy will not stay running if people can’t drive their cars and trucks. Even if it was potentially possible to scale the economy back for less car usage the time scales needed to enact such a change are in the years if you want to avoid major economic shocks.
An interesting side prep is electric cars, from well to wheels they are basically almost as inefficient as an econo box car. However if you are the only one with one and it’s a short term gas shortage, you have a great prep as you have transport and/or electricity. If everybody buys one on your street your local transformer will blow out though. The grid cannot handle the energy used in a nation full of cars travelling at 60mph.
I think gas shortages/price hikes are going to become a real issue going forward just from looking at shale oil. There is only one reason you force oil out of such a marginal “well” and that’s because your best wells are running at capacity or running out. Saudia Arabia recently admitted Ghawar is past it’s peak production, and that is one of the biggest fields in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years we see shale oil company losses reported on the news as part of a “couldn’t be predicted” disaster unfolding.
I definitely don’t have any good answers to a gas shortage, it is such a crucial resource that there is no happy alternative where people muddle through. If you are prepping for a gas shortage over 2 weeks then you are prepping for Emmanuel’s SHTF scenario. You need to be thinking about making a micro economy where possible, and I was thinking as I walked into my “spot” today and unfolded my camping chair, what does a micro economy look like. Then I realized I have a book on the very subject, Making a Living in the Middle Ages. I’m going to pull it off the shelf and see how it matches up to Emmanuel’s situation. What kind of trades were prominent features in a medieval town etc, I’m willing to bet they are the kinds of trades Venezuela is crying out for right now perhaps with a modern spin.