Yesterday’s story about how the IMF foresees a doubling in the real price of oil by 2022, and the consequent urgent need to adapt or redesign our business models, might have raised a few eyebrows.
So here are two stories about how adaptation to life with less oil can proceed quite straightforwardly… and in fact is already doing so.
It is non-adaptation that is the difficult route.
Train not plane
This recent piece in the FT talks about how Eurostar “has effectively killed off the air travel market between London, Paris and Brussels”, since it launched in 1994.
This probably has less to do with fuel consumption or CO2 emissions, and more to do with the much faster journey times between city centres, and also the more comfortable and productive environment in which to travel.
Lower-fuel alternatives can also be more attractive to customers.
The good news is that Eurostar is now looking at adding up to ten new destinations in the next five years, into Germany, the Netherlands, southern France and Switzerland.
And Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and at least one other high speed operator are expected to enter the cross-channel market at around the same time, placing downward pressure on prices, and extending the network of destinations that passengers will be able to reach by high speed train.
So long as we can generate enough electricity, high speed travel across Europe is still going to be possible without oil.
With demand for oil set to rise faster than supply, the IMF piece clearly shows that there soon won’t be enough oil to go around. And in the short term at least, price will be the mechanism that is used to ration supplies.
One places where that is first likely to happen is the Pacific Island countries. Here prices are bolstered by the huge distances the oil has to be carried, and oil imports can account for up to 30% of each country’s gross domestic product.
Leaders of a number of small island states around the world last week made commitments to reduce their use of oil, switching instead to solar, wind, and coconut biofuel as sources of power.
Tokelau plans to become completely self-sufficient in energy this year. The Cook Islands and Tuvalu aim to get all of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. St Vincent and the Grenadines (in the Caribbean) aim for 60% from renewables by 2020.
“We don’t see those targets as being difficult,” one prime minister said. “It is very inspiring and that is what is motivating us to get going.”
A palm beach, without the sound of a noisy generator? Sounds idyllic to me.