Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

April 26, 2008

How can we handle these skyrocketing fuel costs?

What can we do?

More so than any other country, Americans love to travel in their personal vehicles. We own 30 percent of the world’s vehicles while we have 4.5 percent of the world’s population. Our country uses 25 percent of the world’s petroleum, of which two-thirds is imported.

The cost of gasoline in America is about half that in Europe, primarily because of the difference in taxes (in some countries, taxes are more than half of the cost of the gasoline). For our passenger vehicles and light trucks, our average miles per gallon is 16.7, with the average licensed U.S. driver covering 15,000 miles per year.

Of our new personal vehicles sold each year, cars make up half and trucks, SUV’s and vans the remainder. In this area, parking lots reveal that two-thirds of the vehicles are SUV’s and light trucks. Presently, the amount of petroleum produced each day has remained steady for over 32 months at 84 million barrels with little surplus capacity. This lack of extra capacity means that if there is an interruption in oil from one of the key oil producing countries, prices are likely to shoot up as demands remains constant while supply shrinks.

Since the first oil well in Titusville, Pa., in 1859, humans have extracted a trillion barrels of petroleum. Conservative estimates suggest that there’s about that amount of petroleum in existing reserves. (We are at the peak of the oil supply curve as the production of petroleum has been fixed for nearly three years.) Few significant discoveries of conventional oil have been made in the past few decades.

At our present rate of consumption, we will extract our second trillion barrels in only 33 years! If the cost of petroleum rises only 10 percent a year, the price will double every seven years! So by 2015, petroleum will cost $230 per barrel! 2022 will see petroleum at nearly $500 per barrel. Then by 2029, the price will be in the vicinity of $1000 per barrel! If the price of gasoline grows proportionately, then you can expect gasoline in the United States to be about $25 per gallon in 2029; this is the same price that some of us in small vehicles fill up gas tanks every week at current prices.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
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