Nothing ever lasts for ever and it won’t be long until our love affair with oil is consigned to the scrapheap. Over the past few decades, demand for oil globally has climbed at an alarming rate and we are now edging closer to the tipping point where demand outweighs supply. This situation would result in higher prices across the board, potential oil rationing and widespread disruption to our everyday life.
When you throw the political hand grenade of Brexit into the mix alongside the declining value of the pound against the dollar and the uncertainty of events in the Middle East, we could be left in a very dangerous situation.
In 1973, the British people were given a glimpse into the future when the world suffered a crippling oil shortage. Arab oil producers slapped an embargo on oil, forcing oil prices to quadruple, the introduction a three-day working week, rising food prices and talk of imposing fuel rationing. This damning situation eventually led to the fall of the government.
This oil crisis, which was felt across the Western world, clearly illustrated how much we had become dependent on oil. It also served to remind governments that they needed to find an alternative source of energy soon. This belief was reaffirmed when scientists raised the alarm about the damaging effects of using fossil fuels were having on the environment.
For years, energy experts have been pleading with governments to reduce their oil consumption and invest heavily in renewable energy. Some have responded positively with waves of solar panels and wind farms being introduced. Entrepreneurs have also taken on the challenge by researching other means to power vehicles and industries, with hybrid cars and electric vehicles becoming more and more accessible. Others though, noticeably the US under Donald Trump, have continued to deny all talk of global warming, burying their heads firmly in the sand as they continue to use gas guzzling vehicles and fly everywhere.
At the beginning of May, 2019, MPs in the UK approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency. Some councils have picked up the baton and aim to be carbon-neutral by 2030, but 2050 is the target the UK government has set to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero. This means there will be more focus on finding affordable alternatives to oil and fossil fuels, with hybrid and electric vehicles becoming more accessible.
But is the UK ready for an oil shortage?
The UK has invested heavily in windfarms, hydro energy, solar power and bioenergy solutions in order to move away from our dependence on oil. The percentage of renewable energy in the UK last year was 33%, which is only going to climb higher as more companies invest in new technology and consumers become more aware of their energy consumption.
An oil shortage will have an effect on the UK, there’s no denying that. Despite all the advances the country has made in terms of renewable energy, we are still too dependent on oil. However, the UK is in a better position to deal with an oil shortage than we were in 1973. All new homes are set to come with electric charging points included as standard, more charging points are being installed across the country and the time it takes to recharge electric batteries are being reduced all the time.
We are also a lot smarter when it comes to energy usage. We know that turning off lights and heaters when not in use is beneficial to the planet and our bank balances. We also know the damage that plastic bags and plastic goods are having on the planet. Avoiding these products will only be beneficial for the world in general.
It’s in the government’s best interests to keep the nation moving in the event of an oil shortage. During the petrol strikes in 2000, plans were in place to ensure emergency services had access to petrol, a strategy was conceived to get fuel to the areas that needed it most and garages started to ration the amount of fuel drivers could buy.
Civil servants would draw up contingency plans to minimise the effects of an oil shortage and the public would revel in the good old-fashioned British spirit, doing whatever was required to get through the crisis. But the more we do as a nation to embrace a life without oil will ensure any future disruption will be severely reduced.
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