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Could We See Fuel Rationing by 2020?

With secret government talks suggesting peak oil may be nearer than we think and IEA insiders claiming world oil stats have been inflated, it makes sense to start planning for a world where energy is much scarcer than we have gotten used to.

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With secret government talks suggesting peak oil may be nearer than we think and IEA insiders claiming world oil stats have been inflated,
it makes sense to start planning for a world where energy is much
scarcer than we have gotten used to. I doubt this will please those who
believe environmentalism is just an excuse for big government meddling
in every aspect of our lives, but a group of parliamentarians in Britain
is seriously looking at the prospect of fuel rationing in the
not-too-distant future.

Whether you believe that peak oil means the end of consumer society,
or simply that higher energy prices will create economic turbulence as
we move to alternatives, it’s clear that if and when we reach a peak in
oil production capacity, the fallout will most likely hit the poor
hardest—unless we manage that process to allow for an equitable and
orderly transition.

That’s where tradable energy quotas (TEQs) come in. According to a new report commissioned by Britain’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil
(why doesn’t every country have one of these!?), TEQs provide a
measurable, fair and practical way of both motivating a shift to
greener, more efficient use of energy—and also ensuring that fuel
poverty doesn’t leave anyone out in the cold.

Personal carbon rationing
has, of course, been proposed before—but there is much to be said for
tying such schemes specifically to energy use. While evidence that
man-made global warming exists remains overwhelmingly strong, carbon
dioxide emissions are still an abstract notion to most of us.
Availability of fuel, on the other hand, is an immediate need—and the
fact that easily available fossil fuels will one day run out seems
almost undeniable. Shaun Chamberlain, Director of the Lean Economy
Connection and co-author of the report,:

“Tradable Energy Quotas are the only way we can reduce carbon
emissions and at the same time guarantee that everyone gets fair access
to limited energy supplies. This is also an alternative to carbon
taxation; we are in difficult times, and we should not take money away
from people when they need it the most. TEQs is about motivating people
to cooperate in the common challenge of drastically reducing our
dependence on fossil fuels.”

I have no doubt that any such scheme would face considerable
opposition from folks suspicious of government interference in their
lives—so much so that it is hard to see it as politically feasible in
the near term. Nevertheless, if the worst predictions about peak oil
prove true, we will at some point need to have a frank and realistic
conversation as a culture on what to do about it. Laying the groundwork
for how fuel rationing might work seems like a sensible precaution—even
if we never have to use it.

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From our friends at Treehugger, the leading online destination for the news and ideas that are driving sustainability mainstream.

[Image: midorisyu, used under Creative Commons license]