Oil Depletion Protocol: Oil and Transportation


Transportation, including the movement of both people and freight, currently accounts for over 60 percent of all oil consumed globally, and the world’s transportation systems are over 90 percent dependent on oil and oil by-products. Correspondingly, fuel for transportation is the most easily observable use of oil in our daily lives. Modern cities and towns have been designed around the automobile, and many, if not most, cities require the use of motorized transport in order to efficiently traverse the vast distances between locales. With the growth in urban sprawl, a personal vehicle has become a vital tool for getting to and from sources of employment, education, socialization, food, clothing, and medicine.

Public transportation systems do not exist or are difficult to use in many areas, particularly those characterized by suburban development, nor are they varied enough to meet the demands of a diverse and dispersed ridership. A reduction in oil supply paired with increasing oil prices will significantly impact the transportation choices we make, as the cost of maintaining and using a personal vehicle becomes increasingly expensive.

On a larger scale, the effects are likewise systemic. Transportation systems have been built on an over-reliance on cheap oil, thus allowing for the relatively inexpensive importation of manufactured goods from around the world. As nations rely increasingly on imported goods from the global marketplace, local production decreases, resulting in goods needing to be flown, shipped, and trucked ever further distances.

The trucking and freight industries will significantly feel the impact of higher gas and oil prices. In the US, each one-cent increase in the price per gallon of diesel fuel translates into a $350,000,000 increase in costs per year to the trucking industry. Ultimately, higher fuel prices translate into higher prices for goods, which means that every party in the goods distribution network will pay higher prices and absorb higher costs. In many instances, people and businesses won’t be able to absorb these added costs. Eventually, a reduction in transportation could result in local shortages of wide ranges of products, resources, and services.