Late at night, running out of gas hours from home, you pull into a gas station only to see a sign that says “OUT OF GAS”. The gas stations are empty of gas and there is no delivery expected soon. Nightmare or reality?
The situation in Nova Scotia, Canada, during the last weekend before school started, was bleak. Across the province, motorists were stranded and people were panicking, trying to find gas.
The official story … well, the very strange, barely reported and completely unexplained official story … is that two oil tankers coming from Montreal were delayed.
Yes, both of them.
For the same amount of time.
No, there were no storms, and no reports of dangerous pirates along the St. Laurent river.
And I make jokes, but only because there is no official explanation of why two tankers that are apparently this important could be so late as to cause the havoc it did.
The delay was long enough that gas stations across Nova Scotia ran out of gas, even with a week of rationing. The gas stations knew the tankers were going to be late and starting rationing in advance.
By Thursday, storage tanks in the city of Dartmouth were empty.
The tankers arrived on Friday and started the process of unloading.
By Saturday the shortage had spread to the smaller communities, the less busy gas stations.
By Sunday evening, motorists across the province were stranded and “Out of gas” signs were everywhere. It would take, people were warned, at least a week to get all service stations filled across the province (and if you’re not familiar with it, Nova Scotia is a very small place!)
Of course this is more than a simple tinfoil hat story from a tiny little Canadian province.
What would you do if you were an hour or so from home, swung into the gas station and found that there was no gas?
What if you were told there might not be any … for weeks?
It could happen, because it has happened.
When I did a quick search for gas shortages, I found a few links:
– in Atlanta (2008) because of hurricanes,
– in Ontario because of maintenance taking longer than expected (2011)
– and elsewhere in Ontario because of “a tight supply market”(2011),
– in New York and New Jersey because of Hurricane Sandy (2012),
– in northern Ontario because of “logistics and weather” (2013),
– across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba because of “unplanned maintenance issues” (2013)
– propane shortages in Ontario (2014),
– propane and gas shortages across the United States (February 2014)
– in Alberta, where they pump the stuff, because of a problem with the refinery (2014),
– in northern Alberta because of “unplanned maintenance” at a refinery (2015)
And then, of course, there are this year’s shortages in Nova Scotia, caused by the mysteriously delayed tankers.
The New Normal
It is time to face the fact that gas shortages are now the new normal. It is no longer a matter of wondering if you will be hit by them, but when.
Gas shortages are going to happen.
According to The Star:
“Gas shortages in the GTA and across the country will be the new normal, according to experts and Natural Resources Canada. Refineries across the country are pushing out gasoline at or near capacity, and without “new refining capacity, supply interruptions could become more frequent and increasingly difficult to manage,” according to the Natural Resources Canada’s website.”
Unfortunately, I can’t find anything like that on NRC’s website, making me wonder if it has been removed. Nonetheless, it is true, and it’s not just happening in Nova Scotia.
Gas is expensive to drill. Companies took out huge loans in order to drill, planning to recoup the cost through the sale of product. At the end of 2014, experts were predicting that companies could continue to make a profit as long as crude oil prices stayed above $50USD/barrel, and some optimistically predicted that prices would stabilize around $77/barrel.
That didn’t happen.
Prices for the past year have been incredibly unprofitable and suppliers are unable to recover their costs or put more money into production. In fact, they have been desperately downsizing and laying off workers.
How desperate? Well, it makes me think of someone with huge credit card bills who loses his job, gets a new job at minimum wage, and starts selling off the furniture to pay the bills. There is only so long that that can keep the creditors at bay.
Not too long ago, it seemed that the end of oil would come from prices increasing out of the reach of average people.
And that may yet happen, if oil companies are able to raise their prices to levels that will let them make a profit. That’s a big if, since Scotiabank says oil prices will stay below $50USD/barrel for the next year, at least.
If things continue as they are, we will see:
– oil companies continue to downsize, pull back and, inevitably, close down operations
– increasing numbers of unemployed workers (by March 2015, there had been 75,000 layoffs in the U.S. oil industry alone)
– gas prices drop, which might make it easier for people to buy gas, if people were employed
– decreasing profits to the oil companies will mean more “unplanned maintenance” and unexpected delivery problems
– increasing transportation issues will make it more and more difficult for deliveries of all kinds to be made, which will mean more shortages
– food prices will continue to rise – the University of Guelph is predicting that food prices in Canada will rise higher than inflation in 2015 – even though experts continue to insist that lower oil prices will mean lower food prices.
My strong recommendation to my readers is to prepare for an economic depression.
This means increasing your self-reliance, decreasing your dependence on others, building up a stockpile of food and resources to weather the roughest times, and learning to do more with less.
We can do this.