3 April 2012

Panic Now!

It's interesting how fragile my comfortable little part of the world is.

Last week, the fuel tanker drivers voted to strike if their demands (unspecified) weren't met. People decided to panic buy fuel. All the petrol stations had long queues, all soon ran dry. This went on for several days.

There was no strike, no shortage of fuel, only abnormal buying patterns.

I think we are practising for the real thing. Soon there will be real shortages, not caused by lack of distributive capability but by lack itself. The world is rapidly getting to the point where its demand for oil will outstrip its production. Countries will have to go short.

As soon as this happens, our cosy lifestyle will take a big jolt. It will no longer be possible to rely totally on our cars to get places. Food distribution will have to be re-thought. All sorts of items previously readily available will not be there anymore. I don't want to start predicting which ones will disappear in case you all go out and panic buy Kenyan beans or Peruvian avocados, but you get what I mean.

As a sort of minor practice, a dress rehearsal as it were, I went to a business meeting in Manchester by train. Public transport has been promoted as the answer to any impending fuel crisis. I decided to give it a try. So, apparently, had everyone else in the whole of the North West. The train I got to Manchester was heaving. The one I caught back was even fuller. I had to push and squeeze to get on and stand up all the way.

At first I imagined this to be the product of the above mentioned potential tanker driver's strike. Having queued up for hours to panic buy, people were, sensibly, parking up and using the train. I expressed this theory to those packed closely around me. It wasn't true, this was normal, everyday under-capacity. Regular commuters paid thousands of pounds for season tickets that bought them the right to stand in cramped confinement for hours on end. They weren't at all happy.

It was hot and stuffy on the train. People were hot and sweaty, not all of them seemed to be regular users of soap and water. Unpleasant is a word that fits nicely when remembering the journey.

But what of the fuel crisis? What happens when we all take to the trains and buses, when we have no other option?

I only hope that the soap factories get priority when the rationing starts.