Aviation fuel accounts for eleven percent of each barrel of oil. Crude oil is a finite resource and experts predict that it may run out sooner than we think. Global oil demand is set to hit a new record in 2011 and
optimistic estimations of production forecast the global oil decline will begin by 2020. What happens when there isn’t enough crude oil to satisfy the full demands of freight transportation and the airline industry? Can’t satisfy them both once oil production begins its continual decline, so what happens? As it stands now, airlines use somewhere in the neighbourhood of two billion barrels of oil each year. That cannot continue in the face of Peak Oil.
What decisions are the various transportation industries—freight and aviation in particular—going to be faced with when the worldwide supply of oil cannot ever match demand again? Who decides which of those two will have priority? It’s unlikely that only one industry will have all of its demand met, so that means both industries will suffer reductions in what is available to them. Then what?
A broader question as peak oil affects aviation: what happens to air travel in general? Once Peak Oil is in full swing, we clearly cannot assume that that same eleven percent of each barrel of oil will still be devoted to producing aviation fuel. What then?
One obvious outcome is that air travel will become more expensive, when supply decreases and demand remains steady, prices increase. So get ready for more expensive air travel as well as higher crude oil prices. Then what? I’m fairly confident that airlines aren’t going to survive if their increasing costs for fuel lead to fewer passengers (who are obliged to pay much higher fares), and on and on. Global rates of air traffic growth are unsustainable in the long term, it faces an uncertain future burdened with rising fuel costs, peak oil and taxation as well as national and international regulations to combat climate change. We must move our economy away from carbon intensive industries such as aviation.