Peak Oil and Freedom of Mobility

This is another review of Charlie Maxwell’s vision of the consequences of peak oil. From early 2008. from

Dean of Oil Analysts’ Maxwell: U.S. Pump Prices to Hit $12 to $15 a Gallon

Posted: February 5, 2008

As America enters a world of ever-increasing oil scarcity, there is going to be a “horrific” rise in the price Americans pay for gasoline, Charles T. Maxwell, senior energy analyst at Weeden & Co., told

Think $3 a gallon is high? Get ready for $12 to $15 a gallon within a few years, the “dean” of energy analysts predicted during a discussion about the future of energy that sounded like a preliminary draft of a valedictory address.


Maxwell said it will take $12 to $15 a gallon to get Americans to let go of what he called the “precious freedom of mobility.” As much as Maxwell laments the loss, he sees no other way for the U.S. to impose enough conservation to deal with the growing imbalance between oil demand and supply that he sees developing around 2010 and getting worse in 2012 or 2013, as the world hits a “peak” in conventional oil production.

Because he expects Americans to hang on for dear life to their freedom of mobility, Maxwell says there will have to be a “stomping exercise” to “get them to let go.” Basically, Maxwell said, Americans’ freedom of mobility will have to be stomped on by allowing the supply-constrained price of oil to steadily rise starting in 2010, reaching $180 a barrel in 2015 and $300 a barrel in 2020.

Maxwell doesn’t see how this stomping exercise can be avoided. While he sees great promise in oil demand-reducing technologies such as cellulosic biofuel and plug-in electric vehicles, he says there just isn’t enough time left to displace the upwards of 1 billion oil-consuming cars and trucks that are expected to be on global highways when oil production peaks and starts down early in the next decade. Even if the world were suddenly to find a number of huge new oilfields – an unlikely possibility – it would still take too long to develop them to head off this crisis, he noted.

One can only imagine the anger Americans will feel if and when they are staring at $15 a gallon pump prices. (In Europe, presumably, prices might be even higher, unless European nations decide to remove some of their gasoline taxes, which they financially can ill afford to do.) While Maxwell’s “Nightmare on Main Street” scenario may sound far off, the fact is whoever wins the White House this November will face the voters’ wrath, especially if he or she wins reelection.


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