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When The Trucks Stop Running…

“The second day, there will be panic and hoarding. ATM’s would be out of money.  Within a week, grocery stores shelves would be empty.  Then within two weeks…“

Alice Friedemann is a transportation expert sounding the alarm on the unsustainable nature of our modern trucking system, which is critical for delivering goods where they need to be, when they need to be, in our just-in-time economy.

The world’s trucking fleet is remarkably dependent on petroleum and, for a number of reasons she outlines in this interview, is not feasibly able to shift over to electricity or other alternative fuels.

To warn of the risks and consequences of a collapse in trucking, she founded EnergySkeptic.com and authored the book When The Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation. And while unlikely, her projected aftermath of a sudden complete shutdown of the trucking fleet is sobering, revealing just how dependent we are:

Within a week, in roughly this order, grocery stores would be out of dairy and other items that are delivered many times a day. And by the week, the shelves would be empty.

Hospitals, pharmacies, factories, and many other businesses also get several deliveries a day, and they’d be running out of stuff the first day.

And the second day, there will be panic and hoarding. And restaurants, pharmacies would close. ATM’s would be out of money. Construction would stop. There’d be increasing layoffs. Increasing enormous amounts of trash not getting picked up, 685,000 tons a day. Service stations would be closed. Very few people would be working. And the livestock would start to be hungry from lack of feed deliveries.

Then within two weeks, clean water supplies would run out. Within four weeks to eight weeks, there wouldn’t be coal delivered to power plants and electricity would start shutting down. And when that happened, about a quarter of our pipelines use electricity, and so natural gas plants wouldn’t be fed natural gas and they’d start shutting down.

It’s a big interdependent system. That’s part of the problem. It’s like Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. A plant needs about 20 different elements to grow, and you take one away and the plant can grow less or stop growing.