The return of the gravel roads

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It was recently on the wires that the United States in contemplating letting a great majority of its roads go back to being gravel roads, as in the early part of the last century. Not that some rural routes are still just that, gravel tracks.

The talk is that this is in order to save money and all that jazz but let's look at the real fact and that is that we are running out of oil and the asphalt and the tar used for the topping of roads is a byproduct of the petroleum industry and no oil means not asphalt and tar for roads. It is as simple as that.

Not only running cars and truck is being affected when the oil is running out, as it is now already slowly, but also the roads where we drive.

On the other hand, going back to old style roads with no tarmac on them will be much better for using horses ones again, though I am not horseman, as regards to their hooves and such (though they may end up with the occasional stone in the hoof). For cycling they will not be ideal, we know that, but I do think that we can all live with it; in fact, we will have to live with it when it happens.

We have been using oil in such a way as if there was no tomorrow without any concern for what our use of it was doing to the environment and also as to how long the stuff was going to last.

Still today there are supposed experts who claim that all the talk of Peak Oil is scaremongering and that we will have oil for ever. To say that they appear to be living on cloud-cuckoo-land would be an understatement.

However, scientists warned the world in 1895 that we should not base our economy and everything on fossil fuels, then coal, predominately, and oil, and that for two reasons. One was that the smoke from burning it was dangerous to health of loving things and also that it mas, as they said, a finite resource.

Similar warning were issued at various times during the 20th century but the oil industry lobby was too powerful for anyone, especially not in power, to listen.

Then, when the deep sea oil was found they all thought – hooray! – oil for ever. But now we seem to find that those wells are also not going to last and Britain's North Sea oil is going south rather rapidly and that only after a couple of decades. The wells are running dry and that is both oil and gas.

We either must adapt now and change our way, back to an older, more sustainable way, or we will be forced to do so when the proverbial finally hits the fan, and that probably within the next decade or so.

British industry think tanks and media are talking of 2013 as being a decisive year and that by that time British industry is going to be hit by problems from lack of oil.

This will mean, also, that road building programs will either become so expensive that they are no longer affordable or just become an impossibility.

The roads of this country are already being held together by potholes and there is not enough money to repair them with asphalt and tar still being available at present. What do we think is going to happen when the stuff is gone?

I must say that when I wrote my recent book “The End of Oil” I had not even considered – silly of me – the fact that running out of oil also will mean running out the tarmac with which to surface roads.

The way the end of the oil age is going to affect us all is something that is mind-boggling and we better look at alternatives to everything now, before we get hit by the facts right squarely in the face, and transition slowly, though as fat as possible, if that makes sense, to an economy and a world where oil of the petroleum kind is no longer an issue.

© 2010

The book, “The End of Oil”, by this author, can be obtained via the website at