Image: fuel consumption in Italy. Slightly modified from "Mondo Elettrico" (click to enlarge)
In a post that I published in 2008, I wondered whether Italy could survive as an industrialized country with oil over $ 100 per barrel. Four years later, we have seen oil prices going through a cycle of collapse and return to high levels. Italy showed signs of recovery during the low price phase, in 2009, but the last two years with oil at over $ 100 per barrel seem to have hit hard the Italian economic system.
In a post written on the blog "Mondo Elettrico", (in Italian) Massimo de Carlo summarizes the most recent data on fossil fuel consumption in Italy. Let me report a translated summary of the text of a press release of the Italian "Unione Petrolifera" reported in De Carlo's blog:
Automotive fuels have shown the following trends: gasoline has seen a reduction of 18.2% in consumption while diesel fuel has seen a 15.6% reduction, both with respect to September 2011. Summed together, the loss of the two fuels has been of -16.3% with respect to Sept 2011. In this month, the sales of new cars have shown a contraction of 25.5% with respect to Sep 2011. The first nine months of 2012 have seen a contraction of 20,4% in the sales of new cars.
I don't know if you like to define that "decline" or, simply, "collapse". Surely, something bad is going on with Italy and the measures that the government is taking against financial collapse look more and more like the attempt of curing a cough by strangling the patient. Anyway, you can Google-translate De Carlo's post and give a look to more data (to read the figures, note that in Italian benzina stands for gasoline and gasolio for diesel fuel).
Perhaps you also wonder how it feels being in Italy in this period: given the situation, you'd expect to see people going around in ox-driven carts. But I see nothing of that sort in the place where I live, Florence and vicinity. Traffic is normal everywhere, even with the usual traffic jams at rush hours. Perhaps, poorer areas of the country, e.g. in the South, have been hit much harder, but there don't seem to exist reports in the media on this matter.
But there is a curious sensation around. You know, it is like one of those disaster movies; those where you know that the tsunami will arrive, or the dam will burst, or the volcano will erupt right under Los Angeles. Before the catastrophe, you see people worried about their everyday things; oblivious of the impending disaster. And yet, there are ominous signs all over that "something" is going to happen.
In downtown Florence, plenty of shops seem to be either closed or in the verge of closing.