If you've ever wondered what we'll do after we've run out of cheap oil, other than eat each other, you have only to look to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea. Ever since the shipments of crude from the USSR and China dried up, they've had to improvise.

So Dear Leader has once again demonstrated his Everlasting Beneficence and Ingenuity, pioneering the use of trucks that run on firewood and/or coal. Nowadays, if you see a truck, especially in a rural area, it’s probably running on “wood gas.” That’s carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas, produced by burning coal or wood in a low-oxygen environment — the resulting gas can be pumped into a diesel engine and in that form is a replacement for liquid fuels. Here are a bunch of images of these wacky, steam punk-ish vehicles. And a video.

The use of wood gas to run engines was invented in 1839 and it was quite popular during the fuel shortages of WWII.  Near the end, the Germans had half a million vehicles running on wood gas. 

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But you don’t always want to follow the lead of Nazi Germany, you know? Wood gas is pretty terrible for air quality, and it involves coal or biomass, which is pretty much always bad for the climate.