July 27, 2011

The Scourge of Peak Oil

The scourge of 'peak oil' - Features - Al Jazeera English

An interesting article from Al-Jazeera on peak oil.  The fact that we, humanity, are coming to the peak in oil production worldwide is not surprising to me.  What makes this article interesting, though, are the sections that describe how lifestyles, especially in Western countries are going to change.  Some excerpts:
Whipple is blunt about what life will look like in a post-peak oil world.

"You're going to see major changes in industrial civilisation," he said, adding that he expects oil to once again approach $150 per barrel in the next 18 months. "In the US, where we aren't used to paying $10 for a gallon of gas like they do in Germany, that [$150 per barrel of oil] will really slow things down."

He believes discretionary driving will basically stop, and added: "Anything with a parking lot out front is going to be in trouble."


"It [peak oil] is a crisis in the sense that someone is going to have to change their expectations about mobility, and the idea that anyone can go anywhere is unlikely to continue. Sooner or later, people are going to start wondering how they will get from place to place without their cars."

Due to rising fuel costs, Perl sees flying becoming less of an option for the global population.

"I tell people to go to their favourite travel website like Expedia, and pick your destination and dates, and hit the fare selector for first class, because that's the price it will be in the future for travelling. And ask yourself if you will make the trip. Flying cheap will no longer exist as an option."


Professor Michael Bomford, a research scientist at Kentucky State University, said that, in the US, far more energy is used when food leaves the farm than the amount of energy required to grow it.

"The long supply chain with food makes consumers particularly vulnerable to spikes in energy prices," Bomford told Al Jazeera.

Evidence of this is clear.

On June 23 French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged world leaders to take action against the "plague" of food price surges. World food prices have risen 37 per cent in a year, driving 44 million more people into poverty.

Wheat nearly doubled in cost during the past twelve months, as Russia and Ukraine cut exports after droughts decimated crops. The UN estimates nations will spend $1.29 trillion on food imports this year alone, making it the most money spent on imports in one year, and a 21 per cent increase over 2010.

Heinberg believes oil prices are now acting as a cap on global economic activity.

"Every time the economy starts to recover it pushes [the price of] oil up, and then the economy falters," he said, "We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. If oil price declines, it is because the economy is in the toilet. Global oil scarcity has triggered the limits to growth scenario and we've seen the last of economic growth as we know it, at least in the US."

The fact of the matter is that unconstrained capitalism as the primary worldwide business model based on continuing growth will ultimately need to be replaced by a lower-growth model that recognizes and works within the constraints provided by natural resources. This is not just an energy issue, but is also going to include issues such as food and clean water. "Business as usual" just isn't going to cut it anymore.

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