In the end, does the choice of words really matter?
The “Yes, we’ve reached Peak Oil” versus the “No, we have not” is a distraction—and I’ve done my part to contribute.
But without recognizing and accepting the simple truth that we’re drawing down a finite and depleting resource which necessitates almost unimaginable adaptations and transitions to Plan B, the limits of human ingenuity and technological prowess will inevitably be reached if we keep tweaking the one finite resource mankind has relied upon more than any other.
And thus the heart of the matter.
The wells won’t run dry next week or next month. The sky is not falling. But the peak rate of conventional crude oil production was reached a decade ago. That’s an important fact glossed over by those disputing the message about our future oil supply. For all the Happy Talk courtesy of fossil fuel industry cheerleaders picking nits, that fact alone is an enormous problem.
The higher production totals of recent years are a genuinely impressive achievement, and should not be discounted. But shale production has shown itself to be what peak oil advocates said it would be: a costly, time-consuming, technology-intensive effort with a relatively limited shelf life.
Today’s low, low prices and declining demand owing to current economic conditions, when combined with a less than enthusiastic investment climate and the high debt levels carried by most oil producing companies, is squeezing that pipeline. The “glut” spoken of is a reflection of these factors much more so than a testament to how much oil industry can produce with just a snap of the fingers.
The diminished funding has resulted in severe reduction in exploration projects. They won’t start back up overnight if or when economic conditions improve. The intensity of effort required to extract oil from shale with its host of related and competing factors—rarely if ever pointed out by the cheerleading squad—is simply an indication of the reality of 21st Century oil production.
We’ve been tapping a wondrous supply of conventional crude oil for a generation-plus. Finite still bears the same definition it always has: it does not replenish itself, and basic math still rules. Drawing down that spectacular but finite supply, and attempting to replace what’s gone missing with an inferior, more expensive, inadequate alternative will lead us in time to exactly where proponents have suggested.
Over time, we are going to have less available as we and countless millions of fellow inhabitants of the planet seek more by relying on that very same supply. No matter what happy spin is employed, the math is not going to work. Transitioning to whatever Plan B will be is no easy task; certainly not one to be achieved in anything resembling “soon.”
The failure to start considering and planning for that monumental undertaking now while resources are still available in enough quantities to help us into that transition simply means “less.” Less time to plan. Less time to act. Less supply to utilize. Less opportunity for all of us going forward.
Fewer viable options for the many more seeking to emulate our lifestyles with the assorted fallout resulting from a diminished supply of fossil fuel is not a winning formula, and there will be hell to pay. But that won’t matter, either.
Confronting reality isn’t always pleasant, but choosing not to and enduring more substantial, adverse consequences as a result won’t be much of a picnic, either.
~ My Photo: a view of Long Beach, Rockport MA – 10.14.15
We face a choice going forward. There’s a kind of false dichotomy, a false choice that we’re being presented between policies on the left or policies on the right. It’s not left or right, it’s forward or backward. It’s a choice between investing in the future, leaving a better future for the next generation just like parents and grandparents did for us, or ignoring these hard choices and sentencing the next generation to a lower standard of living, to fewer opportunities, and a future that we could do better by. Michael Brownlee
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas,
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Peak Oil Matters offers observations and insights about the realities of declining fossil fuel production, and its impact on our future well-being