Peak oil’s message is rather simple once all of the fluff and distractions are set aside. It’s about a recognition that we are dealing with a finite resource used extensively for decades upon decades by ever-increasing numbers for ever-increasing needs.
While self-satisfying to point out that past predictions about when the peak in the rate of oil production would occur failed miserably, deniers conveniently overlook the fact that their record on that score is similarly lacking. But that doesn’t matter, either. The score card is certainly a useful distraction, but the underlying issue remains intact.
One of our most important primary energy supplies is burdened by one significant limitation: it is a finite resource. A fixed amount of anything used at any rate by however many people one chooses for the explanation and for how many or how few reasons will in time simply become unavailable in amounts, quality, or prices worth pursuing. Although billions if not trillions of barrels of oil have been consumed over the decades—its finite quality remains unchanged.
A growing population seeking more ways to improve the quality of their lives will obviously have an important impact on the supply. With investments curtailed along with other related obstacles to unlimited production [location; geology; technical challenges; personnel; quality; less efficient substitutes; the high decline rates of those substitutes among other fact-based considerations], dismissive treatment of those seeking to fully inform the public is a certain path to a future far more difficult than it needs to be.
Those determined to share more information and urge greater awareness and a need to begin planning for an eventual transition away from fossil fuel dependence are competing against a more dominant set of contrary challenges and perspectives—financially and publicly. They are not usually accurate, mind you, but more dominant in the public arena. Sowing doubt has tremendous benefits … but as usual when such tactics are engaged, that’s reserved for the few at the expense of the many.
[I]n 2040, oil will still be the world’s leading energy source, followed by natural gas. Together with coal, these sources will provide for 80% of the world’s energy needs….
Fortunately, there are ample supplies of oil and gas to power the world economy well beyond 2040. The International Energy Agency estimates that recoverable oil and condensate resources now stand at 4.5 trillion barrels, replacing earlier ‘peak oil’ estimates of one trillion barrels.
A FEW DETAILS?
Great! So what are the details? How? Where? When? How costly to locate and extract? How expensive to consumers? How easily accessible? How easily extracted? Geological obstacles? Political considerations? Technological shortcomings? Financial concerns? Environmental impacts? Practical business hurdles? Exploration considerations? Equipment and personnel factors? Local community issues? Etc. Etc. Etc.
If only statements were the solutions!
Of course, explaining the significant difference between “resources” and “available/affordable now” are nowhere to be found. The harder the resources are to access, extract, produce, and deliver, the further away the concept moves from “available/affordable now.”
One result obvious along many avenues of national discourse is that opinion is now fact. Fact is now relegated to the status of being an optional consideration. We’re all the poorer for this now, and a future driven by those same inclinations and objectives will make things even worse … so at least we have an outcome to shoot for, Right?
WINNERS & NON-WINNERS
Statements—especially those in support of ideology first—are not facts. They are convenient talking points, and when they are the beginning and the end of efforts to inform the public, whatever benefits accrue for those tactics do not extend to the general public. Some win. Some do not. There are unfortunately many more in the latter group than in the former—if not today, then in due course. That reality needs to matter now.
That’s not liberal orthodoxy, either. It’s just math applied to a finite resource whose unconventional substitutes will not keep pace. That it’s not a predictable event in the near-term is just another irrelevant talking point, given demand and application of fossil fuel resources to and for so many.
The happy tale of energy abundance is a good one. Few if any peak oil proponents would be unhappy to believe it. Most would much prefer that it were true. Facts tell us otherwise, and those same facts pose a threat to those with monied interests that are not served by a society transitioning away from their source of money and power. It would good if more people understood that.
We have some issues to deal with. That they are not immediately apparent today makes them no less urgent, given how much planning, preparation, and adaptation is called for. Knowledge, awareness, understanding, acceptance, and cooperation are the first orders of business. Adding a bit of courage to that mix—just enough to look beyond the thin veneer of industry-driven Happy Talk—and acknowledging the realities of current and future oil production wouldn’t hurt, either.
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The Tretiak Agenda
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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. Former USDOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari
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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