Hello, and welcome to my new blog. Thank you for stopping by.
While I expect and plan to discuss other matters of import from time to time and as appropriate, this is first and foremost a blog about Peak Oil. My intent is to share information culled from various sources and then discuss the impact peak oil will have on our everyday lives.
For those unfamiliar with the term, Peak Oil is most often explained as the point when the maximum rate of oil extraction is reached because of technical and geological limitations, with a ceaseless global production decline thereafter. If we’re not at the maximum production levels now (facts would indicate we are), we will be in the not-too-distant future. At this moment, we have absolutely nothing in place to replace the vast amount of energy we derive from the tens of billions of barrels of oil used annually.
Let me state at the outset that I am not an energy or economic expert. I am likewise not a geologist or engineer; my professional and educational background does not suggest that I am “qualified” as a peak oil expert. I understand some will use that against me … but common sense, I hope, still counts for something. Having issued my disclaimer, I am nonetheless much more than just a casual observer. Not an expert, to be sure, but knowledgeable enough.
I first came across the concept of Peak Oil about a year ago, and since then have steadily immersed myself in the facts, opinions, claims, and observations of both its proponents and opponents. I am, in the end, a firm believer in peak oil’s basic premise: we have reached or will soon reach the point where we simply cannot and will not produce any more oil than we already have. However, I don’t think the sky is falling … yet. (But a steady decline will follow soon enough.)
We cannot effectively deal with a problem if we don’t understand how it will affect us, and relatively few understand the magnitude of oil’s influence and presence in their everyday lives. It’s not usually a topic of everyday conversation, so no need to feel as though you’ve been missing anything! But almost everything that sustains or assists us has oil as a basic component: food (fertilizers and transportation), furnishings, cosmetics, plastics … the list of oil-based products is almost endless. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them. Life as we know it does not run without oil … and that’s going to create some challenges for us.
I’d like to do my part to help increase awareness and understanding. That preparation is one of the best ways to deal with inevitable changes.
Peak oil is NOT about running out of oil. Those who dispute the concept invariably—and inaccurately—assert this. It’s a poor attempt to discredit those who are attempting in good faith to help others understand the issues and potential consequences.
I have no doubt that oil will be around for several decades to come. There are still hundreds of billions of barrels in the ground (although quality may be a serious factor, among other related challenges). How easily and inexpensively we get at the oil, extract it, refine it, and then utilize and distribute it to meet increasing demand are entirely different matters, however. Those are the core issues of Peak Oil.
Some who dispute Peak Oil’s looming impact share legitimate critiques, while others strain credulity in their wild-eyed denials and disingenuous claims. I’ll discuss those differing viewpoints and help you understand both sides so that you in turn can make an informed assessment about what we need to do.
I do not want to believe in peak oil for many reasons. For one, I usually find the topic quite depressing. Every informational piece or essay seems more disturbing than the last. I hope every proponent is wrong twice over, but I am not optimistic on that score. I find no solace or benefits in promoting doom and gloom scenarios, so I’m aiming to provide a different perspective about what we’re all going to be dealing with. I’ll leave the heavy-duty technical explanations to those better-qualified than me.
I like our way of life, and am dismayed that it may soon change forever—in quite dramatic ways (not that it hasn’t already). Soon doesn’t necessarily mean “soon” as we are accustomed to using that term, but it’s only a few short years before industry and lifestyles really change. It’s important that we understand why that is.
Let me also state that I am definitely not the peak oil movement’s poster child.
I’m an American consumer through and through, but/and yes, a political and social liberal. To our teens’ never-ending annoyance, we recycle religiously. Nearly every one of the seeming seven million light bulbs in our two homes is an energy-saving one. I installed them all myself. But that’s pretty much it for now.
We own two very nice, new luxury automobiles—one an SUV. We have a terrific second home a short walk from the ocean; less than an hour’s drive from our home in the ‘burbs of Boston. It takes a bus trip, two subway trips, a commuter rail trip, another bus trip at the tail end, and a several hundred yard walk thereafter for us to get to our beach house via public transportation … about 3 hours start to finish if we schedule it right, and that’s not counting the brutal walk up our very long and very steep hill when we return home.
We don’t make that trip … yet. In the summer heat, luggage and supplies get heavy, and quickly. We drive. Often. Always. Sometimes we make two round trips in the same day. Most times we take at least two if not all 3 vehicles (the third belongs to our 3 teenagers. A fourth—car, not teenager—will soon make its appearance in our driveway). We go to our summer home a lot between May and October.
We’ve traveled a fair amount, have lots of neat household toys, and in general have enjoyed a very nice lifestyle in recent years. I do not recite this to boast about what a great life we have, which we admittedly do—none of which I take credit for. We are indeed very, very lucky, and we know it. But I also understand that we won’t be donating or selling any of our possessions in the near or not-so-near future.
Peak Oil idealism often clashes with financial and family realities above ground—part of my dilemma as a peak oil advocate.
I share this to demonstrate at least in part that I am not a bug-eyed, tree-hugging, live off the fat-a-tha-land robe-wearing vegan anxious to shower everyone with liberal doom and gloom tidings while extolling how my family has shed all of its material possessions and has now learned to grow our own food by raising goats and corn on our front lawn and is using leaves and grass clippings to make our clothing while harvesting fire flies to store electricity and discarded branches to heat our animal-skin tent—and then either shaming or frightening you into doing the same. (Sorry, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for that.)
I have many selfish reasons to challenge both the veracity and inevitably of peak oil, and would much prefer that my pleasant, unremarkable suburban life continue undisturbed, as is. None of that matters. Peak Oil is unforgiving that way. Denial is just … denial. Not particularly useful in the long run, but a wonderful tool of ignorance. It can no longer be one of our options.
So I’m writing this blog to share some ideas and information—or at least enlighten, so that the eventual challenges and problems we’ll have to confront are not all quite the surprise they will otherwise be. Peak oil does matter. We need to understand how, and why. Sooner would be best.
Call it a sense of obligation. I know some things; not necessarily a lot, but some things. I think others will benefit from that knowing, even if they refuse to believe it right now, or for even quite a while. That’s okay. I’ll offer what I have to offer, and leave it to you to decide what to do with it, if anything. No agenda. No strings. No shouting. Just some things to think about.
In my next post, we’ll take a look at some of the facts and considerations that cause many experts to believe we have now reached peak oil—giving you a more specific introduction to this issue. I’ll follow with an examination of the counter-arguments, and we’ll go from there….
I hope you’ll visit again, and share some thoughts, observations, and yes, even criticisms. It can only help us all find ways to treat the reality of peak oil as an opportunity and not a catastrophe. That’s a choice we all own.