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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Category: Peak Oil Vision

 

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We remain free as always to choose to fear the consequences of a permanent decline in the availability of affordable and accessible fossil fuel supplies. The enduring impact on our society and our ways of life as a result of a diminished supply of our primary energy supply is no small matter. So fear is certainly an option.

We can also rely on those disinclined to examine the majority of production realities, offering instead a steady diet of optimistic statements and light-on-fact assurances.

Very few of us who are concerned with the full range of oil production issues and challenges find anything about the widespread future impact of peak oil to be other than a somber realization on our best days.

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A moment’s pause to consider the practical realities of billions of others looking to improve their lifestyles on any scale by which we measure our own progress and achievements should realize immediately that a finite set of ever-more-challenging-to-acquire energy supplies needed to power those advances can only be spread so thin.

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Our infrastructure (roads, bridges, train tracks, water and sewer pipes, power lines, etc.) does not exist in current form without the ready availability of inexpensive conventional crude oil. Our modern society with all of its technological marvels and the wide ranging conveniences was made possible and sustained in large part because we have had the boundless opportunities this fossil fuel resource provided.

But production of that finite resource peaked a decade ago.

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There are—almost always—at least two sides to any story of significance and potential impact upon others. The greater the impact and potential for a range of outcomes, the more certain one can be that there are more than a handful of factors, considerations, and perspectives to be accounted for if the issue at hand is to be both understood and resolved effectively.

Ignoring the “other side” of the issue may be effective if one prefers their narrative to remain unchallenged and to provide reassurance to fellow believers, but beyond that, it’s hard to understand what the benefit might be to those seeking information if what’s shared is inaccurate or purposely incomplete.

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I ended last week’s post by explaining the significance of getting all of the facts about our energy supply future as a first step.

Before deciding whether or not to accept the realities of a depleting finite resource and the impact this will have on our society—or ignoring it for whatever comforting alternative explanations suit one’s needs—understanding the implications and those realities is a more beneficial approach.

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The unpleasant truth now and soon is that the ready supply of oil and gas which we almost always take for granted [the occasional price spike notwithstanding] is on its way to becoming not-so-ready. A host of factors now in place are steadily converting possibility into likelihood. Thinking that we’ll just implement a few crash programs to straighten out that potential mess is a nice thought, but we simply do not have the means to make that happen—not the technological capabilities, not the personnel, not the industries, not the leadership … yet. Clearly, we do not have enough time to do it all with effortless ease and minimal disruptions.

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Who among us—proponents, deniers, or those with no opinion or knowledge about the issue of peak oil—doesn’t want our marvelous capitalist system to continue uninterrupted, taking us to higher and higher levels of technological achievements? Who is willing to voluntarily give up any opportunity to share in the enormous wealth such progress is sure to create?

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A fossil fuel-driven-and-made-possible life is all any of us have ever known. There are virtually no aspects of commerce, leisure, transportation, or consumption which do not depend in some part on inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels. That is most certainly not going to change dramatically overnight, but the situation we’ll soon be facing simply isn’t going to get any better if all we’re counting on for many more years is even more inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels.

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[P]eak oil naysayers hardly have reason to gloat. The supply of oil may be rising, but the nature of the fuel mix is changing quickly, adding greater uncertainty to the long-term outlook for the world’s largest energy source.
Pockets of cheap, easy-to-produce oil — called conventional crude — are gradually drying up after more than a century of exploration. Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company, said it expects output from developed conventional oil fields to decline through 2040. Conventional crude output actually peaked in 2006, at 70 million barrels a day, and has since plateaued, the International Energy Agency said in its 2010 World Energy Outlook report. [1]

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If nothing else, we’ll need to recognize that, like climate change, Peak Oil is not some event looming on a distant horizon. Peak Oil is happening now.

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