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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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Democracy holds out a promise that we will get to make choices about what we will do in our community. But each time we choose to ignore the factual truths staring right at us, we ensure that future generations will have fewer and fewer choices.

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Now would be an excellent time to ponder for a moment or two just how many more problems we want to create, how many more options we want to take off the table, and how many burdens we want to inflict on ourselves by continuing to roll down the same highway without full discussions and disclosures about all of the energy considerations we need to focus on. That won’t always be a happy tale to tell, and it won’t always flatter key players, but it will get more of us thinking and planning and preparing for a different but not necessarily “worse” future.

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Scientists say there’s a tension in the brain between responding to new information and resisting overwhelming amounts of conflicting data—and the latter can prevent opinion change.
Altering opinion depends on using different psychological methods tailored to different types of belief.… ‘There’s not much convincing people,’ even when the beliefs in question are purely false, says psychiatrist Philip Corlett of Yale University School of Medicine.

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We … [confront] a previously unacknowledged factor that may contribute to the perpetuation of environmental apathy and inaction, namely, the motivated tendency to justify the status quo, especially in the face of threat. Confronting global warming and environmental destruction requires facing up to serious threat, not only because of the scope and unpredictability of the projected disasters but also because they pose a challenge to the very foundations of our socioeconomic system. This threat may stimulate defensive, system-justifying responses and, therefore, continued indifference and exploitation with respect to the natural environment, rather than commitment to recognizing and remedying the problem. (Citations in original)

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Given what’s been happening with oil production in the past 18 months or so [duly acknowledging the impressive production gains leading up to that period], I find myself thinking that the near-total lack of preparation for a major energy upheaval is beyond surreal. It’s no different than reading the climate change assessments from scientists worldwide and then observing a collection of fact-averse “leaders” contorting reason and common sense into ideological fluff to avoid the psychological disruption of cognitive dissonance.

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Shaping our identity in large part by the groups we align ourselves with for emotional, psychological, cultural, and political reasons are powerful anchors—individually and collectively. All of us are much more inclined to seek out information and assurances which bolster who we believe ourselves to be rather than contemplate facts or assessments casting doubt about our choices and conclusions.

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[W]e have no replacement energy source that is as calorically dense as oil. It is simply not practical to replace oil as an energy source and maintain current energy demands.

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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.

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It has been a main theme of mine—given the impact peak oil will eventually have on all of us—that small changes here and there, every now and then, by a few of us when we can spare the time, are not the optimal strategies for us to pursue. Conventional crude oil has been in many ways the most astonishing discovery in our history—all the more significant given how its many benefits have extended in so many directions.

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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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