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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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Tag: lifestyle

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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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I began last week’s post with a variation of these questions:

How do optimistic projections from ExxonMobil’s “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040report—which I highlighted in that post—square themselves in the face of the oil production challenges suggested by the news excerpts which were also included in that piece? How long do those opposed to climate change and peak oil implications dance away from the unpleasant truths?

What is the benefit beyond avoiding painful discussions today? At what point do those contrarian viewpoints give way to a recognition that there is more than enough evidence already in play to make those challenges both very real and quite formidable now?

How does postponing not just acknowledgment but any and all efforts to come to mutual understandings and a commitment to work cooperatively in addressing these matters make it any easier or better for anyone?

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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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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.

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The economic paradigm we are currently engaged in must change in order to end our oil obsessed economy simply because no alternative energy resource will yield equal energy outputs. A realistic shared vision of what global prosperity might look like in an age of depleting resources is required to align economic and social aspirations, and de-couple monetary growth from synonymy with prosperity. Prosperity must become tantamount with values such as the environment, grass-roots democracy, and social justice. Importantly, global society must share these ideals; it would be futile for one state to re-evaluate their perceptions of prosperity if others are unwilling to do so (links/citations in original quote). [1]

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So instead of a more self-reflexive populace that understands everyone — including oneself — is full of contradictions, and more importantly, that it’s entirely natural to have some analytical imperfections, we’ve become a society of self-denial, where a person’s opinions can be easily discredited unless they practice an impossibly monastic lifestyle. [1]

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