Shuck and Jive

Friday, July 24, 2009

Radically Different Lifestyles Are Coming

I plan to watch the 20/20 show on oil tonight. I wonder if they will talk about the elephant in the room, Peak Oil. Chris Nelder at Forbes puts it bluntly in The End of Fossil Fuel:

You will never see cheap gasoline again. You will probably never see cheap energy again. Oil, natural gas and coal are set to peak and go into decline within the next decade, and no technology can change that.

Peaking is a simple concept. We generally exploit natural resources in a bell-shaped curve, with the rate of extraction increasing over time until we reach a peak and then gradually slowing down until we stop using them.

Peak oil is not about "running out of oil"; it's about reaching the peak rate of oil production. It's not the size of the tank that matters, but the size of the tap.

The peak is usually reached when resources become too difficult to extract, or too expensive, or they are replaced by something cheaper, better or more plentiful. Unfortunately, we have no substitutes for oil that are cheaper or better.

According to the best available data, we are now at the peak rate of oil production. After over a century of continual growth, global conventional crude oil production topped out in 2005 at just over 74 million barrels per day (mbpd) and has remained at that level ever since.

It is time for us to face the facts and to demand that our president level with the American people.
Americans, who constitute 4% of the world population but consume 25% of its energy, will have radically different lifestyles. Production of everything will have to be re-localized. Instead of our food traveling an average 1,500 miles before it reaches us, it will have to come from nearby and use organic methods instead of requiring 10 calories of fossil fuel inputs for every calorie of food we eat.
So should I be
a) depressed
b) partying on while Rome burns
c) in denial
d) realistic, hopeful, and creative?

Answer: D

Nelder writes:

The coming energy shortage is the most serious crisis the world has ever faced, but it could have a very positive outcome. In theory, the Earth's wind, solar, geothermal and marine resources could each provide more than the total energy the world consumes every day, if we had the ability to harvest them.

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