Peak Oil for Dummies

Several members of the Sustainable Blogosphere have commented on Kevin Drum’s three part series on peak oil posted to his “Political Animal” blog (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), so I thought I’d take a look despite my earlier claim that pretty much everything coming out these days is a repetition of the basics. Drum gives a brief but thorough overview of the history of the concept, as well as an overview of the “four main growth possibilities” for increased oil production. He’s careful to take sides neither with the “we’re doomed” crowd nor the disciples of undiscovered technology that will save us, but, in the end, notes that

The mix of success and failure in the future will probably look a lot like it has in the past, and that mix has produced a steady decrease in the amount of new oil we’ve discovered. There’s no question that the prospect of permanently higher prices will spur both new development and increased use of technology, but when you put everything together, both good and bad, my guess is that new discoveries will continue to decline and oil production will reach its peak in about 10 years. At that point, new discoveries will no longer be big enough to offset declines in older fields.

This is a fascinating read even if you’re familiar with the basic concept of peak oil (which is all that I can claim), and required reading if you’re new to the concept. Of course, as ProfGoose notes at The Oil Drum, we’re still left empty-handed on definite action to take. My response to his frustration was that spreading the word may be the best we can do now. I don’t think we can count on the politcal class to do much yet — Roscoe Bartlett is likely a unique figure on Capitol Hill in his pressing of this issue. If we continue to promote the peak oil concept, we can (slowly) build demand for products and services that take peak oil into consideration. That’s a start. I really do think that the business sector will have to “get it” before we can count on anything substantial happening in Washington. I’d love to be wrong, of course…

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