As crude prices soar, 'Peak Oil' looms
Of all the doom and gloom scenarios out there - jobs to China, global warming, nuclear terrorism - few are as real as the end of cheap oil.
And with crude going for a record $44 a barrel, what better time to consider the question?
Richard Heinberg, the California-based author of "The Party's Over" gave a fascinating presentation on oil and the economy earlier this summer during the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer, Wis. His comments are also available on the RENEW Wisconsin Web site.
Heinberg called the global embrace of hydrocarbons "the biggest party in world history" and noted that the U.S. has been at the center because of its own vast oil reserves.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. was sitting on the second largest share of the world's petroleum. Only Saudi Arabia was blessed with more recoverable oil.
The U.S. achieved global dominance in large part, Heinberg argues, by running through its own vast reserves of oil and natural gas like there was no tomorrow. He says the flow of petroleum from states like Texas, Oklahoma and California helped build the world's largest economy and rewarded its people with unprecedented wealth and mobility.
Unfortunately, as the book title suggests, the party is indeed about to end. The Baby Boom generation in its lifetime has watched the country burn through about 75 percent of its original oil supply. It's a fact Heinberg said few Americans are willing to face.