Peak Oil News: Peak oil? Peak schmoil

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Peak oil? Peak schmoil

The Daily Collegian

By David Lawrence

We are gradually using up the world's supply of oil. Though this fact recently arrived very suddenly in the public's attention, the slow process of burning several millennia's buildup has been ongoing for centuries. We are going to "run out" of oil, but it isn't going to be sudden; there's no need for panic. Caution is prudent, awareness appropriate, but fear and panic need not apply.

It's now widely accepted that we are eventually running out of oil. There is a limited amount of it and we use it, so you'd expect that sooner or later it would all get used up. What isn't always agreed on is when we're going to run out. By many reasonable accounts it is going to be sometime this century, and the slow decline in production will certainly be a factor in our use of the resource in the coming decades. This decline starts when we reach our "peak oil production" - a term you've probably heard thrown around before. Basically we're going to start finding and digging up less and less oil each year. Experts disagree about exactly when this will happen (some say it already has) but it is certain to be soon enough.

The speed of that impending decline is an important factor. Reporting on the coming "oil crash" or "oil shock" is a popular counterculture/liberal left pastime. It has replaced "Marxian revolt" as the premiere "the sky is falling on capitalism" standby. These reports generate fear and panic by implying that the oil supply is going to suddenly dry up, leaving us helpless and unable to get to work or heat our homes. This "drying up" actually won't occur in days or years even, but over the course of decades. During this time alternative energy sources will also gradually increase in popularity and use, as they fill in the gaps that decreasing oil production leaves.

Alternatives to fossil fuels already exist. You've probably seen or heard of electric cars. Nuclear power, solar power, wind power and literally dozens of other alternatives to fossil fuels are all already in use to varying extents. The reason they aren't used as much as oil is because they are in general much more expensive than oil. The average person isn't going to pay five times as much as he could to get to work each morning because we are going to run out of oil 50 years from now.

This isn't the result of an oil-corporation/Halliburton/BushCheneyRove brain wash. It is merely normal people thinking, "Hmm, gas is $3 for 20 miles, and complicated fuel cell systems are $30." As technologies improve and new methods are engineered, the price of oil-alternatives will decrease. At the same time, the price of oil will be gradually increasing as production slows. At some point the oil alternatives will be comparable in price to oil, and lots of people will start using them and eventually, the price of oil alternatives will be much lower than the price of oil, and nearly everyone will use them. The "invisible hand" of the free market will solve the problem even before it arrives.

Major transitions in how we power our world have occurred before without significant incident. We have not used oil forever, and we won't use it forever. Modern man is innovative and tenacious, and we'll find our society gradually prepares as the problem gradually grows, so don't panic. If you are really concerned, I suggest converting the ol' Y2K shelter to an oil storage tank - you'll be well prepared when the "oil crash" hits.


At 7:41 AM, September 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is without a doubt the most ignorant article I've ever seen on this subject. The author apparently didn't bother acquainting himself with even the most cursory outlines of the peak oil arguments, choosing instead to dismiss it as "liberal left" "sky is falling" "anti-capitalism" ranting.
Peak Oil, as a broad topic, is not particularly political, especially not in the dualistic communism vs. capitalism sense. If anything, I find as many "far right" thinkers on the subject as "leftists."
You would think the moron who penned this article would at least take the time to learn about the core arguments!

At 10:33 AM, September 28, 2005, Blogger KriZe said...

This smacks of 50's propaganda telling you to "duck and cover" in the event of a nuclear blast, and everything will be OK. This author is correct in saying that the price of oil will eventually rise and meet the price of alternatives, but that price is more likely to be one that is economically ruinous to the Western world.

At 1:52 PM, September 28, 2005, Blogger Dr. Funk said...

funny, I actually think he's done a decent job countering the peak oil madness. i wonder why we disagree.

At 5:48 PM, September 28, 2005, Blogger John said...

This sort of publication is symptomatic of the greater issue of the sociological effects of peak oil. Many of those that I have discussed it with have dismissed it with the usual technophile vagueness that everything will work out if we just sit and think about it. If we had a resource that was as fluid and energetic as oil, then we wouldn't have a problem. But in the catalogue of energy sources it's singularly remarkable. That's where we're going to trip.

At 3:18 AM, September 29, 2005, Blogger sudhakar said...

Hi there, you have done a great analysis on Peak oil, I also thought about it for a long time and later found that people call it "Peak Oil", Iam from India, there is little or no awareness about it over here, and I feel there is nothing we can do about it, Have a look at my blog,I have written on somiler lines.

At 7:54 PM, October 20, 2005, Anonymous Matt L said...

In response to the first comment, I think he was pointing at conspiracy theories in general, which have (understandably) in the past few years taken an anti-current administratin slant, as they always do.

I thought his column made some good points. Besides ad hominum attacks and characterizations of his "sort" of argument as old fashioned, none of you dissenters have provided a substantive response to his arguments.


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