Peak Oil is You

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Page added on October 31, 2007

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Peak oil: How serious is it?

Oil is the lubricant of our society. Transport is the obvious point of consumption, but the use of oil pervades almost all aspects of modern living. Agriculture (not only tractors, but also pesticides and fertilisers), plastics, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, clothing, cars, and the generation of power are all, to some extent, dependent on oil.

So, a rising oil price actually means an overall increase in the cost of living. And that is just scratching at the surface of the problem. Our casual reliance on oil as an energy source, aside from wrecking the environment, is about to hit some serious hurdles. If peak oil theorists are to be believed, the end of the Oil Age is nigh.

Roger Duffet, secretary of the South Africa Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO-SA), suggests that the estimates for when the peak will occur range between 2004 and 2030. A recent ASPO conference in Ireland concluded that 2012 was the most likely year of possible peak.

According to BP Group Executive Officer Fain Conn – in a speech delivered at Harvard University in March 2006 ( – the global demand for energy in the 21st century has risen by 15 percent. This is in part because of population growth, but is also a result of the rapid economic growth of various countries including China and India.

According to Conn, most forecasts predict that energy demand will grow by approximately 60 percent from 2002 to 2030. Peak Oil websites such as argue that this increase in demand, coupled with the fact that we have already hit the oil ‘peak’, means that we would have burnt the world’s oil reserves by 2030.

Duffet clarifies the peak oil argument by explaining that although the availability in certain regions will fluctuate and possibly dry up, oil won’t actually ‘run out’ globally.

“Already poorer countries are finding the price prohibitive and have been unable to afford imports. The point of the peak oil argument is that post-peak oil will become increasingly expensive and less rewarding in terms of energy return on energy invested in extraction.

Because oil is currently imperative in the growth of economies, the knowledge that the supply is constrained will have knock-on effects in market-based economies, claims Duffet.

So, should we expect global resource wars?

“We are already seeing the larger nations of the world exercising power either through military strength or through financial strength,” explains Duffet. “It is highly likely that this will continue and become more overt as the need to secure energy becomes more critically evident.”

In the face of this rather dismal future, what are the alternatives? None, says Duffet, that will allow us to continue living as we are.


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