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Page added on September 30, 2014

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Peak Oil: The Mirage Pt 3

General Ideas

This is a third look at one of this year’s better features on the subject of peak oil: an article by John Kaufmann entitled: The Energy Independence Illusion. It’s an excellent read [adapted from a presentation to the World Affairs Council of Oregon this past March] for anyone interested in this topic. [Any quotes here are from that article unless noted otherwise.]

Peak oil is not some crackpot idea. Peak oil is about flow rates, not how much oil is theoretically left in the ground….The only question is how steeply conventional oil production will decline and how much it can be offset by unconventional supplies. And while fracking helps domestically, it barely makes a dent in global supplies….
The peak of world oil production is intertwined with our current economic malaise. Energy fuels growth, and growth is what makes debt feasible and allows us to pay it off. So when energy production slows, prices rise and the economy slows as well, making it harder to pay debts. Combine the physical limit of stagnant world oil production with bad loans, derivatives, and other complex financial instruments that people didn’t understand, and you get mass default and a system-wide financial crisis.

That sounds a bit troubling, doesn’t it?

Yet another instance where facts and reality poke a few large holes in a recurring pattern of Happy Talk enthusiasm about our looming energy independence and vast abundances, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course, we are free to ignore these facts, as some clearly do. Pay no attention to the evidence and your day is a lot less stressful!

Despite the snarky nonsense from those who otherwise have absolutely no substantive facts to defend their cornucopian vision of no-energy-worries-for-us, those of us urging greater awareness of the challenges which declining energy supplies will impose on all of us take no delight in sharing gloomy scenarios. We’re not immune from the effects of a warming planet or depleting and finite energy resources. No one is—despite a seemingly limitless capacity to rely on ideology as a shield. Facts suck.

What we do feel compelled to share are not just the facts in a tit-for-tat exchange with those others who prefer relying on a fingers-crossed strategy of energy abundance. The problems suggested by a decrease in available, affordable fossil fuel supplies in a world where growth and progress are demonstrably dependent on available and affordable fossil fuel supplies are worth devoting at least a few minutes of thought and perhaps even a bit of advance planning. It’s been known to have value in other instances.

Relying on abstract notions of ingenuity and technological advances—duly noted as having been repeatedly, and magnificently, demonstrated throughout history—is fine up to a point. The problem is that finite resources and geological considerations aren’t impressed much with abstractions and ideological premises.

Look no further than the giant hole poked into the Monterey Shale estimates in late May. A downgrade in recoverable resource estimates by 96% is hard to spin as anything but a major failing of fact-free optimism and enthusiasm. Reality sucks.

We still have choices. Facts and reality can be considered, acknowledged—however unpleasant they may be—and then cooperative efforts can begin to address, plan for, and adapt to what facts and reality make clear. Or we can continue to do more of the same: rely on well-financed cheerleading efforts promoting all kinds of pleasing narratives which are primarily designed not to share honest information, but to support the efforts and interests of the few at the expense of the many.

Like earth-bound resources, that strategy has finite usefulness, and we’re probably well past that point by now.

The greatest threat, then, is not American dependence in a world of growing oil supply, but global interdependence in a world of shrinking supply.

So what will the choices be? If the future matters, then the answers ought to as well.

peak oil matters

6 Comments on "Peak Oil: The Mirage Pt 3"

  1. Davy on Tue, 30th Sep 2014 7:59 am 

    Excellent article in a short and concise for the corny cronies will have a difficult time shooting holes in. Noo, read it and weep.

  2. Northwest Resident on Tue, 30th Sep 2014 9:10 am 

    Davy — Please allow me to speak on Nony’s behalf:

    Marcellus is Mighty! Go shale! Rah Rah Rah!

  3. J-Gav on Tue, 30th Sep 2014 11:02 am 

    The so-called ‘shale boom’ will last until it stops lasting. Then, when the tide goes out, as they say, we’ll see who’s been swimming naked. That could make for an even louder ‘boom.’

  4. Perk Earl on Tue, 30th Sep 2014 7:32 pm 

    “The greatest threat, then, is not American dependence in a world of growing oil supply, but global interdependence in a world of shrinking supply.”

    “Ouch!”, say the cornies.

  5. Davy on Tue, 30th Sep 2014 7:41 pm 

    Cornies, can you spell contagion blindfolded with a feather in your nose?

  6. Nony on Tue, 30th Sep 2014 8:16 pm 


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