Peak Oil is You

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Page added on December 29, 2007

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Peak Oil And Dunbar’s Number

Within modern capitalism there is no solution to the problem of oil depletion. Oil energy cannot be replaced with the equivalent amount of “alternative” energy in the required time, so the consequences of oil depletion will be disastrous. Those disastrous consequences are beyond the range of the normal or acceptable issues of political debate. No political contender can win votes by saying that the world is coming to an end. The “end” may be real, but there is no political mechanism to deal with it in the over-crowded and overly complex modern state.

As the twenty-first century progresses, urbanization will increase, and most people will live in about twenty or thirty mega-cities, although the very rich will live in fortresses with armed guards. These very rich will be trying, more or less successfully, to insulate themselves from the coming economic troubles. During this era, however, “oil wars” will continue to devastate the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, the Balkans, and elsewhere, as the great powers try to control the oil-producing regions and the pipelines.

There is nothing newsworthy about the above; the problem of oil depletion has been described in detail for at least the last few decades. As Schumacher points out, the only problem with The Limits to Growth, first published in 1972, is that the authors should have focused more on the loss of petroleum. However, the problem of “peak oil” is largely obliterated from human consciousness by widespread denial of its existence: a gentle but persistent flurry of skepticism, of not-quite-deliberate misinformation, appears on the back pages of newspapers and magazines. The reports of oil depletion are exaggerated, we are told, or the predictions have never come true. Or we are reminded obliquely of Adam Smith

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