Friday, May 23, 2008

Peak Oil

If you haven’t read about peak oil, now might be a good time to start.

Oil is a finite resource. We are consuming it at a rate which will exhaust it completely (this is not in question). So what is the ‘peak’ bit? The peak bit is, at some point we will reach a stage where all major oilfields have been discovered and exploited, and the ‘production’ of oil will be running at it’s historical maximum. Then, slowly, production will start to wind down, as the oil continues to be depleted with no new discoveries being available.

As oil goes past this ‘peak’ of production, there will still be a lot of oil left – but as production starts to come down slightly, the demand for oil will very very quickly outstrip the supply. This will mean two things – firstly, constantly rising prices. Secondly, rationing of oil, and spreading it out thinly to essential services. There are good sites which give a bit of a deeper background on peak oil here and here, and another great article here which explains why the tailoff in oil availability following the peak may not be the smooth ride into the post-industrial abyss that would be the preferable option.

This wouldn’t be so critical, if all of the industrialised western world was not completely contingent on a continuing supply of cheap oil. As the price of oil skyrockets, and supply becomes limited, the wheels are going to come off the current way we live.

Oil is the basis for all transportation – of you, of everything you eat, everything you purchase (how do you think it got to the shop?), and most likely how you get to work and back. All of this will be stood on its head when Peak Oil strikes, and we don’t look too ready.

When will the peak be? Nobody can be sure - some think it may have already happened. One thing which is for sure, is that we won’t know when it happens until after it has passed.

If you can’t grow potatoes and tend chickens, now might be a good time to learn how. (Unless your in Southern California, in which case you’d better hope that you can survive on the oranges that are left when the water isn’t pumping any more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can recommend two excellent books on this topic: The Party's Over by Richard Heingberg and The Last Oil Shock by David Strahan.