Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coming to the wrong conclusions about Peak Oil


This article from Australia Demand for oil to outstrip supply within two years conflates Peak Oil with energy demand, assuming that Peak Oil means oil demand exceeds supply. Peak Oil actually means that point at which oil production irreversibly declines. Current projections, based on rather iffey reserve estimates, suggest that global Peak Oil will be realized some time in the next five years.

The article in "Perth Now" reaches the following conclusions:

"Energy will be king in the coming decades, and we must exploit our (bountiful) resources wisely, while preparing ourselves for much higher prices and potentially lower domestic economic activity (aside from coal and LNG exports)."

Energy has always been king in human societies, whether it was for hunting mammoths, domesticating animals, building steam engines or flying across the Atlantic. Our major human "revolutions:" agricultural, industrial and informational have all revolved around and been inspired by energy concerns.

As to exploiting "our" bountiful resources, it seems there's been too much of that going on around our poor beleaguered planet of late. Who says they're our resources to exploit in the first place, anyway? Seems like us Johnny-Come-Latelys on the evolutionary scene owe a bit of forbearance to those species who preceded us and made it possible for us to keep on evolving, if indeed, we ever did.

Economic activity and prices are inventions of this one particular species egotistically called Homo sapiens. They're not real, at least in the same way that air and water and sun and photosynthesis are real, important and essential. We got along quite well for 100,000 years or so without economics and prices. Seems like the neighborhood has gone rapidly downhill since their invention.

Can we get along with "much higher prices and potentially lower domestic economic activity?" Sure we can. We did quite well during World War II. Prospered even. Well, some of us did anyway. That's part of the problem.

The whole idea of steadily increasing domestic activity is oversold, and a bad deal to begin with that never got any better. It may have temporarily lined the pockets of a few, while others, including furred and feathered and scaled others, two-legged, four legged and finned, have done rather poorly. Their prospects don't look any better for the future.

Unless, of course, we get off this obsession with growth for growth sake and devolve back to some semblance of balance, real balance, not the right-wing "I get more balance than you do" concept. "Much higher prices and potentially lower domestic economic activity" will help considerably in that regard, of course, encouraging folks to consume less, stay at home, walk and bicycle more, work fewer hours, grow gardens full of good food and flowers, increasingly contemplate the natural scenery of their neighborhoods with sublime satisfaction. Gather up all the growth maniacs and put them on a secluded island somewhere, ringed with all of our excess military hardware so they cant' escape. Let 'em grow there, in isolation.

Energy will indeed become king in coming decades, but in terms of saving it rather than expending it. The relaxing "clop,clop" of horses hooves will replace the mind-altering roar of captive automotive horses, with sound systems set on stun. Our streets will return to the commons, where we will meet with our neighbors for convivial conversation, where our dogs will bask undisturbed in the sun, where trees will provide welcome shade, moisture and beauty, where the edges will be marked with flowers and grass rather than hard concrete curbing.

With the End of the Age of Oil we will also come to the End of the Age of Automomotive Oppression.

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