Lots of back and forth (with good friends) on Twitter around the ‘Peak Oil’ thing, so I’m going to quickly tap out a post here clarifying my position – excuse errors, this has been a quick exercise in articulating my stand and also a means to put my neck on the line.
So from the off I need to reiterate something about ‘Peak Oil’, it doesn’t – to me and many other ‘Peak Oil’ theorists (including JMG) – mean the literal end of oil, no. It means a peak unto which the extraction, production and use rates of oil as a primary means of energy within our society. It is clear that oil is our primary means of energy at current – if one can find a paper that states otherwise please send it to me. Now, my point was that the right hand side of Hubbert’s Curve – post the 2000-peak – is wherein oil prices will begin to rise and rise disproportionately in relation to wages. It has been stated that there has already been a rise or multiplication of oil prices 2-3x, yes sure, but 2x 0.5 is far different to 2x 1.3 over only a 40-70 year time span, that is, this isn’t enough time for inflation to really merit the rate of change – or, the limit to oil is taking effect.
Now, from this people will – as many on Twitter, and myself in my previous post stated – begin to realize or even accept this new oil-less reality and alter their lifestyles accordingly. No longer will driving more than 5 miles to work be possible, or dare I say if driving to work will even be economically viable. People will reuse their plastics etc. and consume less oil based products due to their high prices. Now, mentioned here is always the idea of alternatives. Yes of course there are alternative sources of energy, solar, wind, hemp etc etc. But, these sources of energy supply no where near the same amount of energy-input to energy-output ratio as oil did in its initial find, that is, we had to put hardly any energy into getting a shit-ton of oil, whereas we need to put a ridiculous amount of energy into a solar panel, often taking years to meet a 1-1 energy ratio with regard to its output.
Here’s the kicker, people begin to make alterations to their lifestyle, but the means to cater to their presupposed standard of living simply isn’t there because we don’t have the energy reserves to even begin creating an energy infrastructure that can meets the demands previously made by oil. Unless such an infrastructure is made now whilst we still have a fair amount of cheap oil to do so, there will be a distinct inability to make it. You can’t make solar panels with the energy supplied by the solar panels you’ve yet to make. Once oil begins to run dry – in terms of profitability of extraction – you really think someone is going to extract oil at an energy loss so that the public can have solar panels, no they’re not. Hence the problem. At current oil usage should be being directed at an alternative energy future, but it isn’t and once peak-cheap-oil hits to the extent where people start uprooting their lives there wont be a safety net there for people to fall onto, you can’t just suddenly switch to a means of energy that isn’t there.
Here’s what will be stated as arguments against my case here –
“Well, once the oil starts to have low energy-output rates (It already is) we’ll begin using better methods of extraction.”
If such methods existed why aren’t we already using them, you’re hoping on something that doesn’t even exist, you are putting your faith in technological progress.
“We’ll move to alternative sources of energy.”
I’ve outlined why this wont be the case, unless of course we suddenly begin creating such an infrastructure.
“You’re on par with a fear-mongering collapse-ist!”
I can’t massively refute this, but ultimately this time-span will be – and here’s me sticking my neck on the line – within the next 10-30 years. I think that’s tight enough to merit some risk on my part, I think clear mass alterations to western/civilized lifestyles will begin around 2030. By this I mean a massive decrease in people driving to work, eating packaged foods, the usage of nationwide distribution, holidays etc. etc.
Have at it.