Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peak oil mutters

One of the strangest things about peak oil - besides loving worms, or learning how to appreciate chicken poop? - is just how marginal the topic is. Peak oil: the term sounds like a nineteenth-century fake medical treatment, or some rarefied aspect of energy policy. Mentioning it out loud surely gives people pause, enough time to wonder if the speaker is a crank.

So consider a recent spate of news items.
  • A group of serious scientists releases a book about peak oil's onslaught and effects (pdf flyer). "James Schlesinger, President Carter’s Energy Secretary, wrote the foreword."
  • Le Monde interviews one of the book's authors. Hirsh has worked for Exxon, Rand, and the DoE (under a Bush!).
  • A German military think tank issues a report, sounding the alarm about peak, meaning, possibly, "the 'total collapse of the markets' and of serious political and economic crises." They see peak as happening this year.
  • The Saudis are apparently halting exploration for new deposits.
  • A Forbes article says global oil product maxes out 2015-2020.
A few observations about this sample.
  1. It's a global conversation. US-only media, any-national-media-only won't cover it.
  2. No discussion in American politics. We're all about tea parties and celebrity gossip.
  3. No discussion of planning. Listen to Hirsh's frantic concerns, his urgent call to immediate action. We're not even doing immediate planning, not even talking about planning.
  4. There's a balance being struck between the Great Recession and Peak Oil. The financial crisis held back some demand, forestalling the peak a bit.
I'm also struck by how weirdly distributed conversation is. Check out the mix from the Hirsh interview:
So you have in mind the same terrible scenario which has recently been put forward by the Pentagon, the Lloyd’s and Chatham House, and by the German army.
Roughly, yes.
No single stratum, but many. None of these strata are wholly convinced. No wonder it's hard to get traction going.

And how hard to get conversations started! "Say, did you see that Bundeswehr study?"

1 comment:

tubaplayer said...

Yes, I agree.

I long ago stopped trying to force Peak Oil on anyone. My immediate family are all Peak Oil aware.

I publish links on my own blog, which I don't publicise. If any of my readers want to follow the links that is up to them.

I took the huge step of moving from somewhere in the UK where, I guess, there is about 0.1 hectares of arable land per person within maybe 20 Kms to somewhere where there is 1 hectare of land per person within 5 Kms, and a helpful caring community to go with it.