Peak Oil 2 : but why worry?
If you read this post and some of its links you will be wiser but sadder, your awareness and thinking will have changed, the equations that decide your choices about life will be different. In some ways you, and your perception of reality, may change in an irrevocable way.
Last warning: what you are about to read cannot be unread.
Unless we can find, and implement on sufficient scale, alternative cheap energy sources by the time peak oil happens, it will cause massive economic disruption, probably widespread famine and death even in Europe and USA, most likely wars over oil and other resources. No combination of existing known energy resources - fossil and renewable - plus massive conservation measures could compensate for peak oil if it occurs within 10 years, but more about that another day.
Humans have always had a new and more powerful energy source to turn to when needed. Initially we had only our bodies, powered by the food we could find. Then our use of biofuels like wood, and animal labour for transport etc. Wind and water power helped with early mechanisation. When industrialisation began coal was found and mined, steam power became an important flexible energy source. The last century has seen the widespread use of oil, gas and nuclear power. Oil is the most critical of these: it is very energy dense, easy to mine and transport, incredibly cheap (so far), and very versatile.
Humanity has never, on a global scale, faced the problem of a reducing supply of energy.
Read that last sentence again and let it sink in.
It has been faced on a more local scale, usually disastrously, as in this Bronze Age example of 'Peak Wood':
There is a strong argument that the growth in wealth and size of the human population over the last three centuries is almost totally due to humans' exploitation of fossil hydrocarbons. Our economic system is dependent on continued growth - not steady state - more than a year or two of contraction will cause serious problems for the current economic and financial systems, peak oil will certainly break them.
Population is dependent on food production, which has increased about four-fold in productivity per unit of land in developed countries over the last century. Some of this is due to better / more productive plant varieties, some due to better knowledge, skills and methods; but most is due to fossil fuels: mechanisation, fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, refridgeration, transportation, preserving.
You will find this article truly shocking:
This planet has one military superpower and it will stop at nothing to secure access to the oil it demands. As Dick Cheney - the current US vice president - said in 2004 (I think): "The american way of life is non negotiable" - and he was specifically speaking about access to sufficient energy supplies and oil. The Iraq invasion was the first large scale military expression of that philosophy.
So, there you have it: peak oil will break our economic and financial systems, cause widespread starvation and be the direct reason for further major wars. By the time things have stabilised in a sustainable way after peak oil I expect the global population to be between 20% and 50% of its current level, that could be any time from about 2020 to 2100. The stabilised 'post-peak' population could be significantly lower than 1 billion but it won't be significantly higher than 3 billions unless something unforeseen and unpredictable occurs like a previously unknown, cheap and flexible energy source, invasion by benevolent aliens etc.
Here are some sites that explain the gory details better than I can...
Richard Heinberg writes and lectures well, this from 2001 sets the scene nicely:
(later it is worth coming back to his Museletter site and reading more
but, for now, I recommend you visit some others...)
This site is fairly pessimistic:
..as you will realise if you get to this page:
Matt Savinar was qualifying as a lawyer when he heard about peak oil, thought: it can't be true, then researched a bit and realised it was. He started writing and talking about it and his life changed completely. He's good at explaining the important aspects:
This site is by a non-scientist who recently discovered peak oil and has done a good job of organising most of the important facts:
A fair summary of current oil supply situation from The Guardian, April 2005:
I have avoided the frequently updated news and discussion sites about peak oil (for now), there are several excellent ones, and have tried to give links that explain the basic background to the peak oil. There is one last such site that hasn't been updated much in the last 3 or 4 years but is an impressive collection of articles up to then. Don't attempt to read too much of it - it would take days - but you will be surprised how much information was available 5 years and more ago. It isn't an optimistic site, as you will guess from its appropriate name:
If you can listen to audio files like MP3s on your PC here are a couple of good ones (the best way to listen is to save the MP3 file first then listen to that when convenient) ...(both about an hour long and 10 to 20 MB size)
1. Interview Jim Puplova / Matt Savinar about peak oil in general
2. Peak oil and food, a good lecture by Richard Heinberg