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Life Off-the-Grid

It’s Official – Peak Oil is Real

By Cam Mather

Well it’s official – the real world has finally acknowledged peak oil. In the past whenever governments were questioned about peak oil they referred to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA said “Relax, don’t worry, all is well” for years. Their World Energy Outlooks (WEO) always reported healthy reserves with the economic mantra that higher prices would always bring more oil to market to reduce supply restraints. In terms of supply they said that the current 85 million or so barrels we pump out of the ground each day, would grow to 120 million barrels in the next decade or two.

So let’s think about this – 85 million barrels is about 1,000 barrels a second. It’s 5,500 Olympic sized swimming pools every day. Come on, you think you can grow that to 120 million barrels… a day? The mind boggles at the arrogance. They were making this suggestion at the same time that about 60 countries that used to produce oil were now past peak and had gone from being exporters of oil to importers. The latest WEO finally admitted we’d probably hit a “plateau” around 2020. “Plateau” is double-speak for peak oil and Fatih Birol was suddenly on a road trip telling governments they should be aware of this.

In February the British “Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security” a group made up of industries heavily reliant on oil released its report entitled “The Oil Crunch: A wake-up call for the UK economy.”

Then this week the UK Energy Minister held a summit to discuss peak oil. The UK Guardian reported that this meeting was held “to calm rising fears over peak oil.”

Really, rising fears over peak oil? Ya think?

Yes it’s time we started talking about it. We should have started a decade ago. Or better yet, we should have followed the Hirsh recommendations to the U.S. governments that to properly deal with it we need to start 20 years before peak. That was 20 years ago, so the U.K. government is coming to the table 20 year too late.

It helps of course that Richard Branson of the “Virgin” Empire… Virgin Air, Virgin Cell phones etc. is one of the five industrialists who signed the report. This guy makes his living flying people all over the world. We won’t get into the enormous carbon footprint of his companies, let’s just say Sir Richard has seen the writing on the wall and he knows we are not going to continue to conduct business as usual for much longer, because no amount of ethanol or biodiesel is going to make up for the one time endowment of fossil fuels that are starting to dwindle.

So there it is, the “chicken littles” were right. The sky is falling. We’re running out of oil. Our economic growth for the last 100 years has been based on cheap plentiful oil. Our suburban lifestyles have been developed around it, as have those weddings in which the couple gets married in sunny southern locations that the whole wedding party has to fly to. The clock is ticking on these rituals and if you’re getting married and ever hope to have kids and leave them an inhabitable planet, then you’d better change your plans. Marry local. Have a local wedding. Serve local food. Have the bride arrive in a pedicab.

And yes, I jest. But not for long. The greatest thing you can do make yourself more resilient to this coming shock is to lower your expectations. That’s right. You ARE going to fly less, or not at all. You WILL have to live closer to work. You SHOULD be installing a geothermal system to heat your home now, while you can still get a qualified company to do it. Pretty soon getting one will be like trying to get to see a good plastic surgeon in Hollywood. Expect delays.

Peak oil is no longer some fringe concept by people who wear aluminum caps to keep the aliens from reading their minds. I’ve always found those really uncomfortable and the aliens have found ways around them anyway. Peak oil is now a reality recognized by government and industry. It will be one of the defining issues of the rest of your life. You can keep ignoring it, but it’s not going away. You should start reading about it and develop a strategy on how to deal with it personally. Governments have been way behind the curve on this so don’t expect them to take the lead. Take the lead and make yourself more energy independent.


1 Comment

  1. I think it was 2002 when I had my wakeup call? Was that when The Long Emergency came out? Here we are in 2010 and still no government action -no dialogue – you are quite right Cam – the people will be on their own for this one – start collecting skills that are necessary and valuable and a great “how to” library!
    Sustainability will be the name of the game!

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