The most up to date and comprehensive website covering peak oil in a global context is The Oil Drum. According to the IEA oil supply has already peaked and we are now in decline. Oil consumption in the United States, Japan, Australian, Europe and other developed OECD nations is currently declining.
Oil has until recently been relatively abundant. With many large easily mined oil fields found up until the late 70's it is hard to believe that we are now about to run out. A long time ago, you used to have to burn one barrel of oil in order to extract 30 barrels. Now you burn one barrel to get two barrels and the price per barrel at the retail end goes up exponentially. As oil companies run out of easily exploitable oil fields, shale sands and other previously un-economical oil extraction methods are put to work. As the energy cost of extracting that energy reaches equilibrium however, we cannot any longer extract oil using other oil, and as the world energy demand seems to show no sign of decline, this poses us with the peak-oil problem.
So what can be done?
Now you might say there is nothing we can do given the sheer scale of the problem. To a certain extent it is up to governments to amend their policies and major infrastructure ideals in order to run with our declining oil supply. As a bottom up approach individuals can do a few things however which will put pressure on those policy makers to get a move on:
- Cut down on oil use and oil related products. Think electric vehicles, green shopping bags cut down on plastic - a derivative of oil, efficient living - same comfort smaller spaces, less wasteful than one person per car commuting, smarter housing design etc
- Smarter food choices, less waste. Eat kangaroo instead of beef or better still become vegetarian or vegan. Remember 1 cow = 2 barrels of oil to farm that cow.
- Put pressure on your government to change policies and tell them you want a stable sustainable and economically sound future. You want feed in tariffs for your energy, better public transport systems, policies that encourage more energy efficient housing.
- no more desalinated water - cut down on our water use instead. To generate water from electricity is a step in the wrong direction not only because of the environmental damage such actions cause, but also for infrastructure security. What happens when the price of oil goes through the roof? We can't drink fresh water any more?
- Encourage a carbon trading system which covers all emission including transport, exports, imports and agriculture. This will force businesses to forge new directions through financial barriers.
Peak Oil in the US
Some issues are raised here about how urgently we need to take on a paradigm shift towards energy alternatives to oil. The questions from the reporter such as "$300 per barrel, how can we fix this?" Only emphasise the misunderstanding of the concept of peak oil. It is not something to be fixed, or subsidised, there is simply no more oil to match demand that can be obtained without using more energy to obtain it than the energy gained. Finding alternative energy sources is the only fix here and we are on the verge of missing the pathway to a low impact solution.
The Future of Energy
Our future energy will come from the sun, the wind, geothermal and hydro with gas becoming the all important transitional energy source. The sustainable energy boom is just beginning.
Picture: The Oil Crisis