Peak Oil – time to start worrying July 14, 2008Posted by Al in : educational,future,interesting,politics,scary,science,transport , trackback
I don’t enjoy being the pessimist and giving bad news to my readers, because I would far prefer to be happy and post links to fun sites. However, sometimes I feel that I really need to bring important facts to your attention, and Peak Oil is one of those things that everyone should know about.
Peak Oil is a term used to describe the time when the world’s oil production is exceeded by the world’s demand for oil. This is something that I never worried about before because I was aware that there was plenty of oil still waiting to be pumped, and never thought the day would arrive when the oil producing nations would struggle to meet demand. Even thought the price of oil has been rocketing recently, I still had confidence in the reserves of oil available being able to to meet demand and remaining viable through the next 20-30 years (which will see me to the end of my life). I remained confident until I read this article from Business Week.
In brief, this article states that Saudi Arabia, which is still the holder of the world’s largest oil fields, has promised to ramp up production in order to alleviate the current high price of oil, but it seems that this promise will not be met. It is in the oil producers best interests to keep the price of oil high, but not too high, because that way they make good money but don’t force people into using alternative power sources. So, whilst Saudi Arabia would love to up production now that the rest of the world is in shock over the recent rise in oil prices, it would seem that they are unable to actually pump and process any more oil – which makes their supply stagnant.
Sine the rest of the oil producing nations are already running at full production rates, and may even be failing to produce at all over the next week, then we may well be at that fabled point of Peak Oil, which means that things will go downhill from now on. The impact will not be felt immediately, but continuously rising costs and fuel shortages will lead to spiraling costs and shortages of other goods. These factors will cause businesses to fail, leading to higher unemployment, but the government will receive less money and so will not be able to support these victims. Rising costs and no government support lead to rising civil unrest and crime, which puts civilisation on the slippery slope towards anarchy. This might sound far-fetched to you, but the steps involved will be small and seemingly insignificant, but they will combine, in a logical manner, to create the possible collapse of society as we know it. You can read a lot more about this whole process here.
It’s important to remember that this is the likely course of events given our current state of affairs, and this doomsday scenario doesn’t take into account advancements in technology or governments having the courage to act now to forestall this tragedy. I’d probably put my money on technology advances, which is what the governments are doing, because most governments are too scared to do what needs to be done as this will lose them votes. We NEED nuclear power stations to be built NOW! It takes around 10 years to build a nuclear power station and get it up and running, but if we start now then by the time oil is actually getting short and starting to pose a serious threat to our electricity supply then we would have these nuclear power stations either in operation or approaching completion, and this would alleviate one of the biggest impacts of Peak Oil. I know some people believe that with electric vehicles now starting to become mainstream that this will alleviate some of the coming oil crisis, but where are these vehicles to get their electric charge from when the majority of the power supply is generated using oil? So write to your MP/Senator and ask why nuclear power stations are not being created now; after all they are not reliant on oil, they are the most environmentally friendly way of generating power and they take so long to build that if they’re not started soon then it may be too late.
Another technological advance that would mitigate the impact of Peak Oil is the development of commercially viable hydrogen fuel cells. These would very quickly allow most transport to move to an oil free fuel supply (air transport would need a radical rethink in order to be able to use fuel cells, but all other modes of transport could be converted relatively simply). Hydrogen fuel cells would also allow us to change the way we look at our power supplies as well, as it may be more cost effective for businesses and larger properties to move to generating their own supply via a fuel cell rather than relying on commercial supply. This would, once again, dramatically cut our reliance on oil.
The biggest stumbling blocks to actually dealing with Peak Oil are the oil producing nations, who stand to lose their income if people move away from oil as a primary fuel source; the governments, who need to build nuclear power stations that nobody wants built near them; and the power supply companies, who stand to lose a lot of revenue if individuals could begin to generate their own power. These people all have a vested interest in the status quo and would quite happily carry on, with no moves made to forestall Peak Oil, until it’s too late. So all we can do is prepare for a very rough ride ahead.