Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The future is....bright?

Only if you're burning candles. Low tech and powering down. That may be the future that lies before us. If you haven't heard of Peak Oil, it really is something you should begin to educate yourself about. The story of Peak Oil goes something like this...

There once was a guy named Dr. Marion King Hubbert who was a Shell geologist. Dr. Hubbert predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970. Well, it just so happened it did. Now most people thought he was a little off his rocker at first, until folks were waiting in gas lines in the early 70's. So how did he figure out that our oil production would peak and never recover here in the U.S.? Basically, he noticed that oil fields would peak in production around 40 years after drilling began. This proved true for all oil fields. Now, fast forward to present day.

Oil seems to be in a never ending supply. Not only do our cars run on it but just about everything we use in our everyday lives comes from it. We depend on it to transport our food and clothing, we make toys, computers, appliances, lights, etc. from it. It has become such a part of our lives that we cannot imagine living without it. Remember that bit about oil fields peaking around the 40 year mark? Guess when the last major oil fields were discovered?  A little over 40 years ago. So if the last major oil fields were found over 40 years ago, how much global oil is left?

The graph that I have included will give you an idea of where most experts think we are. Granted, there are always those out there that will argue that Peak Oil is way off base, but that's what a lot of people have been saying about Global Warming and we see how well that is working out. No matter how you look at it, oil is a finite resource. It won't last forever. Just like coal and natural gas have their limits also. Weather we experience the effects of decreased global production in 100 years or in the next 5 years, it really doesn't matter. We need to begin to prepare our communities for living without oil. And as for the decrease in gas prices from a year ago? Well, look how many people began to cut back on their driving. The demand went down but I can still see the price increases when I go to the grocery store. Gas prices fluctuate and sooner or later demand will go back up and so will the price.

So what does all of this mean for us? Well, to be honest no one is really sure. It is very possible our economy will collapse. It will only take a 5% decrease in global oil production for our economy to fall apart. There could be mass layoffs, people losing their homes, food scarcity, and price hikes. Hmmm....sound familiar? It is a bleak picture and not one that most of us care to envision. The future may not look that bright right now but it may not be as bleak as what we first think. First, consider what a life without oil availability may be like, then we will look at what is being done to help cushion the decent off of oil.

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