Monday, November 14, 2005

Peak Oil on My Mind

This morning, I’ve got Peak Oil on my mind. My thoughts have been inspired from an email a friend of mine sent me regarding a paper that was presented at a Reception with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the California Leaders Round Table Dialogue on Peak Oil, Climate Change and Business Action by Richard Heinberg. After I read the article, a few statements from it come to mind. The first one points out how much we depend on fossil fuels to do our work.

“Only 150 years ago, 85% of all work being accomplished in the US economy was done by muscle power-most of that by animal muscle, about a quarter of it by human muscle. Today, that percentage is effectively zero; virtually all of the physical work supporting our economy is done by fuel-fed machines. What caused this transformation? Quite simply, it was oil's comparative cheapness and versatility. Perhaps you have had the experience of running out of gas and having to push your car a few feet to get it off the road. That's hard work. Now imagine pushing your car 20 or 30 miles. That is the service performed for us by a single gallon of gasoline, for which we currently pay $2.65. That gallon of fuel is the energy equivalent of roughly six weeks of hard human labor.

”It was inevitable that we would become addicted to this stuff, once we had developed a few tools for using it and for extracting it. Today petroleum provides 97 percent of our transportation fuel, and is also a feedstock for chemicals and plastics.

”It is no exaggeration to say that we live in a world that runs on oil.” Richard Heinberg

He than goes on to say.

“However, oil is a finite resource. Therefore the peaking and decline of world oil production are inevitable events-and on that there is scarcely any debate; only the timing is uncertain. Forecast dates for the peak range from this year to 2035.” Heinberg

Like Heinberg alludes to in the above statement, it can’t be argued that eventually the global production of oil is going to peak. It’s a finite resource, so it only stands to reason. The next question is are we going to be prepared for this when it happens (if it hasn’t happened already). One of the measures Heinberg is suggesting for us to take is that we need to reduce our dependence on this stuff ASAP. Another thing he suggests is a global Oil Depletion Protocol.

“A global Oil Depletion Protocol would reduce price volatility and competition for remaining supplies, while encouraging nations to move quickly to wean themselves from petroleum. In essence, the Protocol would be an agreement whereby producing nations would plan to produce less oil with each passing year (and that will not be so difficult, because few are still capable of maintaining their current rates in any case); and importing nations would agree to import less each year. That may seem a bitter pill to swallow.

”However, without a Protocol-essentially a system for global oil rationing-we will see extremely volatile prices that will undermine the economies of all nations, and all industries and businesses.

”We will also see increasing international competition for oil likely leading to conflict; and if a general oil war were to break out, everyone would lose. Given the alternatives, the Protocol clearly seems preferable.

”National governments, local municipalities, corporations, and private individuals will all need to contribute to the effort to wean ourselves from oil, and effort that must quickly expand to include a reduction in dependence on other fossil fuels as well. All of this will constitute an immense challenge for our species in the coming century. We will meet that challenge successfully only if we begin immediately.” R. Heinberg

We’ll see if this global Oil Depletion Protocol will become policy for most nations. As of right now, I would guess the United States would be the last to adopt this as policy. But, we’ll see what happens.

1 comment:

Zahra said...
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