Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peak oil in the news

It's funny how just two years ago, I was barely familiar with the theory of peak oil. I'd heard it brought up in a few online vegetarian communities, but no more than that. Even now, many of my friends think it's an extremist and paranoid outlook, since we were born into cheap oil and can't imagine life without it. As my peak oil aware friend J. used to say: ''They just can't hear it.''

Now it seems to be talked about everywhere -- from YouTube videos on building kitchen gardens and sustainable communities, to websites devoted to personal health in a post-carbon world or to basic skills development. What's become most telling, however, is the large number and diversity of articles about it now in mainstream media. Here's a recent AP article, for instance, on the spike in people choosing to homestead or to learn to live off the land in the face of the coming energy crisis. And it seems that everyone wants to talk to Richard Heinberg these days.

There are articles everywhere about supply and demand issues and the uncertainty of what's left as worldwide consumption continues to increase. Even the Wall Street Journal recently published an article about well-respected energy watchdog the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s recent predictions that supplies may be lower than previously thought. IEA plans to release a report sometime in November detailing its assessment of the world's top 400 oil fields.

I recently kick-started a local peak oil discussion group here in my small city and am hoping to get the word out about it over the next few weeks. I've mentioned it to a few friends, and although some feel strongly about issues like global warming, I think they classify peak oil with things like 9/11 conspiracy theories. Hopefully, I'll be able to dig some like-minded folks up out of their root cellars so that we can trade off some skills and knowledge.


J said...

You are so right, not long ago, people looked

at those of us who talked about peak oil as

if we were 'conspiracy theorists' or as you

said, akin to '9/11 Truthers'. People don't

want to hear the literally almost EVERYTHING

(if not everything) about their lifestyle is

unsustainable and causing immense damage.

We, at least here in the US, are raised to

believe that we are entitled to the life we

are born into, the ability to buy what we

please, a life of 'happy motoring' (to quote

Kunstler) in the suburbs. Now we are

realizing that things are not as they seem.

It IS better late than never, though. I

think people are at least starting to see

that things aren't right and they aren't

headed in the right direction. You see a lot

more DIY style things around, farmer's

markets getting more popular, more people

buying organic, and so on. I think people might be (rightfully so in my opinion, at least at this time), that government isn't going to step in and 'save the day' (have they ever?), so they are taking steps to, well, re-learn a lot of the basic knowledge we've forgotten.

It's nice to see Richard Heinberg in demand. I've seen a lot more 'supply and demand' issue pieces as well, finally the rise in prices is being shown as more than a political or corporate profiteering issue, though I'm not sure I've heard any of them use the term 'peak oil', I suppose semantics doesn't matter.

You know, Brett and I were talking about this the other day, about how a few decades ago, OPEC countries vastly inflated their 'reserve levels' pretty much overnight and the fact that nobody can really be too sure how much oil they really have left, not to mention the aging of those fields as well as the poor technology used in the beginning of the extraction process. I guess there are still just a lot of unknowns.

AWESOME! That's really cool you got a group started! I wish we had one here in Columbia. There are so many civic groups here I wouldn't know where to begin and wouldn't want to 're-invent' the wheel either.

I hope finding members goes well, I'd join if I lived near you.

klara said...

it's funny how the collective perspective shifts. scary how media has such a major role in how people think. i uploaded this post to http://sustain.newsladder.net/ (like Digg but centered around
sustainability). It's a great resource and I'm trying to spread the word about it. Please check it out and upload your posts there if you can!