So I saw this movie last night, The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream. Now I've read all about the oil-peak and I farely well informed about it, but this movie kind of shocked me back into reality. Apparently many scientists agree that we have, as of now, reached peak oil production.
What does this mean to us? Well if oil has peaked, that means that it will cost more and more energy to retrieve and refine oil than we can get out of the oil itself. Which means that oil is no longer a viable energy source. Which means that everyone will be fighting for the last scraps of oil reserves that they can get. Dick Cheney said be prepared for a war that will not end in our lifetimes. Iraq is only the begining. There is no other energy source that can match the energy output of oil. In otherwords our present world, our present lifestyle cannot continue. Everyone knows that our civilization is based on a limited natural resource. Now whats going to happen now that that resource has peaked in its production?
Consider everything that oil gives us: Oil, gas, diesel, natural gas, electricity (from coal-fired powerplants), machines and the machines to make machines, rubber, all synthetic products, plastics, fertilizer (which means food growth and food transportation/distribution is threatened), convienient/cheap travel. Think of all the things these things are connected to and how they all come to be. It all traces back to oil. This computer I'm typing on is made possible by oil.
So what if I'm crying wolf. Maybe it hasn't peaked now, but everyone agrees that it will peak by 2010, even people in the industry.
I guess the question is, what now? How do we survive in a world without oil and all that we have made from it? We're at the end of an age. (kindof exciting, but seriously, were f--ked!)
I suppose this relates to my previous thread about the work/travel/work cycle. Should we even bother with the work? Should we just travel until the Sh-t really hits the fan? But, then what? I feel like some wacko conspirracy-theorist. I guess it's just blowing my mind, really. What are everyone elses thoughts on this matter?
P.s. you should all watch the movie, it was really good. Although, I think you have to pay for it. Maybe theres a free copy somewhere. http://www.endofsuburbia.com/ Or a good book on the subject was The Party's Over. Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Society.
P.p.s. As an Anthropologist I'd like to lend some credibility to this and mention that all civilizations of the past have collapsed. What makes us think we're so special? Its not mad science, its just a matter of time.
I am not certain what the future ability of the earth to provide us oil is. Recent reports seem to indicate that the oil shortage may be farther off still. BP estimates that we still have 41 years of oil production at current rates for all known oil reserves. In 1980, they knew of 29 years worth of oil production, so our ability to find new oil reserves seem to be keeping up with our ability to use it.
Of course, it could all be hogwash. Maybe the oil companies are having us on. Even if they aren't, the burning of fossil fuels is not a sustainable way to live, and it's bad for the environment too.
However, just dropping out and travelling hardly seems like a decent answer to that. Basically you are just giving up on continuing this society and waiting for the end. Wouldn't it be better to try and work to find alternative ways to support humans on earth, better ways which don't pollute the planet and are sustainable?
So, you ask, Greg, what the hell are you doing? Well, I take public transit or walk instead of driving when I can. I have invested some of my money in alternative fuel sources (specifically a company making hydrogen fuel cells). I turn off the lights and turn off the AC. It's little things, but that's what I can do.
And of course, if we all dropped out and just travelled, then we would probably increase the amount of oil used in the world because of the increased load on trains, planes and buses.
P.S. Just to present some competing points of view.
Estimates of Canada’s oil reserves jumped from 4.9 billion barrels to 180 billion this year, making the country the second-largest oil reserve in the world, according to an annual survey conducted by the Oil and Gas Journal. The change catapults Canada ahead of Iraq in terms of reserve size, and decreases OPEC’s share of the world’s oil reserves by more than 10 percent.
The new data estimate total world oil reserves at 1.15 trillion barrels, some 10 per cent higher than those previously reported for 2002. Global oil reserves have increased almost continuously over the past 30 years. World reserves now represent 41 years of production at current rates: in 1980, when the Review’s new data series begins, reserves equivalent to only 29 years of production were known. The world has now produced some 80 per cent of the oil reserves that were known in 1980, yet exploration success and application of technology has led to current reserves that are 70 per cent higher.
True, but oil production is based on a bell curve. Theres tons of oil left. Around about half of what was here before we started. We've reached the top of that bell and now we're sliding down. It's not really a question of how much is left. Its more like "how much will it cost to pump out the bottom of the barrel and is that cost economically viable?" Its not a matter of where the oil reserves are, but how can we get the oil out without losing energy in the process.
You mentioned Canada's reserves. I understand that the majority of these reserves are in oil-sand. This is kindof an exaple of what I'm taking about. Retrieveing oil from these sands takes more energy than say pumping straight from a well. So even though theres more oil there, you'll get less out of it in the end. The profit margins are not as high, so the trend isn't yet in full swing (in other words, we're not that desperate...yet.) Not to mention the humongous impact on the environment. Mining oil-sand creates very, very large holes at the dig site. Bad for the environment right there. The mining companies say that they will fill in these holes with the washed out sand after the area has been completely mined. But when oil is scarce in the not-to-distant future, what company is going to waste prescious oil (ie. gas for the huge mining machines) on filling these in. In a better, moral, world of course they would, but I won't keep my fingers crossed.
It will reach a point where you put so much energy into getting the oil that you'll be losing energy and money. Now who's gonna want to do that in our kind of economy? For example you mentioned Hydrogen Cells. Hydrogen cells are great in theory, except for a few things. Like all you need is water and electricity, right? But where do you get the electricity from. 60% of american electricity comes from powerplants run on fossil fuels. No other source of energy has the capacity to keep up with demand. At least on a national level. Also, there is no infastructure to maintain hydrogen cars. And of course you need to make them in the first place which requires oil-energy. And of course, of course, who wants to ride in a car with a 200 gallon pressurized hydrogen tank? Thought the Hindenburg was bad? Try the 20 car pile-up on I-5.
But of course your right. Running of wouldn't solve anything. and it would consume lots of fuel. And high-altitude exaust is terrible for the ozone. I suppose I'm just being romantic... But I could just walk, talk about romantic.