Salon just posted a comprehensive article about peak oil doomerism, but the rhetoric so resembles apocalypticism of other types, it’s hard to take it seriously.
We probably are at, or near, the global peak of conventional oil production. But that doesn’t excuse the blatant fear-mongering and outright hyperbole of James Howard Kunstler, Matt Savinar, Richard Heinberg, Jan Lundberg, and their peak-oil doom cult. (Yes, I’ve read all their blogs and books.)
Reading between the lines, it’s clear most peak-oilers actually wish doom and destruction on the current world politico-economic order. Many adherents are marginalized in the current system. They relish their fantasies of halcyon eco-villages, and the collapse of globalism and existing urban power structures. Finally, they chortle, the era of the “common people” has arrived, free of government and corporate domination. As oil-refineries worldwide gurgle to a halt, they envision a paradise for healthy, physically fit, mostly vegan, do-it-yourselfers. It’s laughable. It’s pathetic.
Last time we tried such tribalism, there were a lot fewer people on the planet–and they still managed to brutally slaughter each other in large numbers.
Thankfully, it won’t come to this. There will be a period of energy transition, and contrary to peak-oil doomthink, the solution will be part economic, and part technological. Here it is, pure and simple: $3.00 gas didn’t stop SUV drivers, but it nearly bankrupted GM. $6.00 or $10.00 gas will kill or transform GM once and for all, put the road-behemoths permanently in park, and restore some sanity to Americans’ profligate sense of energy entitlement.
The government may be forced to step in and deal with shortages. But that doesn’t mean it will collapse. If you don’t think the military has first rights to any oil in this country, think again. Martial law would be declared in any kind of ‘doomsday’ situation. There’s a far greater chance of internment camps than eco-villages in that scenario.
Last time we had those kinds of shortages in WWII, the government issued ration coupons. We Americans have a lot of fat in our energy diet. We are spoiled rotten. We could easily, and I mean easily cut our fossil energy consumption in half, almost overnight if necessary. (Carpooling, public transport, change all light bulbs to half wattage, turn off heat to rooms we aren’t using, ride bicycles, use organic waste in place of fertilizer, turn lights and computers off in office buildings at night, and stop whining!)
I’m here to agree on one point with the peak-oilers: we will be forced to cut our oil consumption. And it will paradoxically be great news for future forms of energy. Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute is right on the money. And the only reason why his plans haven’t been taken more seriously until now is because oil has been dirt cheap!
Both private and National Oil Companies know that they stand to make 5-10 times the money on the downslope of the peak as what they have made up to this point. Think you hate the Oil Sheiks now? The West is about to get into a bidding war with China and India over oil. Prices could hit $150-200 per barrel or more.
Wickedly high prices will be the bitter medicine America (and the world) needs to go cold-turkey. The coming energy shock will not only prove peak-oilers wrong, it will kickstart the long-overdue energy transition like the “chorus of doom” never could. As prices rise, demand will plummet. It will only be a matter of time before new energy extraction and production methods take over, and energy prices moderate worldwide. Some of this is already happening, such as in Brazil, which produces almost 20 percent of its transport fuel from sugar cane, and it’s already cheaper than gasoline. Or globally with wind power, now the fastest growing energy source. If enough alt-energy comes on line in the next few years, we might not even have to go through such a traumatic shock. And–there’s a silver lining to the energy transition: a better, healthier lifestyle, with far less CO2 production!
Either way, sell your SUV, and buy an efficient hybrid car or diesel (not a bullshit luxury hybrid). Buy stock in clean-tech companies. Buy E85 or biodiesel if you can find it. Plan to telecommute in the future. But don’t waste your money on survival gear, or your life by drinking the peak-oil kool-aid. Don’t take my word for it, pay a visit to JD over at Peak Oil Debunked. His writing style is great, and you’ll see why human ingenuity will always find enough energy to power the future.