Peak oil 101

Peak oil 101.

Fossil fuels helped make these plastic-backed desks. Now it's time to sit in the chair and learn about fossil fuels. Photo: cdsessums via Flickr.

When I met John Carroll at the ASPO conference and chatted him up about my recent interview with the late Matt Simmons, we hit it off right away. A long time friend of Simmons, Carroll was clearly still dealing with his grief over losing him so unexpectedly, and he probed me on his state during the interview. I could only share that Simmons seemed not only generously willing to help out a budding peak oil news outlet with his take on the state of the issue today, but also was gregarious, coherent and informative. All was normal.

Then it was Carroll’s turn, as he reflected with clear affection on a friend who has influenced him so much, even coming to the University of New Hampshire to speak with Carroll’s students about peak oil in what Carroll says Simmons called the “first and only peak oil class in the US.”

Far from being the 101 class in my tongue-in-cheek title, Carroll’s class is actually a graduate-level course for doctoral and Master’s degree candidates at UNH, mostly students in natural resources, earth sciences, and resource economics.

“My hope is that the students will come to understand how crucial oil is to all aspects of our lives and how strongly connected oil is to our agriculture, our food supply, and our ability to find and utilize natural resources,” said Carroll.

This was an area where Carroll could also influence Simmons who, Carroll said, was, “gaining a much better appreciation of the role of oil in agriculture and the food supply. I was coaching and advising him on this subject for a few years prior to his death.”

Carroll, who has taught the course for over five years, said that he’s convinced that more and more young people in New England are, “preparing themselves for peak oil, particularly in their movement toward agricultural involvement. Not only farming itself, and serious gardening, but by serious support of and participation in farmers markets, CSAs, and in other ways.”

Peak oil is a potent and driving lifestyle motivator for both current and former students. “I’ve gotten much feedback from students…on many, many aspects of these matters, from the scientific — geological, environmental — to the economic and the political. Some of the students are continuing to follow these matters closely, even long after course completion and graduation. Many continue to view The Oil Drum and other similar websites weekly if not daily.”

But, he says, the young people preparing themselves are clearly a minority. “However, I will say that the number who are completely oblivious to the problem is decreasing steadily.”

What concerns Carroll is that some folks, young and old, are clearly open to and actively addressing issues in peak oil, even actively preparing, while others are entirely shut down around it, regarding peak oil as irrelevant, or a waste of time. That gap gets in the way of constructive dialog.

But for Carroll, the evidence is too overwhelming to deny. “In terms of my own views, just as I regarded Matt Simmons as highly credible, I continue to believe in the credibility of people like Jeff Rubin and Robert Hirsch, both of whom spoke at the ASPO Conference in Washington. The effects are likely to be as significant as Rubin, Hirsch and others like them report, although one can never know the precise timing. Ultimately, truth will win the day.”

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