Just because a variety of authorities said in 2010 that the world had reached peak oil already and that its consequences for industrial society would be profound, it doesn’t mean that energy cornucopians have raised the white flag.
Quite the opposite. They’re actually claiming victory.
Yes, the International Energy Agency said that conventional oil peaked in 2006, the US military and German armed forces fingered peak oil as a threat to world peace and their respective nations’ security and British industry set up a taskforce to help the UK government prepare for peak oil.
The power of myth
But the public still doesn’t know or doesn’t care about peak oil. And about the only people in the mainstream media who deal with the subject are would-be debunkers. For example, an Ayn Rand acolyte on Fox News recently came out with a list of six myths about oil, where “Because oil is finite, it will inevitably run out” ranks as myth #3.
Mark Bendzela has better cred in the sustainability world. He helps run a CSA farm in Maine and describes himself as a former peak oil writer. He claims that the debunkers are doing more now than just saying the oil won’t run out anytime soon. With masterful rhetorical jiu-jitsu, energy cornucopians have co-opted peak oil’s own claims to prove that peakers were wrong all along:
If oil indeed has peaked, as many of us suspect, then the quote that Fahey attributes to Paul Sankey of Deutsche Bank is actually true: “…by 2030 America will use just 5.4 million barrels a day, the same as in 1969”; and this quote by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is true: “…the country’s dependence on foreign oil will wane and heat-trapping emissions of carbon dioxide will grow more slowly”; and what Yergin says is true: “the heady days of gasoline growing in the U.S. are over.”
So, energy efficiency in the US means that we don’t have to worry about peak oil? An interesting point — if it were true.
When black is white
But as usage in China and other new energy consumers continues to grow, experts say that US domestic gains in efficiency will be swamped by world oil demand.
Bendzela then goes on to denounce several “peak oilists” by name, including Matt Savinar, Mike Ruppert, Robert Hirsch and James Howard Kunstler, as false prophets of doom who’ve abandoned rational thinking for a version of religious faith where peak oil is the messiah.
He’s not worried about the future of industrial society because he believes that science (he mentions GMO food) and a smarter use of the fossil fuels we have left can save us, especially the industrial agriculture that Bendzela thinks is necessary to feed society in the future.
Bendzela claims to be more rational than the peak writers he tries to refute. But his faith in technology sounds as messianic as the doomerism he rejects.
So it appears that the debate will continue.
— Erik Curren