With America distracted by oil bubble, peak oil patiently waits

Mohandas Gandhi may or may not have said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” But it’s become a truism among activists that, after years of playing to an empty house, it’s actually a sign of progress when the rotten tomatoes start to fly.

For a long time, people in the peak oil community complained that both government and media didn’t pay any attention to the issue of energy supply.

Well, they can’t complain about THAT anymore, with all the talk about a renaissance of oil and gas from fracking and tar sands.

Now, peak oil has the pleasure of getting too much attention. But unfortunately for peak oilers, this time it’s jeers, not cheers.

Marketwatch gently points out that “Peak Oil Theory Has a Flaw,” the Wall Street journal predicts that “The U.S. Natural-Gas Boom Will Transform the World,” the San Francisco Chronicle finds “North American Energy Independence Now Possible” and Congressional Republicans even offer a plan to get there.

Smart people who understand how difficult and expensive it is to produce most of today’s new oil sources remain unconvinced that peak oil has been indefinitely postponed.

And they’re right. Environmental damage aside, soon it just won’t be worth the trouble to tear up either Alberta or Appalachia for crude. But when will “soon” arrive — five years? Ten years?

On the downside, that’s plenty of time to keep frying the climate. On the upside, it would also be enough time for society — on a war footing — to make some rudimentary preparations for an economy beyond oil by building trains, putting in energy conservation and renewables and transitioning everything from agriculture to education from a centralized to a localized model.

The chances of that happening are small, I know. But wouldn’t it be great?

In the meantime, these days in the oil industry it’s Mardi Gras all year round. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

But the rest of us should not be distracted by the oil bubble from the important task of getting ourselves ready for a world where oil will be much more expensive — and where the only time it will be cheap again is when we don’t need it anymore.

And THAT will be a very different kind of world.

So it’s refreshing to see a graphic like The World Running On ‘E’, put out by a site called CarInsurance.org. Send it to your family and friends to remind them of the obvious point that, when it comes to peak oil, the question is not whether, but simply, When?

Out of Oil Infographic

—  Erik Curren, Transition Voice

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  1. says

    Here in the Old South where we live and work, the self-delusion seems – surprisingly – to be giving way to a grim awareness that things really aren’t going to get much better. The delusion continues about plentiful supplies of oil, but more of our friends seem to be becoming aware that it won’t be available to them. We have a pretty steady stream now of people wanting to see how we live and how we’ve designed our farm. Nobody’s laughing at us any more; they’re taking notes.

    • says

      I wonder if we’re getting that same grim awareness here in our part of the South (Virginia)? Definitely the numerous Conservatives around here are pretty down on the country’s prospects after the election. And overall there does seem to be more of a sense that people have to start fending for themselves, whatever happens. People here don’t talk about energy much with gas so cheap, but that doesn’t stop them from getting into more resilience activities. And I’m not sure what you’re doing on your farm, but we’ve got more and more farmers around our town who are getting into permaculture even if they don’t use the term.

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