Peak Oil Publicity – Finally
The Gazette had a front page story about Peak Oil this Saturday. This is the first time to my knowledge this subject has been given such high visibility to the general public. Le Devoir has reprinted some AFP stories but this subject has a lot less visibility in Canada compared to Europe.
In my opinion this is a subject long overdue to be publicized to the general public. I’ve actually read quite a bit about this issue and my first letter to the editor in July 2007 was about this subject.
Most people assume that we have years and years of oil before we “run out”. The “run out” number is typically calculated by dividing the estimated reserves by the current production to arrive at a certain number of years. The implication of this is that everything will continue as normal until the magic day when oil will just stop flowing completely. The reality is much different and alarming.
The production of oil has been shown to generally follow a bell curve for individual wells, individual fields and entire countries. What remains is to show it for the entire world which has not happened yet but is only a matter of time. Our society’s problems will instead begin when the available supply starts to decline (or peak) not when it “runs out”.
Another dynamic was well illustrated last year when oil skyrocketed to 150$ a barrel. People seem to think that you just poke a hole in the ground and oil just bursts out of the ground. This used to happen but not any more. Oil that is being found today is much harder to get than in the past and requires sophisticated technologies and a lot of money to finally bring it into production. Declining production from the easy oil and more expensive new oil will combine to push oil prices very high in the future.
Why is this important?
- Oil is used for 95% of all energy used for transportation
- Oil represents 43% of all fuel consumption.
- Our agriculture is heavily reliant on oil: for every joule of food energy consumed, 10 joules of fossil fuel energy is consumed.
This is an issue that every citizen should become informed about and demand action from their representatives at every level of government.
What can you do as an individual?
- In the short term you can switch to a more fuel-efficient car, reduce the number of cars you own, and start taking public transit.
- In the long term, you can move to a neighborhood where you are not so dependant upon the car where you can walk to various activities and shops.
Our government needs to play a larger role to stop encouraging car use by:
- Stopping building highways and bridges that encourage people to live further away from their jobs.
- Investing in public transit infrastructure such as tramways, metros, buses, inter-city trains.
We need to take action now to be ready when the crisis hits. So far, unfortunately, not much as been done.
If you are interested in this subject here are some books that will make you think:
And some Web sites: