On Jul 4, 2006, at 6:30 PM, Michael Murphy wrote:


Did you know that because of fossil fuels the human race uses 4 

centuries worth of energy every year, what are we going to do when 

they run out?


All this talk about global warming may be academic. Peak oil is a much more immediate 

problem and potentially much more devastating. Worldwide it is estimated that we have 

used up half of the oil reseves. That sound reasuring but it isn't. Oil production generally 

goes according to a bell shaped curve for a given supply historically. Production ramps up 

gradually, peaks, and then declines slowly. Demand on the other hand tracks production 

closely as the supply increases, but when oil production peaks the demand just keeps 

going up. This quickly create a huge gap between supply and demand. Most people who 

study this think that this is what we are seeing the begining of now. World oil production 

seems to have leveled of and should start declining soon. We've seen $3 a gallon but are 

you ready for $6, $12, $25. 


The implications for civilization are mind boggling. Before the widespread use of fossil 

fuels the population of the earth was about 1 billion. Tapping this stored solar energy has 

allowed the population to soar to 6.5 billion. The population may very well return to closer 

to 1 billion at the end of the fossil fuel age. It's taken about 150 years to use half the oil. 

The down side of the bell shaped curve may be much steeper. The first half was the easy 

half to recover. What's left will be increasingly difficult and costly. Meanwhile demand from 

places like India and China is skyrocketing. Think of the implications. Collapse of global 

trade, transported by oil. Scarcity of food in urban areas, transported by oil. Increased 

resource wars, they have already started: Iraq, Afganistan. No more plastics, synthetic 

fertilizers, irrigation becomes to costly to use. All of this could occurr in the next three 

decades or so (but it starts now), probably before global warming has a chance to REALLY 

start wreaking havok. 


The point of the peak oil therory is you don't have to wait for oil to run out for it to cause 

havoc. Just leveling off and starting to decline is enough to cause massive disruption to 

the fragile technological civilization that men have created. I wouldn't rule out the 

discovery of a new source of engergy: fusion, plasma, zero point, aquygen. But I'm not 

going to bet on it either. None of the currently developing technologies can produce 

energy on the scale or with the versatility that oil has. We need something new soon. We 

also need political leadership to get us over the hump. Our current leadership sees killing 

people to secure the remaining oil as the primary strategy.



Peak oil theory is based on the possibly flawed theory that world oil reserves are "fixed" when there are some recent ideas in geology that talk of crude oil as being a kind of natural exudate of the earth. In other words the planet naturally produces these substances slowly over time.

Bottom line however is unchanged: burning and consumption of these products is harmful to the atmosphere. Therefore we need to find less impacting sources of energy. The down side of this is that the style of energy we are likely to adopt in transition is nuclear energy.
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