Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peak Oil: A Crisis Now or a Fear of a Crisis. (Thinking out loud)

Peak oil should be identified as the mid-point of available oil reserves, nothing more, and nothing less. Like most ‘curves’ in available resources or materials, there is a finite reserve that has a beginning and an end. Somewhere in the middle is the peak. Prognosticators have indicated we are close to arriving at that peak, and therefore drastic measures are needed to slow down the arrival time.
Economists and Environmentalists are both predicting a similar outcome: that oil prices are set to be much higher than what they are today, albeit with vastly different reasons. We already got a glimpse of this in July 2008 when oil hit $147 a barrel. Yet, it quickly fell to $33 a barrel before stabilizing at around the $70 a barrel price, only slightly higher than it was in 2005.
Today, we can find many books, blogs, and articles on what we should and should not be doing to preserve not only our oil reserves, but the planet itself. The proliferation of ‘greening’ our home and workplace, to ways and tips to ‘protect’ the environs in which we live. There’s no doubt about it, the generation which follows us will be more acutely aware of the consequences of their actions…whether good, bad, or indifferent.
A few years ago I happened upon a book titled “God Wants You To Be Rich”, written by Paul Zane Pilzer. If you get a chance, pick it up at your local library or listen to it on-line. Pilzer is an economist, but with a very keen sense on why and how we approached the world we live in today. His take on the progression of technology, coupled with his apotheosis that there is no such thing as limited resources, since all resources are man-made (or at least their use is man-made), thereby meaning all resources are limitless.
Pilzer’s best example of this was the history of how and why we came to use oil reserves today. Dating back to the use of whale oil, and including the infamous ‘gasoline’ shortage of the early ‘70s. Whenever mankind has faced a crisis, either real or implied, Pilzer identifies (and correctly so) that we have the capacity to adapt our lifestyle to minimize the impact of said crisis.
Since I have you in a reading mood, take a spin over to “Fear: The History of a Political Idea” written by Corey Robin. The opening paragraph notes that “…fear is the first emotion experienced by a character in the Bible. Not desire, not shame, but fear” Robin takes the reader through the consequences of not responding to ‘fear’, and goes further to identify on how ‘fear’ has shaped policies and laws created over time.While we may or may not be close to attaining ‘peak oil’, the fact that there is a ‘fear’ of what can happen once this occurs, is spurning change. While Pilzer embarks on a journey that equates change with logical adaptation, Robin draws on our emotional weakness which causes change. Who knows, maybe it’s a bit of both.

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