Peak Oil and Looking Forward to A Post Carbon Future

In the 2011 world oil production data recently released by The US Energy Information Administration, signs of peak oil were clear and evident.

An article by Gail E. Tverberg on Business Insider does an excellent job analyzing the data. The gist of the article is that oil production from 2005 to 2011 has fallen well below the 1983 to 2005 pattern. This can be inferred as a sign that oil production has hit, is hitting or is about to hit its peak and that the world will never produce as much oil per year as it is now.

This theory is known as peak oil. Peak oil can mean big changes for an economy such as ours that is based on the massive consumption of fossil fuels as the simple laws of supply and demand tell us that as demand outstrips supply, price will go up. This can be one explanation for the rise in oil prices and gas prices that we have experienced over the last few years.

A Hubbert peak oil plot. Courtesy: Wikipedia.

The important thing to take away from the article is that this data is another sign to start thinking about our post carbon future. Fossil fuels are an amazing concentrated form of energy that has given us our high standard of living and many of the technologies that we enjoy today, but it is still a polluting, finite, non-renewable resource that is only going to go up in price.

No matter what any politician says, the President and the government’s ability to regulate oil prices and gas prices are overstated. The fact that there is higher demand (from countries like China) and lack of supply (the easy to drill stuff is mostly gone, and we have to go deeper into the Earth and through dirtier substances like tar sands to get oil) has a much bigger impact on prices.

It’s better for us, as a society and individuals, to think about green, sustainable solutions to our energy. The transition to renewable energy will not be seamless nor without its pitfalls, but we are going to have to live in a world without the cheap, dirty energy of fossil fuels that we have all become accustomed to whether we like it or not. Let’s start planning for it now.

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