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Peak Oil

Peak Oil Lessons From The Soviet Union

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Peak Oil Production Coming Much Sooner than Expected

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May 19, 2010

By Craig Severance | Grist

Peak oil production coming much sooner than expected. 

A storm is quickly approaching, and the world is not ready for it.

The permanent end of the era of cheap oil is coming as soon as next year, according to a raft of official reports that have made their way into energy media over the last few months. Governments are now beginning to acknowledge the looming crisis. Yet, perhaps because they waited too long to prevent it, leaders are not yet alerting the public.

The entire world economy is built on cheap oil. A permanent oil production shortage will thus lead to The End of The World (As We Know It). What will come on the other side of this -- will it be good or bad?

Public unaware

Except for a few stories in financial pages such as London's Financial Times, this earth-shaking news has yet to reach the Mainstream Media. While "Peak Oil" researchers have long warned of approaching oil shortages, the difference now is these dire warnings are being validated by the highest government and oil company officials. Yet, no political leader has had the courage to make a major announcement to prepare the public for what lies ahead.

This public blindness is tantamount to the isolationism that gripped the U.S. in the years preceding WWII. While the highest government leaders did their best to prepare for inevitable war, they were hamstrung by the resistance of a public unable to accept what really lay ahead. Similar to today, some politicians advanced their own careers by feeding on the public's desire to believe no coming storm could ever reach them. Yet, the storm came anyway.

The looming crisis we now face is often referred to as "Peak Oil" -- a status where global oil production will reach a plateau, then begin its irreversible decline.  

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Peak Oil and Apocalypse Then

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Saturday 29 May 2010

by: Melinda Burns   |  Miller-McCune

Based on the past experience of Japan, North Korea and Cuba, an Oxford researcher identifies three possible responses to peak oil: Predatory militarism, totalitarian retrenchment and socioeconomic adaptation.

Oil is the backbone resource of industrial society, but the Oil Age will come to an end, someday. The pessimists say the world reached maximum oil production in 2008. Middle-of-the-road optimists say peak oil won’t occur until 2030. Either way, production is already past its peak and on a terminal decline in 54 of the 65 largest oil-producing countries in the world, including Mexico, Norway, Indonesia and Australia. It’s been declining in the lower 48 states of the United States since 1970.

What will happen when cheap oil is no longer available and supplies start running short? In an interview with Miller-McCune.com, Jörg Friedrichs, a lecturer in politics at the University of Oxford, examines how different parts of the world would likely react to a peak oil scenario.

Despite its timeliness, Friedrichs’ examination of the global energy crunch was rejected a dozen times before it found a home in the August issue of Energy Policy. A pre-print version, a shortened version and a public discussion can be viewed online.

Miller-McCune.com: In your study, you ask the question, “What is likely to happen if peak oil occurs?” When do you think that will be?

Jörg Friedrichs: As a social scientist, I don’t ask when peak oil will occur. This is a question for geologists, engineers and possibly economists. Some of them believe that the world has reached the peak of the Oil Age, or is about to reach it in this decade. Instead of joining their debate, my question is, “What if?” This I see as a social scientific research challenge.

M-M: Why do you think the U.S. would cynically choose “predatory militarism” in the face of future resource shortages, as fuel-starved Japan did before World War II?

JG: Predatory militarism is the result of desperation and temptation. In the Japanese case, the element of desperation prevailed. As a consequence of their own ill-conceived policies, they saw no other choice in 1941 than to loot oil from the East Indies, even at the cost of starting a suicidal war with the United States. In the case of the U.S., the element of temptation may be stronger. Why compete for a scarce but vital resource in markets when you have a military option? Why negotiate with people like Hugo Chávez if you have a military stick? We have sometimes seen this pattern in the past, and we are likely to see it more often after peak oil. However, there is also likely to be a great deal of desperation. One should not underestimate the likely consternation of many American citizens when their fossil-fuelled and consumerist lifestyle is in serious jeopardy.

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DOE Still Disavows Peak Oil Forecast, Despite New Studies

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by: Julia Harte  |  SolveClimate

Gulf oil spill adds pressure for release of "proprietary database" behind DOE's optimism.

The U.S. Department of Energy has long disavowed peak oil theory: the notion that annual world oil production will peak, plateau, and then enter a decline. But the agency’s stance appears increasingly at odds with the future predicted by many world energy analysts, including the US military.

In February, the United Kingdom Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security—a group comprised in part by renewable energy companies—published a report warning that global peak oil would probably occur within the next decade.

And in March, the U.S. Joint Forces Command released its Joint Operating Environment 2010 report, a forecast of likely national security challenges. Drawing on several energy information sources, the report concluded that "world surplus oil production could disappear by 2012, and shortages of 10 million barrels per day could be seen as soon as 2015."

With the BP Gulf oil disaster continuing with no resolution in sight and mounting public concern over the wisdom of offshore drilling, more pressure is mounting on DOE to justify its optimistic forecasts and its belief that the nation will be producing millions of more barrels of oil a day within two decades.

Change in DOE Stance?

A few weeks after the joint force report came out, there was speculation that the DOE had endorsed peak oil theory after Glen Sweetnam, former director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), told French paper Le Monde that, "if the investment is not there," world oil production could enter a "decline" by 2011.

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Peak Oil and the Return of the Jet Set

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by: Sam Kornell, Miller-McCune

The difficulty and increasing cost of providing aviation fuel may ground many flights while winging us away from aerial democracy.

Sitting atop the queue in my inbox is an e-mail from a travel company advertising a $736 roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Auckland. Captain Cook discovered New Zealand in 1769; for the next 200 years the idea of visiting it, for an American, would have been alien to all but a few very wealthy individuals. Things change. As I write this, a ticket to travel 6,500 miles — one-quarter of the circumference of the Earth — is only a few clicks away.

But how permanent is that change? In the last decade, studies have consistently demonstrated that the world's storehouses of oil are drying up. Oil is now being consumed almost four times faster than it is being discovered, and in early March, Kuwaiti scientists projected that we will reach peak oil production in 2014.

Preparations to electrify much of the country's ground transportation are under way. But airlines have a problem: No battery is large enough to power a jet.

Even low-grade oil used to fuel cargo ships is likely to become precious in the age of peak oil. Click to read the story.

"Electricity holds great promise for substituting for a large fraction of the driving we do," says Joseph Romm, a physicist who writes the blog Climateprogress.org. "But it's not a perfect substitute for liquid fuel. You're not going to use electricity for air travel. We're going to need an alternative."

Developing a jet fuel alternative is vital not only to the commercial airline industry but also to the American military. The Department of Defense, the largest single oil consumer in the world, spends an enormous amount of money on jet fuel — more than $6 billion in 2006.

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After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Toward Social Collapse?

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by: Emily Spence, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Recently, Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy (DOE), announced that worldwide oil availability had reached a "plateau." However, his statement was not made known through a major US mainstream media outlet. Instead, it was covered in France's Le Monde.

One could assume that the US assessment of the oil decline was exposed through this particular publication perhaps due to some arrangement that Barack Obama made with Nicolas Sarkozy. (Maybe it is an indirect way to alert the French while keeping most Americans still in the dark on the topic, so that the latter bunch can ignorantly carry onward as usual. After all, no unsettling prognosis should disturb their slow return into shopoholic ways that keep the economy, particularly China's, on which the US federal government depends for loans, going strong.)

All considered, there was not, as far as I know, even a ten-second blurb about Sweetnam's message issued via newscasts in New England where I live. At the time of his declaration, their reports primarily covered ad nauseam the recent flood again ... and again.

In a similar vein, no reporter discussing the deluge dared to raise the point that worsening extreme weather is on the way with climate change consequences in the mix, along with oil's relationship to these outcomes. Moreover, imagine the effect on the Dow or NASDAQ if Sweetnam's estimation and a discussion of connected economic ramifications got splashed all across the USA.

What exactly are the implications? In "Life After Growth," Richard Heinberg, senior fellow in residence at Post Carbon Institute, stated, "In effect, we have to create a desirable 'new normal' that fits the constraints imposed by depleting natural resources. Maintaining the 'old normal' is not an option; if we do not find new goals for ourselves and plan our transition from a growth-based economy to a healthy equilibrium economy, we will by default create a much less desirable 'new normal' whose emergence we are already beginning to see in the forms of persistent high unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, and ever more frequent and worsening financial and environmental crises - all of which translate to profound distress for individuals, families, and communities."

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