In the end, does the choice of words really matter?
The "Yes, we've reached Peak Oil" versus the "No, we have not" is a distraction--and I've done my part to contribute.
But without recognizing and accepting the simple truth that we're drawing down a finite and depleting resource that necessitates almost unimaginable adaptations and transitions to Plan B, the limits of human ingenuity and technological prowess will be severely tested if we insist on exclusive and continued reliance upon the one finite resource mankind has relied upon more than any other.
And thus the heart of the matter.
The higher production totals of recent years are a genuinely impressive achievement, and should not be discounted. But shale production has shown itself to be what peak oil advocates said it would be: a costly, time-consuming, technology-intensive effort with a relatively limited shelf life.
Today's low, low prices and declining demand owing to current economic conditions, when combined with a less-than-enthusiastic investment climate and the high debt levels carried by most oil-producing companies, is squeezing that pipeline. Billions in exploration/production projects have been shelved; oil-drilling rig counts are down in the major shale regions by 75% or more, and dozens of declared bankruptcies are not exactly making things better. Production declines are the inevitable consequences.
We've been tapping a wondrous supply of conventional crude oil for a generation-plus. Finite still bears the same definition it always has: it does not replenish itself, and basic math still rules. Drawing down that spectacular but finite supply, and attempting to replace what's gone missing with an inferior, more expensive, inadequate alternative will lead us in time to exactly where proponents have suggested.
Over time, we are going to have less available as we and countless millions of fellow inhabitants of the planet seek more by relying on that very same supply. No matter what happy spin is employed, the math is not going to work. Transitioning to whatever Plan B will be is no easy task; certainly not one to be achieved in anything resembling "soon."
The failure to start considering and planning for that monumental undertaking now while resources are still available in enough quantities to help us into that transition simply means "less." Less time to plan. Less time to act. Less supply to utilize. Less opportunity for all of us going forward.
Fewer viable options for the many more seeking to emulate our lifestyles with the assorted fallout resulting from a diminished supply of fossil fuel is not a winning formula, and there will be hell to pay. But that won't matter, either.
Confronting reality isn't always pleasant, but choosing not to and enduring more substantial, adverse consequences as a result won't be much of a picnic, either.