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Peak Oil: Start With Reality Pt 5

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What is actually important is not the date of peak global-oil production, but the decades of decline that follow...

And thus the problem...

We often become too fixated on the present moments, usually in conflict-laden situations when it becomes easier to discount fears, threats, or promised consequences if the present moment offers no indications that those warnings carry any weight.

So it is--to an extent--with climate change [although it takes some doing to ignore the statistics about our warming planet, the odd weather patterns, and assorted other occurrences]; so too, is it with the challenges of maintaining an adequate and affordable supply of our finite fossil-fuel resources depended upon to the extent we do.

An oversupply at the beginning of the year and historically low prices at the pump seemed to give lie to the notion that we had reached a peak in oil production. The refutation gained even more credibility when the substantial production surge in recent years courtesy of hydraulic fracturing [fracking] released millions of barrels of tight oil from shale formations across the country.

But reality doesn't help validate carefully manicured spin.

The distractions of pointing fingers at each side arguing whose prediction skills were better--or worse--and the misleading assertions about new production records were certainly useful for those arguing that peak oil was simply more liberal doom-and-gloom with evidence clearly contradicting the assertions that the peak in oil production had already occurred.

The fact is that the assertion was true. The "production records" were massaged by lumping into the fossil-fuel-supply totals other resources of inferior quality and distinct from conventional crude oil. The impression was fortified by the failure to point out that critical distinction to the public. Voila! Peak oil is dead, except for the factual part....

So while the pseudo-truthful distractions--the Yes It Has-No It Hasn't debates and ink barrels full of qualifiers ["if"; "potential"; "could possibly" and assorted other literary ploys]--about supply both present and future continue unabated, the underlying issue remains unchanged.

We are dealing with a finite resource whose promised substitutes do not provide the same benefits at the same prices and in the same amounts with the same relative ease of extraction. That finite resource depletes a bit more every day [while duly noting that "running out" has been an argument raised solely by deniers lacking any other credible refutation], and the most basic of basic math tells us that its near-miraculous qualities--and the adaptations and uses developed by the creative genius of leaders in science and industry--are not promised to us for too many more years.

How many years is irrelevant to the more important consideration about adaptation to the changes a depleting finite resource demands. Given how utterly dependent society is on those marvelous features and in countless ways, the slide down the hill past peak means that full and unquestioned reliance on that very resource will give way to the reality of not having as much tomorrow as today.

What sacrifices will be made?
Who will make those decisions?
Who will be impacted?
How will the impacts take shape?
What related consequences will follow?
How will that gradual decline [at whatever rate] be managed?
What plans are in process now to ease us all into that transition? [Hint: not many.]
How will plans be developed?
What research will be required?
How long will this all take?

A thousand other questions can be added to this list. Each and all of them make it painfully obvious that we have some major challenges looming, and resolution will not be easy nor quick. It also won't be free.

Do we continue to ignore it? Do we continue to give prominence to those voices casting doubt on the simplest of realities because they have specific interests to preserve and protect, even if at the expense of the public? The Abundance-Forever story-line is certainly much more pleasing and far-less worrisome to all of us [peak oil proponents included]. But there's that reality thing to contend with....

There's nothing obviously pleasant about what lies ahead given the scope of oil's importance in every segment of modern living and how the impact of less and less thereafter will play itself out. But we can be sure that continuing to postpone the process of transitioning away from that near-total dependence promises a lot of unnecessary and unjustified consequences.

When this begins doesn't matter. We will not have given the process enough attention, time, and effort to manage a seamless adaptation. How much less are we willing to continue doing, and at what cost?
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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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