Our infrastructure (roads, bridges, train tracks, water and sewer pipes, power lines, etc.) does not exist in current form without the ready availability of inexpensive conventional crude oil. Our modern society, with all of its technological marvels and wide-ranging conveniences, was made possible and sustained in large part because we have had the boundless opportunities this fossil fuel resource provided.
But production of that finite resource peaked a decade ago.
That's not the only significant concern, of course. Transitioning to alternative sources of energy to power us through the 21st century will require that same resource to design, manufacture, install [etc., etc.] the infrastructure required for that transition. Not easy, simple, or quick.
The wonderful benefits afforded us by hydraulic fracturing [fracking] have been an unexpected and unanticipated bonus. There's no question the skills, creativity, dedication, and concerted efforts of the great minds in and supporting the fossil fuel industry deserve the kudos they've received for making so much tight oil available in the past several years. Few among us anticipated that energy supply gift.
But we've already witnessed the reality that fracking is not limitless, that it has its own set of drawbacks and challenges. In today's economic climate of low prices and oversupply, it simply cannot sustain itself for too long. The fossil fuel industry won't/can't justify investing in exploration with current low prices. It's not rocket science: if they aren't exploring and producing, we aren't getting!
And while we wait for those renewed efforts to take shape, finite conventional crude oil resources being depleted every day will continue to be called upon to supply all of us with all we need or demand. Tight oil production will barely keep pace with that, and the necessity of maintaining a high count of drilled wells because of the much higher depletion rates aren't going to make that assignment any easier.
Finite does have its limits....
We may not be seeing the effects of peak oil inside our own homes today or even any time soon, but no one is making any more fossil fuels on our behalf, and so we're left to contend with the built-in limitations accompanying finite resources more difficult to come by every day.
Problems associated with peak oil are likely to unfold over the course of many months and years. It will be a process, not a one-day-it's-not-here-and-the-next-it-is event. Dealing with the widespread impact will require a special level and blend of understanding, courage, and capabilities. Cooperation will be as important as any other component as society learns to adapt in whatever ways it can.
More preparation and information in advance will be much more advantageous to all of us than a mad, last minute scramble to try and figure it all out. No special expertise needed to appreciate that fact....
Adapted from a recent blog post of mine