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Peak Oil: Let's Get To The First Step

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The unpleasant truth now [or at least soon] is that the ready supply of oil and gas which we almost always take for granted [the occasional price spike notwithstanding] is on its way to becoming not-so-ready. A host of factors now in place are steadily converting possibility into likelihood. Thinking that we'll just implement a few crash programs to straighten out that potential mess is a nice thought, but we simply do not have the means to make that happen--not the technological capabilities, not the personnel, not the industries, not the leadership ... yet. Clearly, we do not have enough time to do it all with effortless ease and minimal disruptions.

The farther we continue to travel down that path which relies on fossil fuels to sustain us rather than on a new one marked "new future with new and necessary alternatives", the longer and more difficult will our backtracking be. What supplied us on the front part of the journey will no longer be there for us on the remaining portion. Not the ideal message anyone wishes to convey, much less hear. I'm no different than the rest: I like my lifestyle and the comforts/conveniences which readily accessible, affordable, efficient energy supplies provide.

But to approximate the continuing enjoyment of those comforts and conveniences cannot be assured when reliance and expectations are derived from finite resources. That's not ideology, or hopes, or faith, or anything other than the realities here on Planet Earth. Drawing down finite resources for a nearly-infinite number of purposes has limitations.

We're going to have to create entirely new systems and infrastructures and modes of production and transportation--or at the very least re-build extensively--in order to adapt to new sources of energy. So relying on current conditions, practices, and customs, and then tinkering only along the edges simply won't work because we are going to be dependent on entirely different energy resources.

A recent article highlighted the fact that many oil producers are continuing production efforts even though they are operating at a loss. Many factors obviously contribute to such an incongruous decision, chief among them the costs associated with resumption. How long should we expect those trends to continue?

With low prices anticipated for an extended period of time--which is a boost for consumers but not such a gift to oil producers--what's the logical outcome? Should we be surprised if production efforts are curtailed even more than they have been [see this]? How can anyone honestly and honorably ignore the consequences of production shutdowns as they relate to production supply?

What magic is being counted on to maintain supply status quo under those conditions?

We are all free to ignore these matters, assuming Someone in the Know is working things out right this minute. We can fall back on our internal defense mechanisms, searching out that little nugget of hope or welcome possibilities for future energy supplies and latch onto that, dismissing all of the other legitimate factors.

These and related efforts won't alter the underlying realities about what we can expect as a finite resource marches down the other side of the slope. None of these considerations bring much joy to the public or to the messengers. But what's worse: pretend we have no problems and say nothing [or mislead]; or address the issues, point out the challenges, and begin the necessary public, political, and industrial dialogue which is going to have to take place eventually?

Does it make more sense to start the process of dealing with the long-term impact of a depleting supply of a finite resource while we still have some reasonable options and at least an ample-enough supply to provide for the actual transition efforts? We don't have to, of course. We are free to choose, just as we are free to decide which spokespeople we prefer as a source for information, and then act accordingly.

Making sure that facts--all of them--are part of that decision in the first instance may be the best decision of all right now.

Adapted from a blog post of mine

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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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