Monday, August 08, 2005

Peak Oil

I was dreamin' when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin'
Coulda sworn it was judgment day
The sky was all purple,
there were people runnin' everywhere
Tryin' to run from the destruction,
U know I didn't even care

Say say two thousand zero zero party over,
oops out of time
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999
—Prince 1999

The Wall Street Journal recently published a dialog between two experts on the ramifications of "peak oil," the point at which the global supply of petroleum reserves begins its inevitable decline. If you haven't read much on how policy makers should approach the problem, this is a good place to start. (via

You will never wake to the headline, "Today, the world ran out of oil." Rather, global oil production will rise, reach one or more "peaks," and decline. Forecasts for the peak vary between Thanksgiving of 2005 and 2050. Personally, I think global oil production will peak between 2015 and 2025 and be a greater challenge than the "looming crisis" in Social Security...

The peak in global oil production goes beyond paying a few dollars extra to fill the gas tank. The 20th century could be called the "Petroleum Age." Inexpensive oil means goods can be imported and exported at little extra cost, people can live far from work and a small fraction of the work force can feed those that produce the goods and services we associate with modernity. All of this may change after the global peak in oil production. As such, the peak isn't just an economic problem, it is one of the biggest social and political challenges for this century.
—Robert K. Kaufmann, professor of geography, Center for Energy & Environmental Studies at Boston University

As the US and North Sea reserves get depleted, the world is increasingly reliant on places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, whose governments are actively using the oil revenues they receive from us in ways that are very fundamentally contrary to the interests of most OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] nations. Putting a dollar valuation on this is difficult. How many more Beslan children or London commuters might be alive today if the Saudis had not poured so many billions of dollars into promoting global Wahhabism? How much freer would the people of Lebanon be without Iran's heavy support of Hezbollah? And how much of the US military budget is devoted to protecting Americans from such threats?
—James Hamilton, professor of economics, University of California at San Diego


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