Article

Peak Oil is Probably Here, but the “Peak-Oil Movement” is Just Another Cult

Posted at Salon in response to this article.

We probably ARE at, or near, the global peak of conventional oil production. But that doesn’t excuse the blatant fear-mongering and outright hyperbole of James Howard Kunstler, Matt Savinar, Richard Heinberg, Jan Lundberg, and their peak-oil doom cult. (Yes, I’ve read all their blogs and books.)

Reading between the lines, it’s clear most peak-oilers actually wish doom and destruction on the current world politico-economic order. Many adherents are marginalized in the current system. They relish their fantasies of halcyon eco-villages, and the collapse of globalism and existing urban power structures. Finally, they chortle, the era of the "common people" has arrived, free of government and corporate domination. As oil-refineries worldwide gurgle to a halt, they envision a paradise for healthy, physically fit, mostly vegan, do-it-yourselfers. It’s laughable. It’s pathetic.

Last time we tried such tribalism, there were a lot fewer people on the planet–and they still managed to brutally slaughter each other in large numbers.

Thankfully, it won’t come to this. There will be a period of energy transition, and contrary to peak-oil doomthink, the solution will be part economic, and part technological. Here it is, pure and simple: $3.00 gas didn’t stop SUV drivers, but it nearly bankrupted GM. $6.00 or $10.00 gas will kill or transform GM once and for all, put the road-behemoths permanently in park, and restore some sanity to Americans’ profligate sense of energy entitlement.

The government may be forced to step in and deal with shortages. But that doesn’t mean it will collapse. If you don’t think the military has first rights to any oil in this country, think again. Martial law would be declared in any kind of ‘doomsday’ situation. There’s a far greater chance of internment camps than eco-villages in that scenario.

Last time we had those kinds of shortages in WWII, the government issued ration coupons. We Americans have a lot of fat in our energy diet. We are SPOILED ROTTEN. We could easily, and I mean easily cut our fossil energy consumption in half, almost overnight if necessary. (Carpooling, public transport, change all light bulbs to half wattage, turn off heat to rooms we aren’t using, ride bicycles, use organic waste in place of fertilizer, turn lights and computers off in office buildings at night, and stop WHINING!)

I’m here to agree on one point with the peak-oilers: we will be forced to cut our oil consumption. And it will paradoxically be great news for future forms of energy. Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute is right on the money. And the only reason why his plans haven’t been taken more seriously until now is because oil has been dirt cheap!

Both private and National Oil Companies know that they stand to make 5-10 times the money on the downslope of the peak as what they have made up to this point. Think you hate the Oil Sheiks now? The West is about to get into a bidding war with China and India over oil. Prices could hit $150-200 per barrel or more.

Wickedly high prices will be the bitter medicine America (and the world) needs to go cold-turkey. The coming energy shock will not only prove peak-oilers wrong, it will kickstart the long-overdue energy transition like the "chorus of doom" never could. As prices rise, demand will plummet. It will only be a matter of time before new energy extraction and production methods take over, and energy prices moderate worldwide. Some of this is already happening, such as in Brazil, which produces almost 20 percent of its transport fuel from sugar cane, and it’s already cheaper than gasoline. Or globally with wind power, now the fastest growing energy source. If enough alt-energy comes on line in the next few years, we might not even have to go through such a traumatic shock. And–there’s a silver lining to the energy transition: a better, healthier lifestyle, with far less CO2 production!

Either way, sell your SUV, and buy an efficient hybrid car or diesel (not a bullshit luxury hybrid). Buy stock in clean-tech companies. Buy E85 or biodiesel if you can find it. Plan to telecommute in the future. But don’t waste your money on survival gear, or your life by drinking the peak-oil kool-aid. Don’t take my word for it, pay a visit to JD over at Peak Oil Debunked. His writing style is great, and you’ll see why human ingenuity will ALWAYS find enough energy to power the future.

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Comments (22 comments)

Aaron Kinney / March 22nd, 2006, 4:38 pm / #1

Awesome post! As demand continues to grow past supply, people will work harder to conserve oil energy and devise other means of energy production.

And what Blacksun said of course is true: If the price gets too high, people wont WANT to buy oil anymore, because it will no longer be profitable to do so.

Who the fuck is gonna fill up the tank for a gas-powered big rig when the gas price is so high that its not worth hauling the cargo they are getting paid to deliver? News flash: that scenario is already happening.

As soon as gasoline and oil energy consumption becomes unprofitable, you can expect a flood of new alternative means of power production, garunteed.

Here is one more scenario: It takes me about 1 gallon of gas to drive to work. Thats about $3 give or take. What if the price jumped to $5 a gallon? I will then leave my car at home and take the bus, thats what! Because the Orange line goes right to my office and only costs $3.25 and it runs on natural gas, which is not as volatile a commodity as fuel-oil.

In short: there will always be alternatives to excercise when the profit incentive is right.

Honestly I hope oil prices shoot through the roof! I dream of a day when nobody wants to buy gas anymore cause it costs too much. It will serve as an excellent catalyst for change. And yes I said that despite the fact that I own a gas guzzling V-8. I bought that car when gas was $1.50 a gallon!

Francois Tremblay / March 22nd, 2006, 9:34 pm / #2

Glad to see an entry on your blog that speaks against Greenie nonsense.

BlackSun / March 23rd, 2006, 8:42 am / #3

Hey Aaron and Franc,

Thanks for the feedback. You know I never really espoused a “greenie” position. I’ve always been in support of methods that will make a better life for people while at the same time helping grow business in a sustainable way. I’m clearly pro-business, and pro-individual. Unsustainable practices such as consuming fossil fuels will ultimately hurt both individuals AND businesses.

It’s amazing how the American sense of energy entitlement has skewed our perception. Crude oil purchases only make up about 4% of our economy. (21 million barrels a day of oil, at $60.00 per barrel, gives $459 billion per year, vs. a $12 trillion a year GDP.) So if prices were to triple, that would be 12 percent of the economy. This would be a severe blow, but certainly not mass starvation. The peak-oil doomers have succeeded in scaring people to the point where they feel if they can’t continue to live their lives EXACTLY as they do now, it would constitute some sort of “Long Emergency,” to borrow a phrase from Kunstler.

They do this by conjuring up mumbo-jumbo economics to insist that Western economies cannot function at all without growth. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism. Peak-oil theory claims that we either have growth or total collapse. Never mind that we’ve weathered numerous recessions and even a depression or two without going back to the “stone age.”

But this is just a small sample of their weirdness. Peak oilers dismiss ANY technological development or fixes on the grounds that “technology has already screwed up the planet irreparably, so we can’t count on it to fix anything.”

This sort of dismissal of human ingenuity and development is religious in nature. It’s also classic argument from result. It’s too bad that the irresponsibility of the chemical, nuclear, and fossil fuel industries have given partial crededence to this philosophy.

But no matter. It’s obvious the problems with the environment are about the failure to control and pay for externalities. There has also been a failure to require adequate testing of new processes. Some chemicals, like Dioxin, DDT, PCBs, and MTBE, should never have been allowed in the first place. Coal plants should never have been allowed to operate without scrubbers. Nuclear waste disposal should have been resolved decades ago.

These are all political problems however, not scientific ones. The same can be said for peak oil. Because we never would have developed our oil addiction if it hadn’t been for nearly a century of political coddling of the oil industry. Indeed, the first cars were actually designed by Henry Ford to run on alcohol. Oil that was cheaper than water ruined this plan, and got us where we are today.

But solutions abound. The cellulosic ethanol process promises to turn millions of tons of straw and corn stover that’s now wasted annually into fuel. Improved Lithium batteries and supercapacitors promise to make plug-in hybrids as practical and cheap as today’s gas-guzzling autos. Nanotechnology enhanced flexible solar panels will help turn roofs into power plants nationwide.

But the key is we have to take some short-term pain in terms of sharply higher energy prices. Consider it hangover medicine for our long debacle with fossil fuels. The sooner we get started, the sooner we will be ready to party on.

But this time, the party will be sustainable. Energy creation (as opposed to extraction) will generate a whole new level of domestic economic opportunity. We will be keeping billions of dollars at home that are now going to the oil sheiks. And all these new forms of biofuels, solar, and wind power are carbon neutral.

At this late stage of the game, anyone who is a friend of oil is an enemy of reason, progress, and humanity.

adron / March 23rd, 2006, 10:10 am / #4

Great write up.

dig it… and agree with it. First blog entry I’ve read where I really just can’t disagree with a single word you wrote… that goes for yours and other blogs… usually I find discourse in something.

What you’ve said, is a good bet for the money.

We have enough existing energy sources and alternate transit & production means to massively reduce our oil intake. You summed it up great…

thanks for some sanity reading in the morning.

Aaron Kinney / March 24th, 2006, 12:50 pm / #5

Very weel reasoned, Blacksun (your follow up comment I mean). And a good way to promote responsible (aka profitable and sustainable) energy use.

ConservativeGreen / April 24th, 2006, 12:13 pm / #6

Well Blacksun, It looks like the consensus around here is that you are a breath of fresh air. A corporate friendly apologist for the true believers of the petro-church.

You have lived your life at the pinnacle of human comfort. Why shouldn’t things just keep getting better? I mean, I sure _someone_ is working on the problem of replacing oil.. I mean, how hard could it be….

BlackSun / April 24th, 2006, 12:59 pm / #7

Er, ConservativeGreen, did you actually want to make an argument? Or is that what sarcasm passes for these days?

I guess you didn’t read the part in my post about the solutions–just doesn’t go well with doomthink.

You didn’t read this sentence either, which I reiterate here: “At this late stage of the game, anyone who is a friend of oil is an enemy of reason, progress, and humanity.”

Cheerleading for the petro-church?? Hmm.

David Mathews / April 24th, 2006, 3:24 pm / #8

Hello Blacksun,

Nice to hear that everything is going ok for you. I guess that if everything is fine today that must mean that tomorrow will bring more of the same, whatever the price of oil or any other potential problems which the United States of America might encounter.

Everything is going well with you, and that is enough — I mean, no one really cares about all those innocent Iraqis who are dying by the dozens every day. How much does it cost them for the gasoline to fill up the tanks of their SUVs as they drive down to the mall in order to take advantage of the latest sales?

Everything is going well for Americans, or at least it seems — does it make any difference to anyone that genocide is occurring in Africa, countries like Haiti are suffering from total ecological and social collapse, and our Nigerian friends are threatening to cut off “our” oil supply just because the oil industry has made an oily mess out of their environment without providing them with the basic necessities of life?

Everything is going well, no need for Americans to worry about the future. Are people so utterly ignorant of history to forget how many apex nations of the past have collapsed and ceased to exist? I mean, there was once a Superpower called the Soviet Union which threatened to take over the entire world. A day came when that Superpower suddenly ceased to exist and what remained was an impoverished country and much suffering.

If everything is going fine for you, that’s great. Have you forgotten about New Orleans? Do you suppose that the United States is so wealthy that it can afford to lose a major city via natural disasters forever? New Orleans is still a mess today and the 2006 Hurricane season is fast approaching. I wonder how many people will suffer this year? It doesn’t matter … everything is ok.

***

There are 6.5 billion humans living on the Earth. The vast majority of these people do not, have not and will never live like an American. Billions of people are deprived of the basic necessities of life. Millions live under a perpetual threat of violence in unstable and warring countries.

How does America respond to all this suffering in the world? By spending all of our time watching television, shopping at the mall, eating snacks and fast food, and becoming obese. Do you really believe that things are really so good even here in the United States?

We live in a sick society. The United States of America is suffering from a terminal illness. A day will come when this formerly great country will die. When that happens most of the predictions of these peak oil doomers will come true. It has happened before numerous times in other world-dominating countries. It will happen here.

David Mathews
http://www.geocities.com/dmathew1

BlackSun / April 24th, 2006, 4:11 pm / #9

Apparently, David Mathews, you didn’t read my entry, previous comments, nor respond to any of my points. Par for the course.

David Mathews / April 24th, 2006, 5:12 pm / #10

Hello Blacksun,

Let’s just cut to the main difference between our opinions: I view the present world as a sort of apocalypse with or without peak oil. The peak oil problem, and especially those potential problems described by Jim Kuntsler and others, pale to insigificance against the problems which already exist on the Earth.

Those people who speak of business-as-usual are optimistic only in the narrowest sense regarding their own greedy personal self-interest. The march of progress which provides so many luxuries and so much obesity to Americans has abandoned billions of people to perpetual poverty and short lives characterized by deprivation, violence and disease. Only rarely does anyone in the Peak Oil movement notice these people, and less so among the general public whose primary goal in life is to consume the Earth’s resources to the greatest extent possible.

Do you think that I care who much it cost for gasoline at the pump? Dasoline costing $3, $6 or $9 a gallon doesn’t trouble me as much as humans destroying the Amazon Rain Forest in a matter of generations for the sake of easily squandered wealth. Oil and gasoline are vital to the American Way of Life, but destroying the Earth threatens to send the Homo sapiens to extinction.

Have you noticed the massive damage which has occurred to the Earth’s environment since the Industrial Revolution? Destroying the Earth for the sake of wealth, comfort and luxury is an act of suicide. Animals are a great deal wiser than humans, their instincts prevent them from engaging in such recklessly self-destructive behaviors.

The Earth might soon have a billion cars on the road and no lions living in the wild. Do you imagine that this is such a great deal? Are lions so worthless that humans are allowed to destroy them and their environment? But I am by no means objective regarding the fate of the lions because I am convinced that the lion is altogether a more impressive machine than anything that humans have ever created.

What sort of world do you want your children and grandchildren to inherit? Would you have them live in a country which has thoroughly destroyed and depleted its environment?

Losing oil and the automobile culture is not doomsday. The real doomsday scenario is that humans will lose the only planet which is hospitable to human life in the Universe. By working so hard to destroy and pollute the environment we are approaching an age in which the entire human population is deprived of the basic necessities of life.

When that day comes the Americans will starve just as millions of Africans are allowed to starve today.

When that day comes no one will care about the fate of the cars and the consumer culture. No one will worry about the loss of television, the Internet and cell phones. Life on Earth will become a living Hell and the Homo sapiens will slowly decline to extinction.

BlackSun / April 24th, 2006, 7:20 pm / #11

“I view the present world as a sort of apocalypse with or without peak oil.”

OK, so you are a doomer.

“The march of progress which provides so many luxuries and so much obesity to Americans has abandoned billions of people to perpetual poverty and short lives characterized by deprivation, violence and disease.”

That used to describe the entire world. Now it only describes part of it. Would it be better if the entire world were returned to this condition?

Check out the U.N. Human Development Index. Even for the poorest people, things have gotten markedly better in the past 20 years.

“the lion is altogether a more impressive machine than anything that humans have ever created”

And so are humans–arguably moreso than the lion, since humans have the capacity to act independently of instinct, and engage in rational thought. In the future, we may create both machines and creatures greater than present day humans and animals.

http://singularity.com/

This scenario is at least as likely the extinction event you seem to count on. Not one of the doom scenarios ever predicted in history has ever come to pass. Sure there have been crises, but usually the truth is that we somehow muddle through. Humanity is ingenious and resourceful, as well as destructive and short-sighted.

The optimists have history and evidence on their side, the pessimists have only irrational fear. Both usually end up being right in their own lives.

In the end we all die, but I’d rather make the most of the time I have than dwell on what bad things might happen in the future.

David Mathews / April 25th, 2006, 5:49 am / #12

Do you really believe that technology is going to produce wonders more impressive than either the tiger and the human?

I am moved to pity you. You are seriously mistaken.

If you want to see the sort of crap which technology has provided for us go to the mall. Look at all the cheap disposable goods imported from China.

Look at all the empty-headed humans who walk around talking on their cell phones looking for some sort of temporary distraction from the emptiness inside. Consumerism provides only temporary relief. The advertisements say: “Buy two things today and come back tomorrow to buy some more!”

Look at the vast desolate expanse of the parking lot. Think … at one time a living ecosystem existed here. All the plants and animals were killed on behalf of humankind’s greed for inanimate possessions. This might indicate that humans love their possessions more than life itself.

Turn on the television and observe all the violence and anger and hatred and prejudice and bigotry and stupidity. If technology is responsible for all this worthless tripe the scientists should not have wasted their intellect inventing these things. What does it say about humankind that we are addicted to watching a glowing box, instead of living perpetually outdoors associating with the plants and animals?

Look at all the pollution in the water, land and air. Technology has given us all these things. Technology has effectively destroyed the Earth.

Do you really consider technology humankind’s saviour?

No, you are mistaken indeed. Technology is the greatest scourge of humankind, a sort of cancer which is consuming the planet at the expense of all life, and ultimately technology will bear direct responsibility for driving humankind to exinction.

Technology will not bring utopia to the Earth. Technology has brought a sort of Hell to the Earth.

If your hope is in technology, your hope is vain indeed.

Patrick / April 25th, 2006, 7:59 am / #13

Blacksun,
Pretty interesting post. I just have one problem–and this is why I tend to lean towards the Peak Oilers view of this problem.

The fundamental problem with finding a technological solution to an energy crisis is the amount of energy needed to discover that solution and then the enormous amount of energy needed to facilitate that solution.

For example, imagine how expensive it would be in a world of $6-10 gal/gas if the US decided to do a massive expansion of its rail infrastructure to get goods to market. All that diesel construction equipment would make such a project very, very expensive.

Unlike the Peak Oilers I don’t think there will be a massive collapse one day–however, I do think that because of increased cost over time, certain parts of the country will become unliveable and certain lifestyles will just become unaffordable for most. I feel this will be the most drastic economic effect of a “peak oil” situation.

Now whether because people who once had completely different lives in a cheap energy world decide to act politically or violently against the state or the economy–that’s a different matter and might bring “the long emergency” through those means-although if the transition takes place over several years that possibility is less likely.

So how do you solve this fundamental problem? Technology can do amazing things, but I have yet to see the solar panel that was entirely created using only renewable energy–and just imagine how expensive it would be if it existed, now or in a peak oil future.

BlackSun / April 25th, 2006, 11:09 am / #14

David, I addressed your philosophical concerns in the other post. You seem to have an aesthetic problem with modern life. It’s a choice most humans have made. You are free to go live with the animals if you like. Others choose not to. As far as technology is concerned, yes, with a population of 6.5 billion, it is our only hope.

I don’t understand why technology is always seen to be the enemy. Human misuse of technology is. The biggest misuse comes through unpaid externalities. Once externalities are accounted for, it won’t be possible or cost-effective to hurt the environment. This requires a political solution.

Patrick, I agree that it will be more difficult to make a transition with more expensive fuels. But all we need is one practical source that has an energy return on investment greater than 1:1. Wind turbines have an EROEI of 80:1, so that is one possibility. There are many other renewable sources such as hydropower, solar, and geothermal. It’s true that you can’t make a solar energy panel without energy, but the payback is about 2-3 years while the panel’s life is up to 30 years.

I agree that we have a problem of scalability for the time being, but people are not going to just give up their homes. There is a lot of fat that can be cut from their energy budget before they decide to just abandon a home or area of the country altogether.

From the Siemens Solar website:

“Crystalline silicon modules achieve an energy break-even in a little over three years. The energy payback time for thin film copper indium diselenide in full production is just under two years. Over their lifetime, these solar panels generate nine to seventeen times the energy required to produce them. Energy content findings are presented for the major materials and process steps for both single-crystalline silicon and thin film copper indium diselenide.”

BlackSun / April 25th, 2006, 11:28 am / #15

Patrick, one more interesting item: A lithium-battery electric car for $35,000.

http://www.local6.com/news/8988315/detail.html

These things are going to be all over the place in a few years. And they’ll eventually cost less than gas engine cars because they have fewer parts.

People with half-million dollar houses will have no problem affording alternative transportation even at $35,000.

The rest of us will only have to wait a very few years. Such cars can also be made in China, which means they might ultimately cost well under $10,000.

David Mathews / April 25th, 2006, 4:18 pm / #16

“I don’t understand why technology is always seen to be the enemy. Human misuse of technology is. The biggest misuse comes through unpaid externalities. Once externalities are accounted for, it won’t be possible or cost-effective to hurt the environment. This requires a political solution.”

Technology is seen as the enemy because in the era of industry & technology humans have polluted the land, sea and sky. Humans have utilized technology to destroy entire environments (such as the Everglades and now the Amazon rain forest) and once these are destroyed they are gone forever.

Science & technology has also provided humankind with all of the weapons of mass destruction. Does anyone really want to thank science & technology for the nuclear terror?

Science & technology has allowed a small percentage of humankind to live like royalty while billions are left to suffer in the mud without the basic necessities of life, an education, health care or a secure society.

Science & technology has also served to disconnect individual humans altogether from the environment. Humans are very much living in a virtual world of consumerism, television and computers. In spite of all these blessings — if that is the proper term — humans are still greedy, violent, depressed, angry, and addicted to drugs.

The most glaring problem with technology is its dependance upon cheap energy. Technology’s decline will occur soon after energy becomes prohibitively expensive. If a day comes in which the power grip collapses the vast majority of technology will suddenly become useless junk and nothing more.

The decline and collapse of technology is inevitable. There’s a reason why plants & animals could prosper for millions of years: They operate on solar power. The television & internet won’t endure for millions, tens of thousands or even thousands of years. I suspect that there are people alive today who will speak of the era of televisions, computers & the internet in the past tense.

The 22nd century will differ drastically from the 21st. Lots of pain and suffering to come as humans lose all the trinkets of modern civilization to natural attrition.

BlackSun / April 25th, 2006, 5:34 pm / #17

David–

You do repeat yourself a lot. It’s almost like you wish for calamity and destruction.

Your fire and brimstone attitude about what you think needs to happen suggests that you feel you have the right to personally punish humanity for its sins. What gives you the right?

What if it’s possible to navigate a successful energy transition without worldwide destruction? What if we can build a world where we function on completely renewable energy, and live in harmony with the environment. Shouldn’t we try?

Or are you saying we should just pass out the cyanide pills now and get it over with?

David Mathews / April 25th, 2006, 6:53 pm / #18

Hello Blacksun,

“Your fire and brimstone attitude about what you think needs to happen suggests that you feel you have the right to personally punish humanity for its sins. What gives you the right?”

I do not claim any authority over this matter. Nature & Nature’s God possess the authority to punishment humankind for our many evils on this world & against this world.

“What if it’s possible to navigate a successful energy transition without worldwide destruction?”

That’s great — except what shall we do to alleviate all of the destruction which has already occurred and continues to occur in this world?

“What if we can build a world where we function on completely renewable energy, and live in harmony with the environment. Shouldn’t we try?”

If only there were 6.5 billion people who shared the above noble goal … unfortunately, I’d say that presently at least 2.5 billion people in this world could care less about the environment or the suffering of the impoverished or the scourge of human violence which perpetually afflicts this world.

“Or are you saying we should just pass out the cyanide pills now and get it over with?”

No cyanide pill needed … humankind has already poisoned the land, water and air sufficiently to doom the species without any further effort required. Humankind swallowed that global cyanide pill several centuries ago with the Industrial revolution and since that time it has only gotten worse.

Once you know that extinction is inevitable & that in this case extinction is a self-inflicted act there is nothing left to do except relax, appreciate every day for its beauty, and calmly wait for the end to come.

BlackSun / April 25th, 2006, 9:27 pm / #19

David, I concede the problems in the world are staggering. But human extinction is no more ‘inevitable’ than humans eventually expanding to populate the entire universe. The truth, I’m sure, lies somewhere in between.

Patrick / April 26th, 2006, 7:15 am / #20

Blacksun,
Solar panels and wind energy can provide some power but nowhere near the amount of power needed for current’s society’s level of consumption.

The US uses about 20,000,000 barrels of oil a day right now–imagine the cost of replacing even 1M barrels with solar energy or wind energy. Now imagine the cost of replacing that same amount of energy when the price of oil has doubled or tripled–it will be enormously expensive.

The coming (or ongoing) energy crisis will force society and individuals to make decisions on what to spend their resources on–I think we may be seeing that already with the debate over how/what to rebuild in New Orleans. Certain other parts of the country will just become uninhabitable due solely to high energy prices–imagine how the cost of heating/cooling a home will increase in places like Alaska or Las Vegas.

Short of a massive societal change towards lower energy consumption it will not matter what technology comes along–there simply will not be enough resources to make the transition or to afford the transition AND keep the same standard of living.

So rather than technology simply finding a replacement for oil, I think society of the future will be divided into two main groups.
1. Those who can afford today’s standard of living through a “hybrid” life–partial use of oil balanced by partial use of renewables.
2. Those who cannot afford today’s standard of living and are forced towards a “conventional” life. They don’t have the resources to buy renewable energy and their lifestyle is diminished because they have to rely on now-expensive oil.

Unfortunately, I think this is the future. The long emergency will only affect those people who cannot afford to make the transition to a “hybrid” life. These will be the people who will starve, lose their homes, lose their jobs, and be forced into a much lower standard of living. In fact, this situation is happening already–many people (especially those on fixed income) are already choosing between eating or heating.

As we have seen in the past, technology is not a tide that rises all boats–only those who can afford it.

Patrick / April 26th, 2006, 7:46 am / #21

Dave,
Your attitude towards technology is a little extreme. Although science and technology have brought awful things they have also brought amazing things which have changed our world for the better as well. On the one hand you have nuclear weapons; while on the other hand you have modern medicine where getting the flu or a minor infection is no longer a death sentence for many people.

Rather than thinking of technology strictly in its modern form, try to think of technology as human innovation or invention. A bow and arrow is a huge technological advance, as is an irrigation canal–yet no one would dispute the beneficial benefit of either towards hunting and agriculture.

I think the problem you are grappling with is technology without purpose (or the wrong purpose)–or technology solely for profit. The problem is never technology per say–it is the use of technology, the timing of technology, or the belief system behind that technology.

Take nuclear energy for example, humans didn’t create nuclear energy it has always existed–humans just managed to figure out a way to harness part of it. Unfortunately, the timing of that pursuit of nuclear power coincided with war, so the first use of nuclear energy was for a bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese. Does this make nuclear technology evil? Of course not. The technology is simply a tool that can be used for the purpose of its user, just as a hammer can be used to build a house or hit someone on the head.

However, I do agree that a potential misuse of technology should be something Blacksun may want to consider in touting the possibilities of technologies to “save” the world from an oil-based energy crisis. If such a technology exists to completely or even partially remove oil from the energy equation, then every country and every person will try to get this technology–for some it may become a matter of national or personal survival. Or this new technology might have commonality with nuclear energy, where it could be used to build enormously powerful weapons.

Either way, no one really knows what happens with new technology–in the 1950s everyone thought nuclear energy bring infinite, clean energy to all people and instead the biggest use of nuclear energy has been for the 30,000+ nuclear bombs sitting in arsenals around the world.

The Consolidator / April 26th, 2006, 3:05 pm / #22

I think David Matthews’ point is that Blacksun’s solution (technology to reduce the usage of oil) doesn’t solve David Matthews’ problem (civilization). I agree.

What advantage is there to the world if we find a way to continue the American way of life but with slightly less oil?

Blacksun is the most reasonable Peak Oil non-doomer I have come across so far.

I’m just not sure what will happen and I think I’ve just about maximized my time reading about it on the internet. It’s time to stop reading about it and start doing what I can.

As oil prices rise, it will mean serious economic hardships for America because we use it so heavily and we cannot easily substitute it. Blacksun brings up the great point that because we use it so wastefully now, it won’t be too difficult to cut the usage. But what will those cuts mean? Will cuts in oil usage amount to cuts in economic spending which will lead to a severe depression? Who knows?

There is no single answer/solution to the problem of getting off our tremendous addiction to oil. Conservation will be one part as will technology, but the key will be a change in lifestyle, which certainly will be difficult and may be impossible.

We shall see.

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