The Peak Oil Meme Has Been Let Loose
What has long been considered the unthinkable may finally be here. Peak Oil is the petroleum industry’s term for the point on the global production curve at which total oil production begins to decline.
Bellingham, WA (AP) March 29, 2006 -- When the mass media finally gets around to covering a story only insiders have been discussing, it is time to sit up and take notice. So far March has been an eventful month for Peak Oil coverage. At the beginning of the month, The NY Times published an editorial acknowledging that Peak Oil is a serious threat to our way of life: “The Age of Oil — 100-plus years of astonishing economic growth made possible by cheap, abundant oil — could be ending without our really being aware of it.” Shortly afterwards, the United States Army released a strategic report which states that Peak Oil is imminent and that the “days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close.” Finally, CNN began airing a six-part series on Peak Oil on March 18th.
Adapting to a world in energy descent will call for far more change than simply trading the family SUV in for a Prius. Oil is the miracle product of the past 150 years that permeates almost everything in our lives. Specifically, the petroleum molecule and its derivatives are used in the manufacture of medicines, plastics, alcohol, paints, building materials, cloth, glycerin, sulfur, detergents, synthetic rubber, solvents, nylon, polyesters, food additives, dyes and supplements, explosives, and insulating materials. It must be emphasized that our ability to grow food for 6.5 Billion people and transport it thousands of miles to local grocers is highly dependent on a steady supply of cheap fossil fuel.
Considering the many critical uses for petroleum, burning it for fuel is akin to burning a Picasso for heat.
According to Ed Ayres, editorial director of the World Watch Institute, we face "something so completely outside our collective experience that we don't really see it, even when the evidence is overwhelming. For us, that 'something' is a blitz of enormous biological and physical alterations in the world that has been sustaining us."
The various alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, are only capable of replacing a fraction of our current energy requirements. So-called "hydrogen energy" is viewed by many in the scientific community as little more than a cruel hoax. A return to burning coal will accelerate global warming.
There are two typical reactions to all this news: denial or a sense of hopelessness. Most people opt for the former after first dismissing the news with nothing more than, "Don't worry, someone will come up with some new technology to make it go away." They ignore the fact that technology runs on energy. Technology without energy is as useless as a Ferrari with an empty gas tank. A minority of people digs deeply into the available research material and then sinks into a sense of hopelessness.
There is, however, a third way to respond. We can recognize the fact that we can use Peak Oil to finally take a proactive role in shaping our lives and communities as the world enters into power descent, rather than merely being passive victims. To avoid doing so is to forfeit a watershed opportunity to shape our and our children’s future for the better.
This is what Karavans is all about: creating a positive vision for tomorrow and acting towards its implementation. In a time of rapid change and dramatic transformation, Karavans serves as a hub for disseminating new ideas, information, tools, and techniques for those committed to acting proactively.
Specifically, Karavans will cover unlocking of the food supply, moving off-the-grid, renewable energy, self-sufficiency, community and local economy building, ecological design, permaculture, and other matters germane to sustainable life-styles as the world powers down.
In the CNN series, former CIA director James Woolsey warns us, “If you don’t worry about oil interruptions, you are living in something of a Fool’s Paradise.”
Karavans is operated by Digital Caravans, LLC, a builder of online communities, marketplaces, and provider of business support to startups.