Peak Oil 2010. End of Story

John Doerr speaking at TEDTalks
John Doerr speaking at TEDTalks
The Irish Times has been running a Negotiations for Government section in their letters page, so I thought I’d send a brief note: Peak Oil 2010. End of Story. . Just that. I don’t think it made it from the huge pile the editor undoubted receives.

Or maybe the editorial staff, in common with most people, thought, so what? Most people, and that seems to include all our politicians and political parties, think that there will be a long decline in peak oil. We have loads of time to keep going on the way we do, wasting practically all our resources.

But that just ain’t so. When oil – and gas – peak, the decline is thought to be about 3% a year. That doesn’t seem like much, at first glance. But consider this, from the Life After the Oil Crash website

The issue is not one of “running out” so much as it is not having enough to keep our economy running. In this regard, the ramifications of Peak Oil for our civilization are similar to the ramifications of dehydration for the human body. The human body is 70 percent water. The body of a 200 pound man thus holds 140 pounds of water. Because water is so crucial to everything the human body does, the man doesn’t need to lose all 140 pounds of water weight before collapsing due to dehydration. A loss of as little as 10-15 pounds of water may be enough to kill him.

In a similar sense, an oil-based economy such as ours doesn’t need to deplete its entire reserve of oil before it begins to collapse. A shortfall between demand and supply as little as 10-15 percent is enough to wholly shatter an oil-dependent economy and reduce its citizenry to poverty.

Are you scared yet?

It’s even worse.

The effects of even a small drop in production can be devastating. For instance, during the 1970s oil shocks, shortfalls in production as small as 5% caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple. The same thing happened in California a few years ago with natural gas: a production drop of less than 5% caused prices to skyrocket by 400%.

To be really scared, all you have to do is read through this website. The nub is this: if a five percent drop in oil production causes a 400% increase in the cost of oil, what do you think a 9% drop in as little as three years, and a 18% drop in 6 years, and a 32% drop in 12 years, would do? This is not a blip in production as in the 1970s. This is a permanent, inevitiable reduction. And once an oil well reaches a certain level of depletion, the cost of extracting from it makes the oil recovered uneconomical – to put it in a nutshell.

We rely on oil for everything, from toothbrushes to the production of solar panels and windmills.

This website is utterly bleak, offering not a glimmer of hope, and it’s well backed-up by facts and research. It’s not run by an eco-freak in sandals (Personally I’ve nothing against eco-freaks. Some of my best friends, etc, but I point this out to caution cynics to read on). He’s a lawyer, and he has marshalled his facts well.

There are tiny glimmers of hope – but only if the world wakes up fast.

I’ve mentioned Ted Talks before, I think. It’s a great video (requires Flash) resource for anyone thinking about the world we live in.
John Doerr is a venture capitalist who was woken up to reality by his 15 year old daughter, and he and his firm, KPCB, spent a year trying to find a solution to global warming. Their hardnosed research made him very scared indeed.

One fact he mentioned that I hadn’t heard before is that the US has enough geothermal energy to power the country for a thousand years. He also points out that while Exxon earns $1billion a day, the total US research budget into geothermal energy, a resource used by American Indians for thousands of years, is $20million.

Of course Ireland has the Atlantic Ocean, and this is being ignored in pretty much the same way, with just token amounts put into researching its potential.

Doerr quotes Kleiner:

There is a time when panic is the appropriate response
-Eugene Kleiner

So please, negotiators for the next Irish Government, wake up, and panic.

Life After the Oil Crash

John Doerr’s TED Talk

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