More on Peak Oil

Last month I wrote a little about the ‘peak oil’ problem after watching the film A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.  With the recent escalation of oil prices, it is much easier to believe that the time of peak oil (when production can no longer increase and starts to contract) may be with us.  I came across a host of other videos dealing with the subject and showing how significant these events could be.

First, I saw a piece on treehugger showing a YouTube video where Matthew Simmons takes part in a recent episode of an investment TV show called Fast Money on CNBC.  It was interesting to see that he does not believe that the continuing oil price highs are due to speculation, the view that many commentators and economists have been promoting.  The clip is also hilarious for the reactions to the solutions he proposes – that people in the US need to change some of the ways they live and work.

Through the beauty of related video surfing on YouTube I found a clip – the first part of The most important video you’ll ever see which sounded rather self-important but turned out to be a lecture given by a Dr Albert A Bartlett, a very down-to-earth professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  In this lecture, recorded a few years ago, he explains to his students his worry that our society has no understanding of the phenomenon of exponential growth (for example that something growing at 7% per year is doubling every 10 years).  This, he nicely demonstrates with a number of examples.  He then moves on to show how this problem applies to oil and energy use.  Apart from bringing up the proximity of the peaking of oil supplies, he also has some interesting examples of how extraordinary statements are made, even by scientists and figures you would not expect absurd claims from.  He illustrates with some of the statements made about coal reserves when the issue of oil depletion is raised, statements like “there’s enough coal for 500/1,000/10,000 years”.  Dr Bartlett implores us to think and check these claims before relying on them, even if the source appears reputable.  I highly recommend watching this, there are 8 parts so it does take a while.

Next I found a film, in a similar vein to A Crude Awakening, Oil, Smoke & Mirrors which is available through Google Video.  It is another assembly of interviews with various contributors looking at the problems surrounding peak oil and also raising some wider questions about how this relates to the September 11th attacks and the subsequent “War on Terror”.  The film raises the possibility that some of the “terrorist threat” may have been created, not so much for current purposes but in preparation for future conflicts in times of resource scarcity.  It also raises worrying questions about what happens when powers such as the US and China really start to get desperate about protecting their way of life/growth when oil supplies are seen to be contracting.

Later, I found a film coming from a different angle on peak oil, The End of Suburbia made in 2004.  It highlights the difficulties facing the US due to its infrastructure being designed so much around cheap oil supplies.

While enlightening, these films can be a bit depressing.  I noticed that virtually all the contributors to the above films were male and it was like sunrise after a long night when I found two women discussing peak oil and what can be done about it – Learning from Cuba’s response to peak oil which is an interview with Megan Quinn of Community Solutions.  Another person working on solutions is David Holmgren, interviewed here: Permaculture and peak oil: Beyond ‘sustainability’

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