Sodium Haze: Peak Oil - what is missed

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Peak Oil - what is missed

Fab article on the Energy Bulletin reflecting on what is often missed in the debate about Peak Oil.

Contributions from lots of people - some I agree with and some i find daft to the point of being annoying - but I think the best was from the ever reliable Richard Heinberg.

Richard in my view is an international treasure who speaks so much good sense on so many topics - but especially peak oil. I highly recommend a trip to

Peak Oil and Peak Coal are by themselves seldom acknowledged, but there is a further problem that gets even less attention in the media. It’s one that could have greater short-term impact than anything else (short of a truly apocalyptic natural disaster). And that is the impact of Peak Resources upon the world’s financial system. It’s the End of Growth.

We’ve already seen a dry run in 2008, with an oil price spike triggering the worst financial meltdown since the 1930s. As resource supply limits tighten, we’ll eventually see a re-run - but this time the world’s governments and central banks will already have exhausted their bailout capacity. Politicians may rail about deficits, but few if any of them understand the relationship between Peak Debt and resource limits - and their ignorance will make it all but impossible for them to mount effective responses. That’s why it’s probably up to communities to design their own resilience strategies.”
Nearly 100% correct - although I have little faith in the notion of local resilience strategies.

I also liked this from Keith Farnish.

“In discussions of Peak Oil and other shortages, we seem to have lost our sense of deference to what, after all, is something we only have the right to borrow. Every drop of oil extracted by civilized humanity is a drop of oil that won’t be returned: yet we view that as a Resource, something that is there to be used rather than something that just happens to be there. The oil was not put there for us to use, it just exists, and we happen to be using it, to our likely tragic denouement.

Jeff Vail had this to say.

“In my opinion the biggest AND least discussed issue is that the hierarchal nature of our economic-political system demands perpetual growth. Accordingly, any “solution” that does not promise a return to growth will be rejected out of hand by that system, but any “solution” that does promise perpetual growth is a false hope.

Hierarchies compete in a peer-polity ecosystem and must adopt short term strategies to maximize growth or be out-competed by others that do, no matter how unsustainable the pattern in the long term. This will not change in a broader environment of perpetual real contraction - there will always remain opportunities for competitors to pursue a maximization strategy at the cost of others. Energy descent will not put an end to the pursuit of growth by hierarchies - it will only make the game more cutthroat and zero-sum.

Why the focus on hierarchies? This systemic demand for growth is a symptom of centralization and the accompanying competition for resources from the periphery (both geographic and conceptual). This systemic need for growth does not exist where there is scale-free self-sufficiency (a resilient characteristic hierarchies trade for efficiency), either localized, networked, or both.”

i think he is right about the problem of perpetual growth - probably right about the competition leading to a zero sum game

...and flat wrong in his fantastical notions about scale-free self sufficiency which is an idealised throwback to an era when we didn't have the population we have now.


“We need to start addressing the cause of our problems - the hierarchal structure of out political-economic system that we generally take as a given - rather than continue to focus in isolation on the many symptoms of this structure.

I get so utterly frustrated by the eco-new-age cause celebre fixation with some ridiculous notion of a world without heirarchy.

The Transition movement in my area is a local by-word for vexed failure to really achieve anything much - and this determination to avoid any and all organisational structure that might place the right people in the right roles is the reason.

I think Peak Oil has been filed by most people as a niche interest for eco-cranks and new age hippies - not making any link between rising petrol prices and the supply of oil.

I wish Peak Oil could be seperated from the identity politics of some of its proponents and make its way into the mainstream of public opinion - I suspect by the time it actually does the opportunity for any kind of a soft landing will be lost.
BLOG DIRECTORY, Submit blog free, Promote Blog, Best directory