In a paper presented to the American Petroleum Institute in 1956, Dr. M. King Hubbert outlined what would be called the “peak oil” theory. His research showed that, based on past and current oil production and field discoveries, oil production in the United States would peak in the 1970’s. He was right. Hubbert later predicted that global peak oil would be reached between 1995 and 2000.
The term “peak oil” refers to the point in time when an oil well, field or regional supply reaches its point of maximum oil output. It is the point at which there cannot be more oil pumped from the ground in a given time period, then at that moment.
The demand for energy is at its highest level – at the very same point we no longer can produce any more than we do right now. Please note peak oil is not the end of oil in the world. In fact it is only the halfway point. What it does mean is we are at the end of affordable and easy access to oil.
The oil used over the last hundred years, known as light and sweet crude, was easy to remove from the ground and easy to refine. Today we are nearing the end of this light and sweet crude, and are forced to use heavier and dirtier versions of oil. In Alberta, Canada, there is a massive oil reserve in what is known as the “Oil Sands.” This is a vast amount of oil encased in bitumen, clay, and sand that could, in theory, last for 40 years if production is increased to 10 million barrels per day. But the costs of labor, technology and refinement can easily be 6 to 12 times that of conventional drilling while the cost to the environment borders on the catastrophic.
Reducing petroleum use isn’t just a solution, it is the solution! Petroleum extraction and sales cause political instability and is a genuine national security issue, but it is in the hands of a few monied interests. These are but a few reasons to mount a true “war on energy.” What will you do when gas reaches four, five or more dollars per gallon? Will you be able to afford to get to work? Will you be able to afford to heat your home in winter? What will your food and clothing cost?
We need a new vision for the world for the next 25 years. A vision based on renewable energy, increased job opportunities and new technologies. A focus on localization and regionalism must be reintroduced to the American psyche. A massive reintroduction of small-scale organic and permaculture farms into all regions of our nation (especially the urban regions) must be an urgent priority.
To close I will give the sobering results of a hearing held on January 10, 2007 by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. During his turn at the microphone, Dr. Flynt Leverett stated, “Simply put, there is no economically plausible scenario for a strategically meaningful reduction in the dependence of the United States and its allies on imported hydrocarbons during the next quarter century.”
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