When I was a child I read a children’s story about a circus train. The giraffe chewed a hole in the roof of one of the passenger cars. The giraffe and all the other animals in that car got out and up on the roofs the train. They danced and played until they came to a tunnel. Then one by one they were forced back through the hole of the car they had come from. This being a children’s story no one was hurt. However, in the real life story of hitting declining oil production millions of people will die and many others will be very seriously injured.
Just think of how VERY oil dependent we are. Phones, computers, food and beverage packaging, rugs, storage boxes, medicine, clothing, furniture, pens, etc. are all made with oil. (Plastic comes from oil.) We use mechanized agriculture, which uses pesticides and fertilizers. We use oil for transportation. Even the lowly bicycle needs oil for lubrication and manufacture. Yes we do recycle far more than we used to, but it takes more energy to recycle things than it does to simply reuse them. For example a glass bottle can be reused an infinite number of times unless it broke, versus a plastic bottle than can only be used once.
So you can see by this that it will be VERY difficult to get off oil (and natural gas and coal). But get off it we will. We won’t have a choice. We should have started 20 years or more ago. Actually we shouldn’t have wasted as much oil and gas as we have, but we did.
So what will a post peak oil world look like? It depends on how quickly we face up to the problem and start reducing our energy use. The longer we delay the worse it will be.
The worst case scenario would be billions of people starving to death, losing most if not all of our technology, modern medicine, communications and transportation, losing clean running water and electricity. Our homes and businesses would be heated by wood, if at all. Our food would be locally grown, some of it where the suburbs now are, and we would be an agrarian society, dominated by feudal lords. However, it would be cleaner and quieter than today.
Another possibility is that we decide to deal head on with the problem and rapidly reduce our energy demand, which may allow us to continue to heat by oil and gas and keep at least some of our technology and modern medicine, communications and transportation, as well as electricity and clean running water. This would buy us time while we develop alternative and more efficient forms of energy.
Since the first part of my look at peak oil was posted I’ve learned about two realistic alternative fuel possibilities. One is using thorium in place of uranium for nuclear power plants. It’s very common and is safer than uranium and cannot be made into a bomb. I understand that it could be used in Cando reactors without much problem. (See Thorium Video I and Thorium Video II")
Another alternative fuel possibility is something called sun-gas. Basically it uses parabolic mirrors for high heat in a chemical reactor to make solar fuel cells. (See http://Sun-Gas I) These would produce about 20% less greenhouse gas emissions than natural gas. (See Sun-Gas II) Since it would be fuel cells solar power would be both storable and transportable. Sun-gas may be rolled out as early as next month in some western American states.
So what to do? Here are steps you can take both individually and collectively where you work, play or worship. You can start talking and thinking about it. Write your elected representatives to ask them what they’re doing to prepare. Write businesses to urge them to reduce their oil and natural gas use. Urge your place of worship to start dealing with the issue. Start growing at least some of your own food. It’s healthier and you know where it comes from. Walk, bicycle and use public transit whenever possible and if you’re already doing it do so more. If you have a motor home get rid of it the same goes if you have more than one car. Reduce heating oil, natural gas and electric use. Add insulation to your house or business. Learn new skills. Reduce using plastic as much as possible and start reusing things.
And if things don’t get as bad as I and other fear they could using less energy and making yourself and your business reduces your costs and your impact on the environment.
I know this is scary (It is for me.), but forewarned is forearmed. In time we’ll make it.
Here are some links to useful sites:
Sectors Of The American Economy Most At Risk From Peak Oil
Winning The Oil Endgame
Former BP Geologist On Peak Oil
Preparing For A Post Peak Life, part of postpeakliving.com. There are three videos totalling about 60 minutes. The first 8 minutes of the first video explains things in a nutshell. There information on peak oil on this page. It is run by André Angelantoni, whose biography can be read on the site.
Part three will look at specifically how journalists are part of the problem and how we can be part of the solution.