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Am I the only one that sees this coming?

I have been reading a lot about peak oil and peak natural gas production lately. To me, these seem like they will be the biggest issues of the 21st century. We need oil and natural gas to drive our cars, heat our homes, grow our food, transport our goods, etc. Our whole economy relies on cheap, non-renewable fossil-fuel energy, so why is nobody talking about this?! I honestly feel that most of our national problems (the war in the Middle East, the economic recession, etc.) are largely due to a declining production of energy.

I know that some people are aware of this issue, but it seems most folks either don’t understand the full implications or simply just don’t care. It just grinds my gears when people assume that we will always be able to run our economy the way we’re running it now. What do you all think about this? Should we start preparing Duluth for a post-oil world, or do we just ignore it and see what happens?

22 Comment(s)

  1. Peak Oil you say?

    Over the past 10 years or so I have researched the theory at its origins and find that regardless of its evolution, the voting public should be concerned or at least interested in the alternative energy industries as a way to adapt to market pressures, or to combat rising oil costs when demand exceeds supply.

    I am not an expert on the subject, but it seems as more commodities are politicized the greater risk there is in finding alternative solutions. The ability for the nation to adjust to dwindling reserves and rising costs will be a major focal point for investment in the future for alternative energies. Then again maybe peak oil theory has been contrived and infiltrated by big oil to simply increase speculation and profit margins. I guess my advice for not scratching your head every step of the way … stay objective.

    Not sure if any of that made sense but I am at work and will possibly answer your questions, concerns later with more detail. For now, I would check out these two articles, one a report, the other an article. Thanks for reading.

    https://www.cera.com/aspx/cda/filedisplay/publicfiledisplay.ashx?KID=5&CID=10720&PK=38356

    http://www.gregpalast.com/madhouse/index.php/32

    Carl Miller | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  2. There certainly are a lot of people (myself included) who wish alternative energies where further along than they are. Having said that, I think one of the biggest roadblocks to this is cheap oil. Frankly, people do not like believing doomsday scenarios, people have been talking about peak oil since at least the ’70s and likely prior to that, but because the crisis isn’t “in-your-face-OMG-now!!!” it is easier, and cheaper, to maintain the status quo.

    Given that, and given there is such a lack of political will (witness the last election) to actually address this issue, the fact we are as far along as we are is surprising. Last year there was scientific papers published talking about some downright revolutionary solar advances, wind turbines are making significant inroads even in conservative parts of the country. As gas gets more expensive ($3.10 in Duluth now), there will be greater pressures for other sources, of course “clean” coal will unfortunately be part of that.

    Driving through rural southern MN, and parts of IA it strikes me that just about all those homes could be maximized for passive solar and end up spending a fraction of the heating costs.

    There are solutions, hell a recent graph I saw seems to indicate that Americans may have already peaked in their annual oil consumption.

    edgeways | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  3. I hope this is not too far off of the subject but it has to do with actually figuring out what supply and demand is. Only with an honest accounting of actual supply and actual demand could we make an honest assessment of what and when the “peak” has been reached. Not long ago oil was not listed as a commodity to be speculated on. I think we should go back to that model. Oil is too valuable to be speculated on. More importantly it makes it impossible to tell what the actual supply and demand is. It is well known that currently all of the oil holding facilities are full and tankers are anchored off the coast holding oil that has no where else to go. Yet gas just went over $3 today. The market is not being driven by supply and demand. It is being driven by speculation and that is never good. Oil needs to be removed from the commodities market.

    W.T.F | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  4. There is huge demand but the supply is controlled. They haven’t built a new refinery in the United States in decades. Yes, they upgraded the Superior refinery.

    James | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  5. No matter how you look at it, moving away from oil is a BIG issue. Look down at the clothes you’re wearing. Or at the clothes you wear outside. I bet you can trace it back to oil. Your computer is probably made of plastic. So much of our food is packaged in plastic.

    Why would we build a new refinery? We’ve tapped most of the US stuff.

    Kerc | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  6. There’s no doubt in my mind that world oil production will peak (if it hasn’t already). The only question is when… but that’s not really the point.

    The point is that it’s non-renewable, yet we demand more and more of it every day, especially with China and India entering the picture. At some point, whether it’s 2 years from now or 200, our access to it will start declining. Yet we are not prepared for it at all… oil is our life blood.

    Some of my concerns aren’t even related to oil itself, but the side-effects of peak-oil. Like, what would we do if China decided to stop trading with us because of a conflict for the remaining oil in the Middle East? Who’s going to make our toilet seats and fishing rods after that? All of our factories have either been demolished or turned into restaurants now… we’d be screwed!

    Codie | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  7. Oil peaked with frozen pizza package design. Think about it..

    egn | Dec 27, 2010 | New Comment
  8. I know this is a serious subject, but I am really having a hard time getting past the fact that you actually used the term “grinds my gears” in your post. Please don’t use Family Guy references when you want to be taken seriously.

    Sherman | Dec 28, 2010 | New Comment
  9. Hahaha. I was wondering if anyone would catch that.

    Codie | Dec 28, 2010 | New Comment
  10. It’s a little depressing when an expression used by my long dead grandfather ends up as a meme for something as weak as Family Guy.

    Timk | Dec 28, 2010 | New Comment
  11. Did you get a chance to see the documentary film Collapse? It’s almost entirely on the subject of peak oil and the world’s oil dependency/blind oil usage. I saw it at Zinema a few months ago and went home and hid under some blankets for 3 days. It’s made by WI filmmaker Chris Smith (American Movie, The Yes Men). Recommended to anyone who has interest in this subject.

    Richard Hansen | Dec 28, 2010 | New Comment
  12. Oh yeah, I definitely saw Collapse at the Zinema as well. Here are a couple other good movies about peak oil (streaming free online!) These ones are a little less terrifying than Collapse:

    The End of Suburbia
    Blind Spot

    Codie | Dec 28, 2010 | New Comment
  13. I go back to the initial post and the sentence:

    “We need oil and natural gas to drive our cars, heat our homes, grow our food, transport our goods, etc.” stands out to me in particular. Primarily because we don’t need oil or natural gas for any of that.

    Granted, it is far, far easier to do these things with oil, but the world seemed to manage pretty well in the early 1800s without it, at least from a commerce and transportation standpoint. Was it “fast”? No. Was it global, or even continental? No. Was it “easy? No. Was it sufficient? Yes.

    The scary thing to me is that our food system and infrastructure are dependent on petroleum based fertilizers and fuels that are essential to support our current population. No oil = massive famine and population reduction back to levels that were sustainable at pre-oil levels. We could all walk to work, but we can’t feed 300 million people without petroleum-based fertilizers.

    Who will have the power when the oil well runs dry? The person who owns the well, or the person who knows how to grow food and store it all winter? Someday, maybe in my lifetime, maybe not, things are going to get ugly.

    Elden | Dec 28, 2010 | New Comment
  14. Need?

    Of course we need natural gas and other fossil fuels to heat our homes because that’s the infrastructure that is in place, and at this point, the vast majority have no other option.

    The cost and logistics of conversion to any other means of heat our homes, transport our goods, etc. would far outweigh the savings and environmental impact of switching from renewable to nonrenewable.

    I’d love to convert my home to something more eco friendly but the reality of it is that it’s just not in the cards financially. I know most of my neighbors are in the same boat as well.

    It’d be nice but …

    in.dog.neato | Dec 29, 2010 | New Comment
  15. Right idn, which goes back to my point. Until he current cost rises substantially we are not going to do anything about it.

    edgeways | Dec 29, 2010 | New Comment
  16. In.dog.neato, that is exactly my point. You say it is not in the cards financially, and that there is no other option? Well, what about when oil or natural gas is not an option because it is either not available any more, or it is exceedingly expensive?

    We use it only because it is currently available, inexpensive, and easy. We really do not need it when you pare it down to the basics.

    Your home that “needs” it will be valueless.

    When building a better house costs less than heating the old one, it will be done. It is easy to build a new house that uses 1/10th the energy of a 50-year-old one, even in this climate, but we don’t do it because fuel is cheap and available.

    When that day comes, we will look back and be embarrassed that millions of us pissed away so much oil driving our SUVs to the mall once a week instead of conserving it for things we actually will need it for in the future.

    Radical change only occurs in the face of adversity. Until then, we will waste the resource with reckless abandon.

    Elden | Dec 29, 2010 | New Comment
  17. Elden,

    I don’t build a new house that uses 1/10th of the energy that a 50 year-old house uses because I don’t have the financial wherewithal to be able to afford to buy the land and then build a new house utilizing ever-greener (and very expensive out-of-the-box) energy resources.

    The problem is that the technologies haven’t been developed enough to make them affordable to the common person. I’m not going to go into a huge diatribe here, because Edge made my point very succintly, but it’s very easy to sit at your computer and chastize IDN for not building/buying a completely eco-friendly house and another thing entirely to put yourself in his shoes.

    And technically, the sun is not an ever-renewing resource… someday, it too, will be gone. Viva le Luddite!

    tamara | Dec 29, 2010 | New Comment
  18. Instead of blaming the end consumer, blame the fish at the other end of the chain for establishing the built in obsolescent system in the first place.

    I’d love to have a house that uses a tenth of the energy that my current one does but … there’s the money thing.

    in.dog.neato | Dec 29, 2010 | New Comment
  19. I would love to have a house like that too, i.d.n, but mine would probably be against the city’s zoning code

    Codie | Dec 29, 2010 | New Comment
  20. I want an earthship. Google it. I can’t be bothered to link it.

    ruby2sd4y | Dec 30, 2010 | New Comment
  21. Jesus Tamara, relax. I was not chastising anybody specifically, or telling anybody to go build a new house. I was commenting on the status quo, as the original topic was. I said, clearly I thought, that there may come a day when it is cheaper to build a more efficient house than to heat an old one.
    I own a crappy old house too. I can’t afford to build new either. But when I do, I will spend my money on insulation and good windows, not put granite countertops and a 50″ TV in a leaky underinsulated crap-box. My issue is that we can easily do better now, but we don’t because we don’t have to…yet. And it doesn’t have to look line an “earthship” either.
    I agree with “edge’s” point also. As a nation, we aren’t going to do anything about it until we HAVE to. Some people are already working on it though, while some people are ignoring the elephant in the room.
    I think the problem is at least on the minds of the general public now, which is good.
    As an aside, I did watch “Collapse” after reading this thread. It is a bit hard to swallow, but there are some good points in there. I have also watched “End of Suburbia” and “What as Way to Go”. Depressing, but worthwhile.

    Elden | Dec 30, 2010 | New Comment
  22. Peak Oil, at least in our lifetime, is fantasy perpetuated by very smart people like T. Boone Pickens who are making big bets on gas, wind and water.

    We have plenty of oil and gas in the western hemisphere (Canada and The Barnett Shale, anyone?) to last us several generations.

    Electric cars need electricity, which depends on coal or oil. It’s a bunk idea in its current format. I’ll get excited about the transfer to alternative energies if technologies like Bloom (www.bloomenergy.com) come to fruition.

    Bob | Dec 30, 2010 | New Comment

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