the basic facts concerning declining oil supplies? What are the
right questions to ask about all the implications of this situation?
The following is one attempt at identifying the basic facts and the key
First, we have to establish the facts about past oil
extraction/consumption. Then we have to establish what's left in the
ground. The figure below from the
Peak web site
shows Petroconsultants' best estimate on the numbers and the associated
Second, we also need some rough calculations on how many
people can ultimately be supported with different renewable energy
scenarios, ie, different BTUs per person per year, and how much time we
have until total reliance on renewables becomes necessary. Based on
the data in the figure below,
Lund University in Sweden estimates that only 1-3 billion people can be
supported with renewable energy sources.
Third, we need to anticipate how climate changes resulting
from the burning of all these fossil fuels will influence our abilities to
adjust and adapt. The NOAA graph below--from ice cores at the Vostok
station in Antarctica--indicates what could be in store for us in this
Since global population increases are mostly a function of
the availability of cheap energy resources, and since we're already very
near or at the peak in global oil extraction, we're also very near or at
the peak of global population. There's no way they both won't go
down in the future.
So the question then becomes what is the optimal goal for
a "soft landing" into a sustainable, renewable energy economy in
20-40 years? How do we avoid a "hard landing?" How
do we manage the transition? Who decides? Will it be everyone
on the planet through democratic processes, or will it be a few people in
G7, CFR and other elite corporate/government networks?
As it is now, who makes decisions now about our global
future? Who decides the price of oil? Who decides the
subsidies for different industrial sectors and products? Who
declares war? Who decides trade policies? Who decides
financial policies? Who decides agricultural policies?
Given the fact that the corporate/government elites have no intention
of giving up any of their wealth and power, it's more than likely that
given the choice (which they have heretofore preempted), they will opt for
slavery and/or depopulation rather than energy and wealth redistribution.
Enslavement of third world and inner city peoples is already proceeding
rapidly under the aegis of the WTO, IMF and WB. We know what their
plans are in this regard.
They have conventional, biological and nuclear weapons at their
disposal. They doubtless have detailed contingency plans to use
those weapons to eliminate the least profitable segments of the global
population (probably favoring biological weapons). How do we find
out what their plans are in this regard? How do we counteract them?
What is their vision of an energy-scarce global future? Where do
they see the global economy and population going over the next fifty
years? What are their optimal scenarios for oil at $50 per barrel?
How about $100 per barrel? How about $200? How will scarce
energy resources be allocated between military, industry, agriculture,
transportation, and heating?
What is our vision of all these things? And what is
our definition of a process that could get us to that vision? Even
though oil prices have temporarily fallen from their highs of this past
winter, they are certain to go up again, maybe sooner, maybe later.
It's not a question of whether; it's only a question of when.
If we are unprepared for all the ramifications of our
energy-scarce future, we leave the decisions and policies to corporate and
government elites, and we suffer the consequences. Is this something
that we are willing to do?