|recommend book⇒The Regional City: Planning for the End of Sprawl|
Oil is not like a gas tank where the gas flows just fine down to the last drop. The older a well is, the harder it is to suck oil out of it, and the heavier and lower quality the oil is. It costs progressively more over time to refine the oil and push it out with steam or natural gas. So the world supply of oil won’t just suddenly end one day. It will gradually peter out following a bell-shaped curve similar to the production curve of an individual well. We are at about the peak now. Experts disagree when the precise peak was or will be, but is somewhere in the vicinity 2000 to 2013. The big problem predicting the precise point is that we don’t have accurate estimates of oil reserves. There are economic reasons for oil companies both the over and understate their reserves. Further, the precise timing of the peak depends on high prices depressing demand, wars disrupting production, and economic pressure to pump existing wells even faster.
The shit hits the fan long before oil runs out completely. Our economy is based on increasing the supply of energy by 3% a year. The flow of oil will be decreasing instead, causing oil prices to skyrocket from the shortfall. We have to adjust to that. The way we operate now, the economy is totally dependent on cheap energy.
A power blackout hitting all of eastern Canada and the USA in 2003 was at 4:13 PM on an unusually hot summer day. The problem was overload, with commercial, residential and industrial loads all high, running air conditioners. There simply was not enough power from the gas generating plants to cover the load. Because the entire system was running at so close to capacity, a failure triggered a chain reaction of breakers blowing. Cities came to a standstill. This is a warning of similar trouble to come.
Peak oil in the USA was back in the 1970s, exactly when Geophysicist Dr. M. King Hubbert, predicted. Amusingly people continued to ridicule him even in the year of peak oil. Peak oil is not the year oil runs out. It is the high point plateau. From an idiot’s perspective, in the peak year, things never looked better. From then on, less and less oil is produced.
The coming high cost of energy will reverse the trend to globalisation. Creating power will become a local community concern. Everything from food production to furniture manufacturing will tend to be done locally again, simply to avoid the high costs of transportation.
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