peak oil

Permaculture . . . the not so good oil

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“We are not good at recognizing distant threats even if their probability is 100%.
Society ignoring [peak oil] is like the people of Pompeii ignoring the rumblings below Vesuvius.”
~James R. Schlesinger

Following on from last week’s “if permaculture is the answer climate change is the question” … Part 2 of my research project for my Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital online studies to gain understanding about the why of permaculture asked me to share three resources useful to either explain or give more information about Peak Oil.

Confession time… I missed the popularising of the term “peak oil“. Up ’til now I thought we were heading for a plain old oil crisis. However, I was no less concerned after I did a few Google searches and found these:

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of crude oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of extraction is expected to begin to decline… forever. It simply does not matter why peak crude oil extraction is reached, the peak is the peak regardless of the cause. The cause could be geological or it could be economics but most likely it will be a combination of the two.” ~ Peak Oil Barrel

“Proponents of peak oil theory do not necessarily claim that conventional oil sources will run out immediately and create acute shortages, resulting in a global energy crisis. Instead, the theory holds that, with the production of easily extractable oil peaking and inevitably declining (even in formerly bounteous regions such as Saudi Arabia), crude-oil prices are likely to remain high and even rise further over time, especially if future global oil demand continues to rise along with the growth of emerging economies such as China and India. Although peak oil theory may not portend prohibitively expensive gasoline any time soon, it does suggest that the days of inexpensive fuel, as were seen for more than a decade after the collapse of OPEC cartel prices in the mid-1980s, will probably never return.” ~ Encyclopaedia Britannica

“They took all the cars, and put them in a car museum, and they charged all the people a dollar and a half to see ’em” ~  Joni Mitchell

And, seriously concerned by what I learned during my assignment research:

1. James Hansen
Climatologist and activist introduced to me when I viewed David Attenborough – Climate Change: The Facts, who, I learned, delivers the bad news that too many stakeholders are conveniently dismissing the science out of self-interest and that 30 years on, world is failing ‘miserably’ to address climate change. He holds energy corporations and business accountable because dollar-wise fossil fuels continue to be the cheapest energy source and advocates a carbon fee to make fossil fuel prices truly reflective of the cost to the environment, “Right now they are getting away with using the atmosphere as a free waste dump, where air pollution, water pollution, and climate change are not included in the price of fossil fuels.”
Given the CSIRO “is an independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research. Its chief role is to improve the economic and social performance of industry for the benefit of the community” what I learned wasn’t what I was hoping for.
The CSIRO report Oil and Gas: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia “identifies four high-impact pathways to growth that are enabled by science and technology” and the content suggests that industry is committed to business as usual as much as possible while being willing to take onboard climate change considerations only necessarily. It’s not an entirely reassuring report.
The energy sector does its homework.
“This report was informed by industry consultation. The perspective on the future of the sector, including major opportunities and challenges, was based on the opinions of executives and managers from oil and gas operators, service firms and Government agencies. Dozens of interviews with technical experts from Universities and CSIRO provide the report with a solid perspective on technology developments. In all, approximately 80 interviews were conducted to inform this report during the first half of 2017. Analysis of the content of these interviews, and additional desktop research helped to shape this report. It therefore represents a consensus view of the trajectory of the industry, developed by synthesising executive opinions, technical expertise and scientific research.”
The energy sector is committed to remaining viable.
“What can the Australian oil and gas sector do, in the face of considerable obstacles, to remain viable into the coming decades?”
The energy sector is prepared to spend money to remain viable; costs I assume that will be passed on to consumers.
“What investments in science and technology are needed to prevail?”
The energy sector is pragmatic.
“Global citizens are increasingly adept at shifting public sentiment around issues important to them. Using such tools as social media, groups of people can create strong opposition to business interests, shape public discourse, and influence government policy. A key challenge for the oil and gas sector in this regard is earning and retaining social licence for its resource projects.”
The energy sector needs to become environmentally accountable not only financially, or decades of investment driven status quo will continue.
3. Four Corners
In 2006 Four Corners did a report about Peak Oil.
I learned that world leaders and consumers both tend to be primarily concerned with prices at the fuel pump and should there be lack, “up-ending comfortable urban lifestyles that rely on oil for the cheap transport of people and goods and for the manufacture of thousands of mundane household and office items – from mousepads, banknotes and drink bottles to carpets, clothes, cosmetics and deodorants.”
“The easy oil has already been produced. The remaining reserves, as significant and substantial as they are, are going to be more expensive and gradually more demanding to produce. Therefore, the future capacity is slower to come on stream than what it has been the traditional past.”
“Everybody in the industry realises that oil and gas are the backbone of global economies. Somehow, I guess politicians felt that this was not going to be an issue on their watch, that it was too far into the future, and therefore didn’t pay attention to it.”
I learned that the focus on are there or aren’t there enough oil reserves  has detracted from the greater consideration of what happens if… when… society continues its uptake.

What will happen? David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept, environmental designer, author & futurist, offered this in his interview with Adam Fenderson from Resilience in 2004 on peak oil and Permaculture:

“People are driven mad by the total continuous drive to consume and the hollowness of this sort of existence, the lack of community and identity. In an energy-descent world, a lot of those destructive behaviors are just set aside, because there are more important things to do. So, at the extreme it’s a bit like what happens in a society where there’s a natural disaster. Community is re-discovered, people set aside their differences and get working on fundamental things. A lot of the angst about alienation and all sorts of seemingly intractable problems almost evaporate. For a lot of people, I think this would be an enormous relief. Most people can’t get off the treadmill because of peer pressure and individual and collective addiction in society. Sometimes people recognize a problem, want to change, but they need a crisis, something that affects their peers, so they can all change together.”

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” ~ Joni Mitchell

What’s your take on peak oil? A theory, or do you heed the rumblings of a crisis waiting to happen?