Climate change requires us to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and given our dependence on them, that’s a serious challenge. Gathering the political will to wean ourselves off oil because of climate change would be difficult, but there is another compelling reason that makes it a double imperative – they’re not making any more of it. Supplies of oil and gas are limited, and we’re rapidly using up the cheapest and most accessible supplies. Our use of them is unsustainable in the long term.
We currently use oil at the rate of 87 million barrels a day. That’s four times faster than we’re finding new supplies, so it’s only logical that we can’t go on forever.
- So what is peak oil?
- We don’t know how much oil there is
- Some suggest production has already peaked, the 11th of July 2008 being the high point.
- If not, this report suggests peak oil is likely by 2020
- Either way, we may have less oil than we think.
Like climate change however, some people are still asking if peak oil is a real problem or not, claiming that reserves are still vast and that we’ll find more.
- But the US military takes it seriously
- so does British business, who fear that we the government is rather complacent.
- And Sweden has declared that the whole country will be oil-free by 2020.
So what does the end of cheap oil mean?
- Here’s what we can do about peak oil
- It means car culture will change, and public transport will need be a priority.
- We’ll have to use less energy, as there is no source of power quite like oil.
- Society will have to transition to a post-oil way of life.
- It’s not all negative. Christopher Steiner’s book $20 a gallon explores the many positives of life without oil.
Oil isn’t the only thing running down.
- Supplies of metals are also in decline.
- And Richard Heinberg suggests we’ve reached the point of ‘peak everything’
In short, resource depletion and peak oil in particular present us with a set of very real limits. Demand is still rising, and at some point the oil companies will not be able to keep with supply. The price of oil will soar, and the more dependent on oil we are, the more vulnerable we will be.