Every day we pump 84 million barrels of oil out of the ground. Sometime soon we shall reach the point where the rate of oil extraction will reach its zenith. The output of easily extractable, cheap, crude oil that our global economy is built on will stall, then, fall into decline. That’s peak oil. After this point the rate of extraction drops remorselessly; and the price rises accordingly.
There is a fierce debate between the ‘early peakers’, who say that the peak will pass by 2010, and the ‘late peakers’, who say we have until 2030 or even later before we have to panic. Increasingly, however, the mood is changing, and even the Energy Information Administration, the pre-eminent international forecasting and recording body, has changed its tune and expects supply to tighten significantly within a few years.
Increasing numbers of geologists, scientists and oil experts including the International Energy Agency (read their 2007 mid-term report) are moving into the early peakers’ camp whilst oil companies, eager to protect their short-term interests, continue to deny the immediacy of the threat.
We are firmly with the early peakers. All the signs are that declining new discoveries, old oilfields reaching maturity, rusting infrastructure, deceit by countries wishing to inflate the level of their reserves for political or financial gain, bottlenecks in the supply pipeline and strife in the oilfields are conspiring to make sure that we will never exceed our current rates of extraction.
What about Cornwall?
For Cornwall, just as for the rest of the planet, we are going to be facing ever dwindling supplies of ever more expensive oil. The implications of this are enormous. It threatens our food supplies, our transport system, our health service, our industry, tourism, employment, housing, crime – every area of life.
For a detailed summary of the impact see The Impact of Peak Oil on Rural Communities by Elizabeth Baines.
Peak oil also threatens our work towards mitigating climate change. A shortage of oil will encourage a massive transfer into coal extraction, with emissions of CO2 four times the rate of oil. Our efforts to adapt to a change in the climate will be hampered by the rocketing cost of the energy needed for new technologies.
Act now for success!
However, if we act now, collectively and with purpose, we can turn this one round. We can follow the example of the transition movement, putting in place measures and plans now that will prepare us for a different future. Together we can do it. Alone we certainly can’t! For more information on peak oil, follow these links:
- A detailed look at the theory and meaning of peak oil: http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/
- A well-informed website discussing issues on energy and our future: http://www.theoildrum.com/
- Peak oil and agriculture
- Peak oil and communities
- Peak oil and the economy
- The Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO): http://www.peakoil.net/
- The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC): http://www.odac-info.org
- The Post Carbon Institute: http://www.postcarbon.org/
- The Oil Depletion Protocol: http://www.oildepletionprotocol.org/
- Peak Oil News and Message Board: http://peakoil.com/
- Community Solutions: http://www.communitysolution.org/problem.html
- Peak Oil and Medicine: http://peakoilmedicine.wordyblog.com/
- Peak OIl Psychological Impacts: http://www.peakoilblues.com/index.php
- For an interactive atlas showing global oil depletion: The Last Oil Shock – http://www.lastoilshock.com/map.html