Human Sciences (Politics & Economics), Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Continuing with our apocalyptic theme of the last few posts, we come back to the ideas of Michael Ruppert who refers us to the concept of 'Peak oil': the notion that the planet is fast running out of oil and that when the moment comes, the already crisis-ridden economies of the West are going to collapse and revert back to how things were about a hundred and fifty years ago.
This is an extremely bleak view of the future, pessimistic you might argue, but it is something that is hardly mentioned in the general news of the day so that you could be forgiven for not thinking about it. On the one hand, there is a suggestion, which we have pointed to, that we have been deliberately distracted from the peak oil issue in case it might jolt us into fervent action. On the other hand, this is exactly what we must do and Michael Ruppert neatly points us in the direction of those actions.
Before looking at the implications of 'peak oil', consider what it actually means. You can read articles in the Guardian (2005), the Independent (2007) and the New Scientist (2009) to familiarise yourself with the ongoing debate over the last few years, but the roots of the idea go back to the 1950s with the studies of the geologist, M. King Hubbert - look at the site devoted to Hubbert's ideas.
Peak Oil Theory
Here are the key points of the theory:
Premise 1: Oil is a finite resource.
Premise 2: Once the oil resource reaches its maximum production point (its 'peak' level'), it can never increase.
Conclusion: Therefore, production declines until there is nothing left of oil.
There are various speculations as to when this peak level is going to be reached. Different oil producing countries may reach it at different times. For example, the US, Hubbert argued reached peak production in 1970, whereas Britain's North Sea oil production reached it in 1999. When considering average world production, the speculative range is that peak production could be reached anywhere between 2003-2030 (see Guardian).
Now of course, Premise 2 may be disproved if more oil fields are discovered. We might then find that the 'peak' level could be post-poned to a point way beyond 2030. But the key phrase is 'post-poned': if you accept that oil is a finite resource, this means it will necessarily run out at some point - oil is not a renewable energy source.
And when you consider that everything in this modern twenty-first century is predicated on oil energy, then the implications are vast. The Industrial Revolution grew on the back of oil production, even the technological revolution of the last twenty years was fuelled by it (every microchip manufactured requires oil energy in its production and the internet requires energy to power it). Some argue that it's not just computers and mobile phones that are at stake, but the whole social and economic structure of the Western world.
Let's make one thing clear: the peak oil theory is not presented to scare people. Whether you accept that it accurately describes what is going on in the world is a matter of considering carefully the evidence placed before you.