Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Passed the Peak

“…while Peak Oil may be a quite manageable problem at 2% depletion, 10%+ depletion means that world production will fall by half in less than 7 years. That would be absolutely catastrophic.” (

The concept of peak oil makes no sense to me. Does it have anything to do with providing for a safe, comfortable, hopeful, sustainable future for my children and grandchildren? It appears not.

I don’t think the concept of peak oil has anything to do with sustainability or a future for our descendants. It appears to be an economic concept. If half the oil has been produced then we will have a diminishing supply, higher prices, and more profits for those controlling the oil. Is this statement cynical or realistic?

From one perspective, our situation reminds me of the old joke “Keep doing that and you’ll go blind! – Well, can I do it until I need glasses?” We seem to be waiting until we’re forced to acknowledge we have a problem and must adapt.

It’s as if we want to see how long we can play Russian roulette. We’ll pretend we don’t have a problem until half the original supply of producible oil has been consumed. It’s going to run out. Things are going to change. The question for me becomes “Do we want to wait and manage the change as a crisis or do we want to plan ahead? Perhaps, with global warming, we're already in the crisis.

We have a problem. Somebody should to something! Who is “we”? Who is “somebody?” I’m not “we” but I am “somebody”.

Given my age, values, knowledge and experience, I don’t have a problem. I’ll adapt and do fine during the remaining years of my life even if oil prices change dramatically. I could live a life of unabated consumption. I could but, I would be living in violation of my values and my life would be a lie.

I’m not part of “we who have a problem” but I am “somebody” who should do something. I can’t change the world situation quickly or dramatically but I can reduce my consumption of fossil fuels, products and services based on fossil fuels. It’s not much but change starts with me.

I can try to be an example with others. By example, I don’t mean an extreme conservation person who continually shouts a message of doom and calls for a life of scarcity and hardship. I want to be an example of enjoying life and being happy and content without massive consumption.

After years of working in churches and working for church-related universities, I became disillusioned and somewhat cynical. I longed for something to believe in so strongly that I would be willing to die for it. I’m not saying I’ve found it but I have found a sense of peace, purpose and mission.

I get a sense of satisfaction as I try to live with sustainability. I get excited as I read about others who have found small solutions. I enjoy reading and trying to understand the complex problem and possible solutions. I look forward to reducing my consumption and increasing my contentment because the two are related.

We may or may not have passed peak oil but I have passed the peak of my life. I have fewer years left than I’ve lived. When I die, I want to do so with the honest knowledge that I enjoyeded life and that I tried my best to leave a future for my descendants – and yours.

(I've added to my GridFree blog and invite your comments or questions.)


Blogger Buffalo said...

I'm thinking, given time, maybe the world can be changed one person at a time.

I admire the hell out of you, my friend.

2/01/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

What we need is a president with the gonads to stand up at his state of the union address and tell it like it is, that most of us are pigs. Greedy, vain, unempathetic, self-centered, in-denial pigs eating at the world's trough and we are killing ourselves and any hope for our children. However, he can also declare that this government is willing to turn it's resources towards gaining energy independence and putting a stop to the wholesale slaughter of our environment by enabling people to take advantage of alternative energy, to be rewarded for not buying and consuming everything just because they can, and change the entire structure of capitalism to favor the workers rather than fatcat CEO's. This country is going down in flames if we utterly destroy our own ability to manufacture our own goods, along with the jobs we used to have that made us the most inovative and productive country on Earth.
I will eventually have to replace my poor old goatmobile, but, guess have to pay more to buy a eco-friendly automobile. That does not make any rational sense.

2/01/2006 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger anonymous julie said...

<3 sustainability. Really. I am an architect so sustainability is dear to me.

Problem: limited natural resources. Nobody's positive about how limited the supply is or when it will run out, but it is limited nonetheless.

Solution: Use less unrenewable energy by reducing overall consumption and consuming renewable resources instead.

I see a dual solution. It works with the situation we have - not ideal people, not an ideal system.

We don't need federal programs. We don't need the whole system to change. Don't even need individuals to change. Free will and free market is where it's at.

Educate! Forget the doomsday schtick, go for the financial one. Teach people how to use less, and about the options. Some alternative systems cost a little more, some cost a lot more, payback periods vary. Educate! People want the most for their money. And education is pretty cheap, and can be done grassroots... get the news media to help.

More cost-effective systems. Make the most cost-effective system and people will buy yours instead of his. Some technologies pay for themselves in savings. Some don't and can't, some don't and could. The ball is rolling but the market needs to grow in size to encourage innovation - but - open market should take care of the rest.

I'd be incomplete not to mention that fear can motivate. They were afraid we'd run out of coal. Other resources were found, developed. We have not run out of coal.

Don't even need to offer tax breaks. A few bones to pick with that idea. First, administering yet another program, effectively. Cue incredulous laughter. Second, why should I pay for my neighbor to save money? Yes yes, the environment, but people would throw fits, most folks are not going to be in this for the stewardship angle. Third, in my opinion nobody should give me money to install a system that'll pay for itself anyhow.

As an aside: My firm's biggest client is "Catholic" university. I've only a taste of where you might be coming from, but that's more than enough.

2/01/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

So why did you ask over Wholly Man's blog what peak oil means, when it seems you have a grasp on it already?

Just curious...

And anonymous Julie, I'm not sure how a free market can make things better when it's a free market that's got us to where we are. UNLESS, maybe, we tried actually building in Actual Costs as opposed to Hidden Costs (ie, it costs $2/gallon to buy gas, but that $2 does not reflect the actual cost of gas in terms of time lost from work due to pollution-related illnesses and wreck related injuries and deaths, the cost of sprawl, the cost to the environment, etc...MAYBE if the free market were designed to reflect that kind of costs it would work).

I like the wondering that's happening here and will be back.

2/01/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

I noticed also on your profile that you're a seminary grad, which seminary? My wife graduated from the School of Church Social work at the Southern Baptist Seminary here in Louisville, back before the evil empire took over...

2/01/2006 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger anonymous julie said...

Dan -

As I see it, the free market drives consumption but also drives invention to allow consumption to continue.

The same free-market thing happened with coal - demand was high, scarcity was feared, price was high. People went to a less expensive alternative fuel (oil) not to conserve coal but to save money.

Same will eventually happen with oil. Education - leading to reductions in consumption and change to renewable energies, now, will slow the approach to the desparation point, perhaps keeping us from ever reaching it.

You point that the cost of gas doesn't reflect the cost of the effects of its use is dead-on. I suspect that people don't understand the price that they are paying as individuals to cover the consumption of the collective.

2/02/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger graceonline said...

Folks who live on the grid can make a difference too. Take renewable energy.

In California and some other states, consumers can buy their energy from small independent, renewable-energy producers whose power goes into the grid.

The power company pays the independent for the power we used that month, and bills us same as always.

It's relatively painless.

That's not all. There is an enormous amount of "green action" we as individuals can take to save energy.

From buying hybrid or bio-diesel vehicles, to changing daily patterns, to taking advantage of energy saving appliances and generating devices through companies like Real Goods, we can live on the grid greener.

We have more power (!) to effect change than we think.

2/02/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Smarty said...

I always leave your blog better. So thoughtful and encouraging. Thank you.


2/05/2006 10:00:00 AM  

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