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Report warns of oil woes

Home Forums SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES Peak Oil – where are we headed? Report warns of oil woes

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    world events around 1985 that lead to that dip in the graph. How does one interpret this graph?

    I think the dip in 1985 was to do with the events in the late 70s early eighties. The rapid increases in price due to wars (eg Iraq vs Iran) and OPEC led to a reduction in demand eg at that time we had smaller cars become popular, power stations changed from oil to coal etc. Thus we had a brief downward trend until the quota system was scrapped.


    There was also an oil embargo, which lead to the current relationship between the USA and Saudi Arabia.

    Back then it was a very serious issue, but the world had much less people and China only had two cars. Now we’re all heavily reliant on liquid fossil fuels and China and India have 2 billion cars (slight exaggeration). There was also the fact that there were ways out of the last oil crisis.

    There’s no escaping this one and it will only ever get worse. At some point globalization will fail and our industrial and commercial society will come crashing down.

    Ok, so I’m in a doomeristic frame of mind tonight. But the figures don’t lie and you only have to look at our financial, industrial and political systems to see their weaknesses and their inability to prepare for what’s ahead.


    Totally agree RW.


    I still don’t understand why this is such a bad, bad thing.

    I know my local MP, our state MP and his opponent, and our Federal MP. I haven’t lobbied them regarding peak oil issues because I had other agendas at the time but I’m learning that there are plenty of small scale initiatives going on at grass roots level in my own community that would appear to have the potential to be rolled out across communities as social trends move more towards finding solutions for our oil and energy concerns. I can see how this will enhance quality of life for many people (a return to community engagement and local food growing, innovation in the name of problem-solving, reform of education systems).

    I’m sure there will be people who will be worse off in the process, those who are slow to take up the change, those who become caught in circumstances related to their job or where they live, and I know that can affect the morale of a community (eg, looting on floodbound streets of Rocky in the news this morning – demonstration of human nature in times of crisis??) and I do think I understand that cities will change dramatically in form and flow and structure simply because there won’t be the resources to keep the lights on 24/7 (so to speak). But I don’t perceive these as disasters on a grand scale (even though a good many people might be bankrupted in the process).

    Once the wider public starts making the connections (and I don’t think it is that far away – someone mentioned ten years and that sounds and feels about right to me – though it could be less) there’ll be widespread uptake of new models of operation and no-one will want to be left behind. Look at the trend towards carrying mobile phones and how far they’ve developed and how integrated they’ve become in our daily lives – in just ten years. Look at how people have embraced the internet – ten years ago it was still common to enter a home that didn’t have a computer, let alone the internet. People are adaptive and once they understand the broader meaning of their local circumstances, I don’t think there’ll be much resistance to the inevitable changes that lie ahead.

    Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” spells out such change processes nicely for the layman (of which I know I am one). I don’t profess to understand all the economics of peak oil (and frankly, that’s someone else’s job, not mine). Just leave me to figure out what grows in my garden and who I can swap produce with and how I’m to get from A to B with the resources I have and encourage everyone else to do the same. That’s what I reckon.


    Jodie, to a certain extent I’d agree with you. People have an incredible will to survive and that is seen in how quickly both individuals and communities can adapt and evolve to certain situations.

    But what I am saying is that the changes required will be too great, too sudden, and beyond anyone’s ability to adapt and prepare no matter how genuine their intentions are. And this will occur on a global scale; the term globalization sounds so benign, and yet it has evolved a system that is so fragile that a slight hiccup in the export of oil could see it all come crashing down in a very spectacular way.

    Please don’t underestimate how important energy is in keeping our social fabric held together, nor how much of it we use and waste in keeping our economy and industries ticking over.

    My biggest concern in all this is if we eventually loose the capacity to govern and police ourselves. Without Rule Of Law (WROL) is the stuff of nightmares (mine at the very least). In this situation, the same ability to adapt that you see as such a positive influence, then becomes the fuel for a destructive human fire that could wipe this planet of the vast majority of its population.

    Those who hold a simplistic view of this type of scenario often refer to Mad Max; which I am guilty of also given my current persona. While Mad Max is a very bad example of a theatrical interpretation of a world without enough oil, what it does tell us though is the fundamental fear of loosing rule of law. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’ll all be involved in manic car chases with sawn-off shotguns and machetes. But to put it bluntly, people are animals. When society is stripped away we don’t evolve into something better, we de-evolve into our primal instincts.

    That doesn’t fit into the type of scenario where we’re all living in eco-friendly micro-communities. In fact its the exact opposite. And the reason why I know were headed down this dark path is because there is nothing that can be done to keep so many people alive with such little (affordable) energy left.

    If someone could crack the secret to nuclear fusion and start building safe, viable reactors within the next five years I’ll gladly eat my words, but even the experts optimistically put that breakthrough between 20-30 years away. We’ll never make it that far.

    But there’s even a sting in that happy-ending tale. If somehow we were able to create or capture limitless amounts of energy, the global population is just going to keep growing and growing. We’re going to procreate ourselves to death. This planet just can’t sustain many more people. We’ll quickly reach Peak Everything, and the same thing will happen anyway.

    Y’know I should be employed by one of those big pharmaceutical companies. With the amount of people I’ve probably got hooked on either Prozac or Valium because of my up-beat postings, I could retire on the commissions.



    I doubt you will be eating your words RW.And the high point of your commission up-take will most likely be just a tad past the 5yr mark from today.

    Some here seem to be in denial by way of thinking the grubberment are “ON TO IT”,I for one think they are nowhere near it let alone implementing statagies to compensate for the problem which is headed our way.

    You can lead a horse to water but…..

    Just watch how they handle the “Local” disasters that have eventuated in the past 4 weeks.They are so smart they have hired a bloke to clean up the mess who hasn’t been able to clean up his last assignment,namely,Katrina.



    Well, I have to say I am impressed with how authorities are dealing with the widespread flooding crises in Queensland. Plus I remember when a storm cell swept through Brisbane a couple of years ago and the Army Reserves and the SES were on top of it. Neighbours, in general, supported each other through it and it gave me hope that most citizens can get through a moderately serious crisis without going crazy and killing each other or looting the supermarkets. Overall, if that’s anything to go by, I feel relatively safe going into the next phase of our economy, whatever that might hold for us.

    And even if the government response is reactive rather than pro-active, it does seem to me that things are ticking along in a direction that will support the uptake of a transition. I have been reading widely on CSAs (surprise, surprise) particularly American models and how they operate, and as many people predict a slow decline as expect a major collapse so who to believe? Yes, I can see how a small country that imports EVERYTHING will struggle, but I think Australia is better positioned to weather the storm and if the transition is carried out in a gradual fashion (which would be the only way they’d do it anyhow) I think the majority of us here in Oz will be OK.

    And with Greens holding the balance of power, don’t you think they’d be pushing the Peak Oil agenda so much harder than they currently are, if things were as urgent as you claim they are?

    But I do love your posts RW and I value your insight into these issues because you keep it real for me. I’m an optimist by nature (have to be – four little kids at home who I want to give a decent life to) and the worst-case scenarios scare the Bejebus out of me. But rarely do we see a worst-case scenario play out in real life (OK, Katrina was, and still is, one) but I have faith that top secret government stuff is going on in preparation for managing a potential economic downward spiral – because that’s what governments do, and no-one wants the mob to riot over suddenly imposed changes to the modus operandi – so that I can get on with the business of feeding my family and teaching them how to feed themselves in the future.

    Just because govt isn’t responding with the urgency some of us would prefer doesn’t mean those discussions aren’t going on at high levels of government. It’s laughable to think they don’t have any plans at all. In the meantime, there are still roads to patch and bridges to build because a ‘stable’ economy depends on such things.


    One more thing: since Australia has limited oil reserves, and coal is falling out of favour, but we still have the capacity to mine uranium, does anyone else see the writing on the wall when it comes to govt investment in nuclear energy??


    nuclear power is the nest step as i am aware of it, they plan 7 stations fr sth/east qld, and the little garden gnome said when he was in power get over it you will have nuclear power stations pretty much in you back yards, he further said that they are very safe and he would live near one!! yeh as if hey? that is why they wanted travesty dam. the real impetous to support the US nuclear industry.

    our coal is far from falling out of favour as korea and china at least build more coal fired power stations so they can supply affordable power to their people. the japanese just bought a large grazing holding that they intend to turn into a coal mine, so don’t know where this idea that our coal is falling out of favour came from.

    if our gov’ didn’t have such a big ego to project, they would still want to use it to supply affordable power to australian homes, insted the queue of those who now get along with greatly reduced power or none at all grows, all in the name of feel good.



    Not ‘our’ coal – but coal in general is falling out of favour because it is widely perceived as ‘dirty energy’. That was my point.


    I’ll throw another factor into the mix; To successfully transition from the current socio-economic system (Industrial Civilisation) to something else, will require a great deal of new infrastructure as well as repurposing existing infrastructure. All of this is going to be hugely expensive not only on monetary terms but also in energy and materials – it’s going to require a great deal of wealth to make the transition.

    Any proposal must explain where the wealth going to come from, to pay for this infrastructure.

    Peak Oil is what happens when a socio-economic system that’s addicted to growth, hits the hard geoligical limits to energy production (and consumption) that effectively prevents that growth from continuing. This is what underlies the global financial crisis; Debt-based money systems must grow (inflate) or collapse. The only way such a money system can be made sustainable, is if the underlying quantity of wealth (which the money measures) is increased, continuously. Real wealth requires energy to create and as soon as the supply of energy reaches a plateau, it blows back against the money system.

    But, Industrial Civilisation’s growth addiction isn’t just confined to the money system. Human population is rising expotentially and along with it, all the demands we make on our existing energy and material rescources. Industrial civilisation’s capacity to create wealth is now effecively capped and all existing rescources are needed just to meet current demand.

    The only way to fund this new, post-Oil infrastructure (or repurpose existing infrastructure) is to remove funding from existing projects. In the end, governments and corporations are as addicted to Toffler’s Six Principles (of Industrialism) as the economy is to Oil, so I have little confidence that any solutions (or even reasonable responses) will be forthcoming from those sources.

    Most of the proposals I’ve seen, revolve around the idea that we can continue ‘business as usual’, by ‘other means’. The sad reality is that while many ‘alternatives’ to fossil energy do work, none of them, individually or in combination will scale up to a level that can replace Oil, Coal and Natural Gas and the cost of re-jigging the infrastructure (which has been optimised to use Oil, Coal and NG) is simply unaffordabe, in money or energy terms. At best, Nuclear energy, electric (or hybrid) cars, big hydro-electric and so-on, are responses that will ease the transition to a post-Industrial civilisation (but will have little signifigance to that civilisation).

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