Letter: Peak Oil is here. What does this mean for the Coastside?

Letter to the editor

By on Thu, January 5, 2006

Department of Energy
Non-OPEC oil production has already peaked. Click for a larger image.

For the last 150 years, we have been blessed with a surplus of oil. First it was from wells in the US, but since our domestic wells peaked out in the early ‘70s and are now in decline, we have been importing more and more from a variety of other nations. Some of those nations are not too friendly, especially to the current administration.

As a nation, we now use 25% of the world’s oil production but produce only 2%. We are also importing much of our natural gas.

But just as the US oil fields reached maximum production 35 years ago, it seems that world wide oil production is about to, or has already peaked. The optimistic experts say oil production will peak within the next two decades but an increasing number think it has already peaked. We won’t know for sure for a little while since nations are unwilling to make their production records public. But it really doesn’t matter.

Click "read more" to see the rest of the article, and to discuss the implications of Peak Oil for the Coastside.

Supply and demand economics project a looming crisis. Worldwide oil production will likely flatten out and soon start to decline. Demand, however, is continuing to increase, both here and particularly in Asia. What will that do to oil prices?

The only way to bring demand and supply into balance is to find more oil or suitable substitutes or to reduce demand. It appears unlikely that we will be able to find enough new supplies to replace the oil depletion. No substitutes for oil in the quantities needed are likely. So we will have to both reduce demand and continue the search for substitutes.

How will reducing demand happen? We can ration oil or we can let the market price rise and only those who can afford it will have access, or some combination.

Let’s think about what this means for Coastsiders.

It means a much higher cost for commuting. It means fewer trips over the hill for shopping and entertainment. It means higher costs for all goods that must be imported from afar, especially for high bulk, low value per pound goods like food and sundries. It means higher costs for imported water. It means that each of us will have less money to spend on all the niceties of life.

It also means the end of globalization due to the high cost of transport. Food and other goods will need to be produced locally.

A recent article in the Coastsider brought up the expression "smart growth". I suggest that any form of growth means increasing energy use, and that means increasing our use of fossil fuels. But we are going to be running low on supplies, so I agree that smart growth is an oxymoron. We most likely won’t be having any growth at all within a few years after gasoline goes to $10/gal or higher.

There is no way that we Americans can maintain our current wasteful habits. It just won’t happen. We will need to adjust to a much lower energy consumption lifestyle. If we work hard, we will be able to do this by changes in the efficiency of our energy use, in buildings, transportation, agriculture, etc. It will be a massive change for us all. The longer we wait, the harder the transition will be.

Dennis Paull