Transition Whatcom

Peak Oil

Peak Oil/Energy Primers On the Web

(Download our Recommended List of Books, Films, Videos and Websites here)

Peak Oil Primer by Energy Bulletin
"Peak Oil is the simplest label for the problem of energy resource depletion, or more specifically, the peak in global oil production. Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, one that has powered phenomenal economic and population growth over the last century and a half. The rate of oil 'production,' meaning extraction & refining (currently about 84 million barrels/day), has grown in most years over the last century, but once we go through the halfway point of all reserves, production becomes ever more likely to decline, hence 'peak'. Peak Oil means not 'running out of oil', but 'running out of cheap oil'. For societies leveraged on ever increasing amounts of cheap oil, the consequences may be dire. Without significant successful cultural reform, economic and social decline seems inevitable..."

Peak Oil on Wikipedia
"The Hubbert peak theory, also known as peak oil, concerns the long-term rate of conventional oil (and other fossil fuel) extraction and depletion. It is named for American geophysicist M. King Hubbert, who created a model of known reserves, and proposed, in 1956, in a paper he presented at a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute, that oil production in the continental United States would peak between 1965 and 1970; and that world production would peak in 2000. U.S. oil production peaked in 1971, and has been decreasing since then. Colin Campbell of ASPO has calculated that the global production of conventional oil peaked in the Spring of 2004 albeit at a rate of 23-GB/yr, not Hubbert's 13-GB/yr..."

Oil Quiz: Test Your Knowledge

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 1: A Personal Peak Oil Discovery Process
by John Rawlins, retired nuclear physicist, currently teaching Physics at Whatcom Community College
.. my worst fears are being realized, and my faith in any government "solution" is at absolute zero for this country. We consume far too much energy, and two-thirds of what we consume depends on fuels that are no longer reliable: oil and natural gas. Of these, oil is the most fundamental: almost everything that moves uses an oil derivative for fuel...
Part 1a:
Part 1b: One of the more bizarre aspects of this entire discovery process is the reactions we experience from others when we try to share our knowledge... These reactions helped us decide to change our retirement plans - we will stay right where we are rather than move into the city of Bellingham where obtaining enough food and staying warm in the winter could be real problems a few years from now. Cities that do not plan and begin preparations for this future could soon become very unpleasant places to live.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 2: Predictions and Current Status
by John Rawlins, Oct. 2006 in Whatcom Watch
Both oil and natural gas supplies will soon be declining worldwide, and in the U.S. we already are experiencing a declining natural gas supply. Declining oil means reducing our transport fuel needs.... There appears to be no near-term combination of techo-fixes for the transport problem — which means we’ll drive ever less, spend ever more and use ever more mass transit — at a rate of change of about 5 percent per year averaged over the world. That translates to half of today’s oil use 14 years after peak, and one-quarter of today’s oil use after 28 years. Because of considerations related to world oil available for export, the reality will likely be even more severe in the U.S. — we could be facing the one-quarter mark 20 years after peak.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 3: Peak Food and Population Overshoot
by John Rawlins, Dec. 2006 in Whatcom Watch
By far the largest population increase in the history of humans occurred in the 20th century, and the resources making that possible were oil and natural gas. Now that we face a very near-term decline in both of these resources, it is time to start planning how we will continue to feed a population of over 6 billion humans.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 4: Indirect Impacts of Peak Oil and Climate Change
by John Rawlins, Jan. 2007, Whatcom Watch. For Parts 1-3, scroll down this page.
Because everything in today’s industrial societies depends directly or indirectly on fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal), the impacts of peak oil extend to all aspects of today’s way of life in all advanced societies.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 5: Resource Wars, Water Shortages and Famine
by John Rawlins, Feb. 2007, Whatcom Watch.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 6: Sustainable Food Production, Is Permaculture the Answer?
by John Rawlins, March 2007, Whatcom Watch

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 7: How Other Cities Are Planning for Energy Descent
by John Rawlins, April 2007, Whatcom Watch

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 8: Portland, Oregon, First U.S. City to Plan for Oil Decline
by John Rawlins, May 2007, Whatcom Watch
...Many cities and towns around the world are in the early phases of planning for energy descent. Bellingham and Whatcom County need to get in on this process, which has been made very simple if we follow the Portland model. That model is the result of considerable community input as well as courage on the part of their political leaders. We could use their report as a template, insert our local facts and figures, make the rather minor adjustments to their recommendations to suit ourselves, and probably complete the entire process in half the time it took for Portland.
...If we are to survive through the 21st century, we must make strong moves toward sustainability, ...If you want to participate in lobbying our local city and county council to follow the Portland process of planning for oil and natural gas decline, e-mail me at: Include in your e-mail subject line the words “petition signature” and I will let you know when and where you can go to sign a simple petition to that effect. That is exactly where the Portland initiative began.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 9: How the County Can Prepare for Energy Descent
by John Rawlins, June 2007, Whatcom Watch
Encourage local government planning, but don't count on success. Awareness of impending energy problems and likely impacts will not make you the life of a party should you try to discuss them with friends and acquaintances. Most people in our society simply don't want to hear about concepts that threaten their way of life and have the potential to make them feel guilty.

It is nevertheless important for citizen activists aware of peak oil and natural gas to urge their governing bodies to develop a plan such as the Portland one, titled "Descending the Oil Peak: Navigating the Transition from Oil and Natural Gas."

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 10: Whatcom County Energy Descent
by John Rawlins, July 2007, Whatcom Watch
Consider Electric Vehicles; Deal with Heating Systems Now; Passive Solar Heating; Educate for Sustainable Living Skills; Convert Large Farms to Small Organic Farms.

Fossil Fuels at Peak, Part 11: Nuclear Power: No Solution to Peak Oil
by John Rawlins (retired nuclear physicist), August 2007, Whatcom Watch
...Many Northwesterners might recall the WPPSS (pronounced woops, appropriately), Washington Public Power Supply System, fiasco. Construction started on five reactors at once in Washington state (1970s) but only one actually went into operation. The WPPSS construction program was a multibillion dollar financial failure, and most investors lost almost everything. I would no more invest in a new nuclear plant than I would leap from an airplane.

No country in the world has yet succeeded in actually disposing of any spent fuel or high-level nuclear waste. The U.S. spent-fuel-disposal program chose disposal criteria that I believe are inherently impossible to meet.

...The current fleet of reactors will begin shutting down around 2020 and will be largely gone by 2050. At present, nuclear power is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the country's electricity production (more like 10 percent in the Pacific Northwest). A new generation of nuclear reactors appears to have little future in the existing U.S. political and economic situation. In any case, it cannot help mitigate a near-term peak in oil supply.

Why Peak Oil Is Probably About Now
"This post is for the benefit of those readers whose friends or relatives just spat out their coffee over their morning New York Times in surprise that oil is starting to run out and nobody warned them before now. If you are looking around for more background information, I would like to summarize a series of arguments and analyses that have led me to the view that peak oil is most likely occurring about now, give or take a year or two. My personal coffee-spitting incident occurred about a year ago, and this is some of what I've figured out in the meantime."

Peak in U.S. Coal Production
Gregson Vaux presents an original study on US coal reserves which indicates that coal is likely behaving almost exactly like Peak Oil. If his analysis is correct, then coal may itself prove to be a short-lived and illusory solution.
"The amount of oil discovered in the US has dropped since the late 1930s. 40 years later, US oil production had peaked, and has fallen ever since. World discovery of oil peaked in the 1960s, and has declined since then. If the 40 year cycle seen in the US holds true for world oil production, that puts global peak oil production, right about now; after which oil becomes less available, and more expensive. Today we consume around 4 times as much oil as we discover. If we apply Hubbert's Peak to world oil production we estimate that approximately half of all oil that will be recovered, has been recovered, and oil production may reach a peak in the near future, or perhaps already has."

Life After the Oil Crash
"Dear Reader,
Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, and investment bankers in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global "Peak Oil." Oil will not just "run out" because all oil production follows a bell curve. This is true whether we're talking about an individual field, a country, or on the planet as a whole.

Sleepwalking into the Future
"It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency. Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it.

© 2022   Created by David MacLeod.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service