Within the energy profession there are groups (e.g., ASPO, ASPO-USA) grappling with the challenge of "Peak Oil." While the efforts of Al Gore and others have raised awareness of the threat of global warming, society is not in any way prepared for the imminent decline in global oil production.
In the near term, declining production will impact certain countries more than others. Cantarell, the largest field in the western hemisphere, is declining rapidly. Over the next couple of years, Mexico's economy will be hard-hit.
Without imports, the USA's domestic oil reserves would be exhausted in three years at the current rate of consumption. The Oil War option is losing favor. Technological breakthroughs will be too slow and voluntary conservation will be too shallow to avert widespread disruption of economic activity, especially transportation and consequently food. Lacking the political will to make conscious, rapid, drastic changes, Americans will be subjected to Mother Nature's adjustments; She did not negotiate with the Mayor of New Orleans; nor will She negotiate the American Way of Life when Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field collapses of its own accord.
Liquid fuel substitutes (tar sands, coal-to-liquids, oil shale, surprisingly even ethanol and biodiesel) are carbon intensive and will only exacerbate global warming. Plus they cannot be scaled up on a timely basis.
It would take one new nuclear power plant every week until 2050 to fill the oil gap. Minor detail, uranium shortages would emerge long before 2050, unless as yet unproven breeder reactors come on line soon.
While it will take time, direct conversion of solar radiation to electricity (photovoltaics and concentrating solar power) can be scaled up. One viable sustainable alternative also exists for repetitive travel (e.g., commuting -- more than half of all urban transport). It is the rapid build-out of solar powered electric vehicles on fixed guideways (the "podcar"). A continuous solar array, well within the width of the guideway, is sufficient to provide 100% of the power required for this efficient form of high capacity transit.
It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply – and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power – by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol – using everything from wood chips, to grasses, to agricultural wastes.
We have made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies in Washington and the strong response of the market. Now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next ten years – thereby cutting our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.
To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory Fuels Standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 – this is nearly five times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks – and conserve up to eight and a half billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.
Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but will not eliminate it. So as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must also step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment – and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."
text provided by the Office of the Press Secretary at the White House