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Energy Insights: Energy News: Peak Oil: Thinking Ahead

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Peak Oil: Thinking Ahead


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By Richard Turcotte

From oil drilling platform

Oil drilling platform

There's likely to be little disagreement that for most of us, the current economic, social, and political issues and conflicts we've been mired in for the past six or seven years are the most challenging set of conditions we've ever encountered. Even those relatively untouched by the hardships (are there any such people?) are no doubt weary of the trials and tribulations of our economy and the nonsense emanating from Congress (read: Republican Party).

 It's safe to assume that almost no one is looking for more calamities. Doom and gloom prophecies aren't likely to captivate many followers. Climate change heaped atop all of the financial stresses is bad enough.

 We should also recognize that there is a broad gulf between conditions today and what we'll all be facing in the years to come. That applies to all of the challenges, including what happens when the reality of arrival at a peak in the rate of oil production and the ensuing, broadly-felt impacts.

 It's an expanse which affords us abundant opportunities to not only address the challenges we'll face by decreasing oil production and increasing world-wide demand, but also to create entire new industries and ways of life well beyond what we may now envision.

 Peak Oil need not be a catastrophe.



 What it means is that just as we have throughout history, we're going to have to adapt, to make changes which in the abstract seem both incongruous as measured against our current definitions of prosperity, and overly daunting. Much of what needs to be done will serve the interests of adaptation to climate change as well. (Duly noted that too many right-wingers can't bring themselves to accept facts. They've been given too much attention as it is.)

 The truth is that we would not be where we are now had our forefathers at various stages in our past decided that society as it stood must remain as is, and that opportunities for growth and advancement were choices easily declined. If we are open to becoming better informed about Peak Oil, then adaptation is more easily attainable. Not easy, of course, just easier than if we choose to ignore and deny. Choices....

 That process of transitioning away from over-reliance on fossil fuels surely won't be pain-free given how dependent we all are on inexpensive oil to provide for our ways of life, but it certainly need not be the Apocalypse, either. We'll all have a say, and we'll all have roles to play. Opportunity, or Disaster?

 While acknowledging that I'm tiptoeing along a thin line between prophecies of doom and a hopeful if idealistic vision for the future (I've always believed that optimism is a better choice than pessimism), I think it's imperative (and honest) to express a legitimate concern in the face of Peak Oil: Life as we know it will change.

 As much as we all fervently want the opportunities for growth and prosperity to just return to the way they once were, Peak Oil is going to have a pronounced effect on those expectations, and sooner than we'd like.

 Americans do not like hearing "no," and we surely don't like suggestions that unlimited growth is no longer an option. That's served us quite well throughout history, but it's not absolute dictum. Our way of life has been premised on the beliefs that technology will always save the day because our ingenuity, work ethic, resources, and talent will create/provide whatever it is we need to sustain an unending lifestyle of convenience and comfort.

 There's an underlying sense of entitlement and expectation that may not always be in our best interests. We may be surprised at how Peak Oil's onset interferes with those entrenched beliefs.

 Any notions that unlimited prosperity (as we've all come to characterize it) is no longer an available objective won't be received very well. Most peak oil proponents will tell you that this is a common and frequent obstacle in their quest to inform. It's a daunting burden to contend with.

 The media's inability or unwillingness to give due consideration to the topic has not helped, and there's no doubt that many base their decisions on what is or is not important by what their preferred media tells them is important ... or not. An unpleasant truth, but one we must acknowledge. And another truth is that we see very little from our government or business leaders by way of explanation or even discussion. The topic of Peak Oil often seems radioactive.

 Life as we've known it may be different in the years to come, but there's no reason why "different' can't be prosperous and fulfilling, too. "Success" is not limited to the examples from our past. The truth is we've always changed, we've always redefined success and prosperity, and there's no reason to believe we won't do more of that in the days to come. We'll have increasing opportunities to revise and expand those terms as Peak Oil prompts changes in our ways of life--and it will.
I believe our attitude and approach to what we'll need to do will play a crucial part in determining the ultimate course of our society..

 If we want a future we can live with, and a sustainable future we can pass on to our children with pride, then we're all going to have to learn how to become more responsible in all its shadings. (Me, too!) We'll still have the chance, as John Maynard Keynes once proposed, "to live wisely and agreeably and well." Another choice we own.

 (Adapted from an early blog post of mine click here)

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