The mass media may finally be picking up on a story that it should have been discussing for many years: Peak Oil. USA Today has an AP story that acknowledges the obvious fact that there is a finite supply of oil: Are we there yet? Oil joyride may be over.
Could the petroleum joyride — cheap, abundant oil that has sent the global economy whizzing along with the pedal to the metal and the AC blasting for decades — be coming to an end?
Some observers of the oil industry think so. They predict that this year, maybe next — almost certainly by the end of the decade — the world’s oil production, having grown exuberantly for more than a century, will peak and begin to decline.
And then it really will be all downhill. The price of oil will increase drastically. Major oil-consuming countries will experience crippling inflation, unemployment and economic instability. Princeton University geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes predicts “a permanent state of oil shortage.”
It is a decent article and more than I would have expected. Of course the media coverage is too little too late. The same could be said in relation to the efforts and acknowledgment of the issue by government and the citizenry in general. One major failing in reporting such as this is that it under reports or completely fails to mention the use of oil as the basis for manufacturing and agriculture.
BLACK MAGIC. During the last century oil has transformed the world. British coal launched the Industrial Revolution, but American oil put the pedal to the metal. No other material has so profoundly changed the face of the world in such a short time. Petroleum is black magic, the lifeblood of our civilization. The petroleum industry provides 40% of the globe’s energy and is humanity’s largest commercial enterprise. Oil is our most concentrated, flexible, and convenient fuel. Without petroleum there would be no automobile industry, no tourism. Without petroleum 2% of Americans could not feed the remaining 98%. But oil is more than energy. It’s the key feedstock for plastics, medicines, clothing, pesticides, paint, and thousands of other products. Fueling Toyota or fabricated into Tupperware, petroleum is the world’s premier commodity. Soon, experts say, world oil production will reach an all-time high, an apex, a peak. Then, after a short plateau, it will decline forever. What historians will someday call the Oil Era will last just two centuries. In 1998 we are closer to its end than its beginning.