Monday, July 9, 2007

Sounds Like Peak Oil to Me

Here's an article on today's Bloomberg website about a recent report by the International Energy Agency, predicting no spare capacity in Middle East oil production after 2010. The link to the article, appropriately, is "Oil [Prices] Will Stay High for Years as Demand Outstrips Supply Growth." It might also have been entitled, "Energy Prices will Increase Forever." Or, "Life as You Know it is Over." Or, "The Shit Hits the Fan." The article promises that constraints to energy will be relaxed by increased use of coal and nuclear, the only two energy forms that are scalable to something approaching our oil gluttony of the past 100 years. Unmentioned is the fact that these two energy forms are as non-renewable as petroleum, and each has fairly dire waste products that we will again invite future generations to pay for. Whether we'll burn coal with abandon in an age of global warming, and whether uranium supplies will be available to meet demand for electricity (imagine our automobile fleet run substantially on electricity - talk about putting a strain on the grid!), remain a pair of dubious questions.

In his recent commencement address at Bellarmine University (which I will link directly. Incidentally, why does every college now need to be called a "University"? More bunkum!!), Wendell Berry asked the students the following questions: "At present our economy and society are founded on the assumption that energy will always be unlimited and cheap; but what will you have to learn to live in a world in which energy is limited and expensive? What will you have to know – and know how to do – when your community can no longer be supplied by cheap transportation?" Reports like the one linked above assume that we will be able to conduct business as usual. Running out of oil? No problem!! Use up some other stuff! The consequences be damned! Let some poor unborn fool pay for it! (where are the pro-lifers on this issue? I guess all we have to worry about is their being born, not how they're supposed to live after that). Berry's questions are the ones we ought to be putting before our students and young people, at least if we have the courage to look them in the eyes, fess up to the foolishness of their elders and level with them with the news that life is about to get much harder and they will have to learn how to live differently than the way of life that they appear to be inheriting.

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