Monday, August 10, 2009

Welcome to the Post Cheap Oil Era

I really wanted to take a moment to hopefully turn you onto the name of James Howard Kunstler. Kunstler is a journalist and writer who I'd discovered last year. I talked about this before, but I feel how I discovered him is a somewhat interesting story. Last year, when gas was over 4 dollars a gallon and people were really starting to become anxious, I was milling around at the library and found a Canadian magazine, Maclean's, with a man pointing a gas pump at his head, as if it were a gun. The cover story was about the increasing price of oil. As I was trying to make sense of this myself, I read the article and was very interested in the perspective it took, and in particular, at what Mr. Kunstler had to say. A book of his was referenced, The Long Emergency (which my library thankfully had), and I took it out.

At the time, I was highly anxious, and had way too much time on my hands (I was unemployed). And honestly, The Long Emergency only made it worse. If there is a work that turned the world that I knew completely upside down, this was it. Up to that point, I thought the rising oil prices were merely Exxon, the other oil companies, and Bush playing games with us. But Mr. Kunstler had a radically different take on it. To put it short, he introduced me to the concept of peak oil; that is, as oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, upon discovery of a field, the oil first comes out in a huge gusher, then a steady stream, and then it peaks. After it peaks, less and less of it comes out of the ground, and what remains is harder to get, as it's deeper down into the earth, therefore requiring more energy to extract. I know this is an extremely simple explanation of what peak oil is, but hopefully you understand the gist of what I'm trying to get at.

The implications of this are enormous, particularly since no significant finds of new oil fields have been discovered in many years; if I recall correctly, the last field with vast sums of oil discovered was one in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. And demand for oil rises, as the world population grows, and production is reaching its peak, assuming that it isn't already here. As our society (in fact, the entire world, but our nation more than virtually any other place on Earth) is heavily dependent on oil being cheap and abundant, this is a very ominous development.

I found this great video on Youtube featuring Kunstler. This is an 8 minute interview that aired on Canadian television, and is a short but very concise story on what the implications of Peak Oil will likely be. If you want to know more, please visit his website, or listen to his outstanding weekly podcast (I listen to it when I work at night, it beats the hell out of commercial radio).

Oh, and one last thing. I am planning a possible organization, the Peak Oil Society of Long Island, based on the interest of other people in this topic. Which, I concede, might not be very many. I think if you were to take a tally of people on the street who would know about Peak Oil, it'd be likely close to 1 in every 100. I have scheduled a Meetup, tentatively for Thursday, September 10, but this could change. Outside of a possible screening of a documentary (probably "The End of Suburbia"), I don't intend for this to be an activist group (by this, I mean conducting outreach and raising awareness of PO), but rather, a group of likeminded people who are already aware of the issue and who can work together to formulate survival strategies and possibly embark on joint ventures (such as a community garden, for example). I'll have more information in the weeks ahead.

I would say enjoy the video, but I doubt you will. You do need to hear its message, though:

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