Magazine article World Watch

Peak Oil Forum

Magazine article World Watch

Peak Oil Forum

Article excerpt

The world now has over a century's intense experience with oil, the most prized form of energy ever. Oil's benefits are many and undeniable. It accounts for one-third of global energy use and underpins the modern industrial way of life.

But oil is also in crisis. Its long-standing dangers to climate, land use, and human social structures are partly to blame. (If shown the big picture, would our ancestors have paused before rushing into the oil age? Groundwork, p. 30, discusses the precautionary principle.) But the crisis has a new element: we are about to discover what life is like without cheap and abundant petroleum. Global oil production is nearing its peak.

Only a few months ago, the concept of a maximum rate of global oil production was fresh enough to be startling, at least to nonspecialists. Now it is no longer in question among most experts, no matter what point on the spectrum they hail from. The only questions are when the peak will arrive--current estimates seem to be converging on 2010-2020--and what we ought to be doing about it.

On that score, there is considerable argument. The five experts featured here are moderates compared with those who foresee an apocalypse within a year or two, or 10 at the most. While no one can know what 2015 will be like, it's worth remembering that some people find the prospect of civilizational collapse deliciously fascinating.

Our five experts' positions probably bracket the truth. The one unavoidable fact is that oil, a finite resource, cannot economically be pumped out of the ground forever. …

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