Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's running out

When I ask people what will happen when oil runs out, I always get the same answer.
A taxi driver in Amman, last May, pointed to his mobile phone, and said 'we didn't have them ten years ago'. He smiled. 'People will invent something'.
A university lecturer in Jerusalem said to me last November 'they'll find some other drek (shit in yiddish) to replace it'.
People seem sure that technology will come up with something.

Imagine you inherit lots of money from a dead aunt. Then you spend it like tomorrow never comes. When someboy asks you about this behaviour you say: 'well maybe I have another rich aunt and she will die and leave me more money'. But you have no other rich aunt - not one that you know of, and the chances it will appear out of nowhere is almost zero. No one would call this behaviour rational. I would use the word nutcase.

But this is how we live today. We consume energy as if an easy and cheap solution is just around the corner. But there is no reason to believe this is the case. For sure, there are lots of technological solutions, lots of renewable sources, but they will not allow us to live the way we do.

Peak Oil is the term for the time when the production of crude oil peaks - that is, production cannot expand to meet the growing demand. Some people think we already passed it; others put it at 2015. Others put it at 2030, and prefer to forget about it. But when the Peak comes - and it will - prices will go up considerably. Since the demand for energy continues to grow (with rapid growth of the economy in China, India and elsewhere), cheap energy will be a thing of the past.

However I look at it, I can't figure it out. How can people keep living the way they do? Is there anything I'm missing? There is a very good chance that in ten, fifteen or twenty years, the way we live today - the way we travel, eat, keep warm, etc etc - will become impossible ... Humans are ingenious creatures and solutions will be found to survive. But at what price.

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