I Chose the Wrong Century to Believe in Peak Oil Doom

Previously published on Al Fin Energy

…Peak Oil catastrophism is largely a manifestation of our primary cultural myth: that all things end with suffering, death, and then resurrection. Belief in apocalypse is programmed into western civilization. Given our heritage, “the end is nigh” is the nearly unavoidable personal and collective response to times of uncertainty and rapid change. _Pattern Literacy

Peak oil predictions go back at least to the 1850’s. Predictions of “the end of oil” have been with us as long as oil itself.

Peak oil has a longer history than you think. Although the models that define the American peak oil hypothesis were first advanced in the 1950s, predictions of the imminent depletion of American oil reserves can be found much earlier. In fact, one of the earliest known warnings that the United States would run out of oil was released on Jan. 19, 1922, when the U.S. Geological Survey warned the public that only two decades of oil remained in the ground, if present consumption patterns held steady. _Motley Fool

King Hubbert is the originator of modern peak oil models, but most of Hubbert’s real world predictions are proving wrong.

Most people acknowledge that the Earth’s supply of petroleum is finite, and will one day become too expensive to extract. The problem, to many people, seems to be in timing the peak.

Modern history of peak oil predictions (Wikipedia)

But the issue of peak oil is secondary to the issue of peak affordable energy. Modern societies are slowly shifting much of their energy load to electrical power sources, which can be generated by multiple forms of energy besides oil.

Newer, safer, more scalable, reliable, and affordable forms of nuclear power would be the obvious goal of rational societies, in the pursuit of an electrical energy future. But ample supplies of natural gas, coal, gas hydrates, bitumens, kerogens, and eventually advanced biomass, could supply careful societies with power and heat for centuries to come.

The question seems to revolve around the issue of “liquid fuels,” for powering airplanes, ships, trains, and other transportation vehicles. And yet we know that with the assistance of high temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactors (HTGRs) — already well along in the design and development stage — the world’s massive supplies of gas, coal, hydrates, bitumens, kerogens, and biomass can be converted affordably into high quality liquid fuels, chemicals, polymers, lubricants, fertilisers, and other useful substances.

The problem, though, is neither “peak oil,” nore “peak energy.” The problem is “peak ingenuity,” or the shortage of good ideas and the will the implement them.

For readers who have freed themselves from “the apocalyptic compulsion,” and who are honestly looking for a path out of the apparent abyss, take a careful and open look at The Ultimate Resource.

As long as human minds remain free, solutions to problems can be devised. Whether governments and other powerful interests will allow problems to be solved, or not, is another question. Many of those governments and powerful institutions are led by people who are in thrall to the apocalyptic instinct.

But we will do what we can to find pathways to a more abundant future. Nobody said it would be easy.


As for peak oil doomers, apparently they chose the wrong century to believe in peak oil doom — again!

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